James A. Maniatis
I Was Hit by an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist. What Should I Do?
Through the first nine-plus months of 2021, Massachusetts has witnessed at least 87,473 traffic crashes, resulting in 315 fatalities, according to the MassDOT Highway Division Crash Data Portal.
What the statistics don’t include are how many drivers responsible for these accidents were uninsured. However, nationwide, a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that one in eight drivers is uninsured. As for the percentage of underinsured, it’s no doubt much higher.
In Massachusetts, uninsured motorist coverage is one of the four requirements of auto insurance—but what if the at-fault driver is underinsured?
You can purchase an optional rider to cover for that possibility, but as with any type of insurance policy, the parent company is going to use everything in its power to protect the bottom line. Therefore, they use highly trained claims adjusters to investigate and try to low ball or even deny your claim.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist in or around Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, or nearby in Southborough or Webster, contact the Law Office of James A. Maniatis. I will investigate the circumstances of the accident, assess the injuries and damages you suffered, negotiate with the insurance adjusters, or file a lawsuit if necessary.
Required Insurance Coverage in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state. This means that, except when circumstances warrant a lawsuit, you must rely on your own insurance to cover any injuries you suffer in an auto accident. Property damage is not no-fault, and you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver for that.
Massachusetts law requires each driver to carry the following minimum coverage:
- Bodily injury to others: $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
- Bodily injury caused by an uninsured motorist (UM coverage): $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
- Damage to another party’s property: $5,000 per accident
- Personal injury protection (PIP coverage): $8,000 per person in an accident
Underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) is optional. The PIP coverage, which pays for your injuries, is pretty low, considering that a trip to an emergency room and an overnight stay in the hospital can cost up to $20,000.
Your best bet is to protect yourself as much as possible by including a UIM rider and boosting the basic coverage limits as high as you can afford.
What to Do If You’re Hit by an Uninsured/Underinsured Driver
If the driver who crashed into you is uninsured, there’s the possibility that he or she will speed away, and you’ll end up the victim of a hit-and-run. A hit-and-run or a collision caused by an uninsured motorist will be covered by your mandatory UM policy, up to the limits you purchased.
If the other driver is underinsured, you likely won’t know until you assess your damages and file a claim. Unless you’ve purchased UIM, or underinsured motorist coverage, you’ll be left to your own PIP plan to cover your injuries and to the minimum bodily injury coverage of the at-fault driver, which is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident.
Generally speaking, though, the steps following an accident with an underinsured/uninsured driver is the same as any traffic crash:
- Collect the other driver’s contact and insurance (if covered) information.
- File a police report, which your insurance company will need.
- Receive emergency care, even if you don’t feel injured – injuries have a way of surfacing later. Retain all medical records for your insurance claim.
- Hire an attorney. An attorney will assess your situation and help you attain the highest settlement possible.
- File a claim with your insurance company. If the other driver is uninsured, your UM coverage is all you have, barring a possible lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Since Massachusetts is a no-fault state, you cannot normally sue the other driver for personal injuries unless your medical expenses exceed $2,000, or your injuries result in permanent and serious disfigurement, a fractured bone, or substantial loss of hearing or eyesight.
Your PIP plan will cover only lost wages and medical expenses, but a personal injury lawsuit can open up compensation to noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
However, if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, that’s probably a good indication that they don’t have much money or assets to win in a lawsuit.
Let Me Provide the Guidance You Need
Unlike a simple fender-bender where no one is injured, hit-and-runs and accidents with uninsured/underinsured drivers are not a do-it-yourself proposition. You really need the help of an experienced attorney to obtain the maximum settlement possible.
Let me take the reins of your case and deal with the insurance adjusters, and if necessary and warranted, take the issue to court. If you’re involved in an underinsured/uninsured motorist accident in or around Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and neighboring communities, contact me immediately at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis.