You might think that the most difficult conversation we have is when we tell someone they don’t have a case. While that is certainly not an easy conversation, it is not the hardest one. Near the top of the list is when we have to tell someone who is injured that they do have a case, that they did nothing wrong, that the person who injured them did do something wrong, and that there is not enough money available to cover their damages. This situation can violate our natural “sense of fairness” and seems wrong, but it is all too often the legally correct answer.
When Insurance Won't Cover Your Injury Claim
This typically happens when neither the person who committed the wrong (the defendant) nor the person who was wronged (the plaintiff) purchased enough insurance coverage prior to the crash. Like it or not, medical care is expensive. A visit to the emergency room after a car crash, especially one that involves x-rays, a CT scan, or MRI, can easily cost $10,000-15,000. Follow-up care with doctors, therapists, and similar conservative care providers can add another $5,000-$25,000 in costs. Even a “simple” surgery to help an injury can cost $30,000, while a complex surgery may run well over $100,000.
Compare these costs with the mandatory state minimum insurance coverage in South Dakota of $25,000. Other states require even less. Many drivers on the road, wooed by insurance advertising about saving the most money on premiums, are led into buying the cheapest policy without understanding they are also buying very little protection. As is readily apparent, the mandatory minimum insurance limit of $25,000 provides almost no money to cover medical bills, much less to provide for lost wages, disability, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages a plaintiff suffers. And, unless the defendant has a huge amount of personal assets (which is extremely rare) there is nothing we can do about it after the fact.
On top of that, lienholders, subrogation interest claimants, and medical providers all want a piece of the available money too. In those cases, we do our best to identify and negotiate with these entities to reduce the amount of money going to their pockets and maximize what is going to our clients. But sometimes there just isn’t enough to go around. As we’ve seen before, everyone may leave the claim feeling unsatisfied that justice has been done.
Steps to Take With Your Insurance Company to Ensure You're Covered
So, is the situation hopeless? After a crash occurs, it may appear that way. We can search for more defendants if others might be liable. And we can look to the plaintiff’s own insurance for additional money. If no others were involved in the incident, however, there may not be anyone else to collect from. If the plaintiff’s insurance coverage matched the defendants, there may not be any additional money available due to a state statute that subtracts the defendant’s coverage from the plaintiff’s (ex: If the defendant had the state minimum and so did the plaintiff, there is no additional coverage, i.e. $25,000 from the defendant’s policy minus $25,000 from the plaintiff’s policy equals $0 in additional coverage from the plaintiff’s policy). In those cases, there is little or nothing that can be done aside from maximizing what goes to the plaintiff from what little is available.
Often the only real solution to this problem must occur before the problem arises. You must purchase more insurance coverage to protect yourself. I’ve written before about types of insurance coverage. As stated there, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are insurance you buy to protect yourself. Buy as much as you can afford. Hopefully, you’ll never be in a situation where you need the coverage. But, if you are, at least you know there will be coverage available for more of your damages.
Contact Experienced Sioux Falls Attorneys Today
Do you still have questions about these coverages? Have you been in a crash and are confused about what is available to cover your damages or have other crash-related questions? Contact us today! We believe the whole system is better when people are informed of and understand their rights.