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Car Accident-Uninsured Motorist Benefits-recovery against Insurance Company

Under most automobile insurance policies, there is coverage for Uninsured or Underinsurance Coverage.  What this means is that if you are in a car accident and the car that is responsible for the accident is uninsured (unknown or carrying no insurance) or underinsured (has less insurance than you carry) you can seek to recover benefits for pain and suffering from your own automobile insurance policy.  Learn more about this coverage in New York with a New York State Bar Assocation memo. 

A sample of where this coverage is on your policy:

SUM template

Sadly, the responsibility of the insurance company to fairly and fully compensate its own insured is almost arbitrary and lacks any ability to hold the carrier responsible for acting in bad faith if they do not negotiate fairly.

This was exhibited in Enrique v. State Farm.  A case decided recently, where Joann Enrique was seriously injured in an accident suffering a fractured rib, bi-lateral knee injuries necessitating knee surgery to one knee as well as abrasions to her body.  Her car accident was caused by an uninsured motorist and therefore Ms. Enrique sought coverage under her own policy with State Farm with limits of $100,000.00.

She filed her claim in 2005 just after her accident and hoped that the carrier would fairly and timely pay.  When that didn’t work she brought a legal action in 2008.  Again the carrier refused to pay the $100,000.00 but extended an offer of $20,000.00.  While she was allowed to accept that and continue her suit, the carrier refused to pay more.  They finally offered another $45,000.00 but refused to offer more.  She was forced to go to trial and a jury awarded her $260,000.00 for the causally related injuries.

Her intention was to now try and hold State Farm to bad faith and recover the full amount of the award.  Yet at that moment some 5 years after the accident they offered the remainder of the $100,000.00.

Ms. Enrique sued and tried to collect bad faith damages for not negotiating fairly.  The highest court in the State of Delaware refused to find for Ms. Enrique and held that State Farm was acting in an appropriate manner as they had the right to argue that the injuries were pre existing and unrelated..

It is essential when considering the type of insurance you have that you 1. choose an insurance company that has a reputation for treating their insured’s fairly and paying when the evidence is favorable for their insured; 2. carry sufficient coverage for your Uninsured/Underinsurance that allows you and your family to know that if you or a loved on are injured by a  car carrying no or little insurance you can try and recover what you deserve from you own policy; despite that you will want to retain counsel as often your own carrier will put up a fight though you are innocent and have paid your premiums.