Everything You Should Know About Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

car accident

West Virginia follows a traditional fault-based system when it comes to auto accident claims. This means that in order to make a car insurance claim in our state, you must first establish who was at fault for the accident.

However, what if the motorist who caused your accident has an insurance policy with very small insurance limits that don’t cover all of your accident-related damages? Worse, what if the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance at all? Fortunately, there is a way to protect yourself from this scenario. Our Morgantown car accident attorneys explain.

What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage?

When you sign up for an insurance policy in West Virginia, there are many forms of coverage you can choose from. Two of these are uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage. These two coverage options, often referred to in tandem as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or UM/UIM, kick in when a motorist like you gets into an accident with a driver who has little or no insurance coverage of their own and therefore cannot adequately cover your medical bills, property damage, and other accident-related damages.

In our years of experience of handling car crash cases, we often encounter situations where the at-fault driver (the defendant) does not have enough automobile insurance OR doesn’t have any automobile insurance. It’s shameful – but true.

Though they are often lumped together, UM and UIM have their differences:

  • Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) protects drivers in instances when the motorist who is legally liable for a car crash completely lacks insurance. Hit and run accidents are also often covered by UM coverage.
  • Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) kicks in when the responsible party has insurance coverage, but not enough to fully pay for your damages (medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.). This scenario often occurs when bodily injury and/or property damage resulting from a car accident is particularly devastating, resulting in costly bills.

Is UM/UIM Coverage Required?

In West Virginia, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is required for all drivers to cover both bodily injury and property damage. The mandatory limit in West Virginia for UM “bodily injury” coverage is Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00).

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), however, is optional. In our experience, many of our clients do NOT have UIM coverage. To best protect yourself in the unfortunate (yet likely) situation of getting into a car wreck with a driver who carries little or no insurance, we highly recommended you purchase sufficient limits of both UM and UIM insurance coverage.

What Happens If I Get Into a Car Accident With Someone Who Lacks Insurance?

This is where personal injury lawsuits come in. If you have a crash with a driver who lacks insurance and you yourself don’t have adequate UM/UIM coverage, you can sue the at-fault driver for damages. Though this can be a long and stressful process, working with an experienced West Virginia car accident attorney can help make the operation run smoothly. An attorney will take the reins and file your claim, determine who is liable, and estimate how much compensation you deserve on your behalf while you focus on recovering from your injuries. An attorney can also represent you in trial if it comes to that.

If you have been involved in an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, we can help. Contact our Morgantown car accident lawyers today to schedule your free consultation.

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