Unfortunately, car accidents are commonplace in the United States, and they are a cost we must endure to participate in society. According to the most recent data, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported the current yearly average of car accidents is 116,301. That figure entails a great deal of damage, personal injury, and death; that is why Wisconsin law requires that every driver be insured—to compensate the injured. What we all know to be true, however, is that not all drivers are insured.
What do you do when an uninsured driver hits you? Will your insurance cover your loss? Can you afford to sue the negligent driver? Questions such as these may race through your mind in the aftermath of learning that a driver was uninsured; but you should take comfort in knowing that if you have auto insurance, you will be compensated.
The law requires every auto insurance policy sold in Wisconsin to include coverage for accidents caused by uninsured motorists. Put simply, if you have a car insurance policy, and are hit by an uninsured driver, you may file a claim under your policy to recover losses. To gain a better understanding of how the coverage works, here are a few basics:
Damage covered: You may recover only for bodily injury under the uninsured motorist coverage provision. Damage to your vehicle will be covered under your auto policy. However, the coverage extends from a different provision of your policy. Think of it is this way: your auto policy has many provisions (among them is property damage and uninsured motorist coverage), and different provisions cover different damages and entail specific limits on payouts. So, when an uninsured motorist hits you, there are certain limits that apply on how much you can claim for your bodily injuries.
Limits: Under Wis. Stat. § 632.32(4)(a)1, any auto insurance policy sold in Wisconsin shall contain uninsured motorist coverage with a minimum “of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.”
Filing a claim: As the policy-holder, it is your duty to make a timely report of the accident that may lead to a claim. What is “timely” is not clearly defined by the law, but we do know that notice of claims should be filed “as soon as reasonably possible and within one year after the time it was required by the policy.” Wis. Stat. § 631.81(1). To be safe, file your claim quickly.
Suing the uninsured driver: Receiving payment from your uninsured motorist coverage does not preclude you from also seeking damages from the uninsured driver. You can do both. Say for instance that your uninsured motorist provision provides the minimum $25,000 coverage. If your personal injury damages exceed $25,000, you can sue the uninsured driver to recover your losses that exceed $25,000.
A claim and lawsuit are not the same thing: Generally speaking, if you are injured by an uninsured driver, you file a claim with your insurer. A claim is an assertion of what you are owed under the terms of your policy. On the other hand, a lawsuit is what may be necessary when your insurer disputes the amount you make in your claim. And depending on whether you have recovered from other third-party sources, your ability to sue your insurer may be limited.
II. Final Thoughts
Hiring an attorney adds value to your endeavor in recovering loss sustained by an uninsured driver. When you file a claim, it makes sense that your insurer will want to pay you the least amount possible under the uninsured motorist policy—but that amount may not be good enough. Having an attorney on your side indicates to your insurer that you mean business. At Levine Eisberner LLC, we strive to ensure you are paid what you are owed, not what the insurer wants to pay you.