By: Whalen Hersh
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What Do I Do When My Insurance Company Won’t Pay My Uninsured Motorist Claim?
It’s a scenario we see all too often: insurance companies happily collecting insurance premiums of hardworking folks, but then delaying or denying their claims. Insurance companies continually fail to live up to their promises, and no more it seems than in the Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist context. It happens all the time, and one striking case that Denver’s Fox 31 reported on recently illustrates how insurance companies are often accused of delaying or denying claims to the detriment of their insureds. And those accusations will play out in a court of law.
As reported by Fox 31, 66-year-old Janna Shae was rear ended in April 2019 by an uninsured driver. She submitted a claim to her insurance company, Allstate Insurance, seeking payment for her crash-related injuries, which included spine surgery that her doctors confirmed was related to the crash. Spine injuries are often high-dollar expenses, and the injuries necessitating surgery can often result in permanent impairment, disfigurement, and significant pain and suffering.
While the details are not clear, the insurance company spent 15 months reviewing her claim only to pay her $10,000. Even though her own doctor said that the surgery was necessary because of the accident, the insurance company decided that the surgery was not a part of the claim.
According to the Fox 31 report, Janna thereafter received devastating news in September 2020—she had stage 4 gall bladder cancer and was nearing the end of her life. And yet, even after being told Janna has terminal cancer, Allstate still has not paid. And here’s the rub: Allstate knows that if she dies, her damages will be significantly reduced.
So, the attorneys representing Janna Shae have filed suit against Allstate alleging bad faith, claiming that Allstate has unreasonably delayed and denied her uninsured motorist claim. The facts are not a good look for Allstate.
While it is unknown how that case will resolve, it illustrates why it is important to hire an experienced insurance bad faith attorney when you have been injured. Not only can an experienced injury attorney help you recover from the person who caused the accident, but they can also help you if the at-fault party does not have enough insurance or has no insurance at all. In those situations, you likely have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in your own auto insurance policy that is intended to help protect you. Sometimes, however, you have to fight the insurance company to get it.
What is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Why Do I Need It?
Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage may be the most important coverages that you have on your auto insurance policy. Think about all the people driving on the road that may not have liability insurance or have only the minimum required liability insurance. Now think about what happens if one of those people seriously injures you in an automobile accident. Maybe you need surgery or long-term treatment. Maybe you have a permanent injury. Maybe you must endure severe pain and suffering. Maybe you are out of work for a long time.
If the at-fault driver has no insurance, chances are they have no other means to pay you for your damages. And even if they have the minimum amount of required insurance, that amount ($25,000 in Colorado) will be a fraction of the amount needed for medical bills, let alone the amount needed to fairly compensate you for lost income, pain and suffering, or permanent impairment.
But if you have UM or UIM coverage in your own auto policy, you can seek those insurance benefits from your own insurance company to help pay for your injuries and damages. UM or UIM benefits are intended to protect you in the event you get injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. So instead of having only $25,000 (or nothing), you may have access to additional amounts from your own insurance policy (and potentially the policies of other people, such as other people living in your house). The amount of UM or UIM coverage may be substantial, which can go a long way to compensating you for your injuries.
How Do I Get Paid My UM/UIM Insurance Benefits?
Obtaining these benefits requires making a UM or UIM claim against your own insurance company (or other insurers providing applicable UM/UIM coverage) for these benefits. Your insurance carrier has obligations to treat you fairly and evaluate and pay your UM/UIM claims promptly. But as we see time and time again, many insurance companies will try to minimize your injuries and damages and delay payment. As seen by the Allstate matter discussed above, sometimes you may not be “in good hands” with your insurance company.
Colorado has strong laws protecting insurance policyholders and laws that are intended to dissuade insurers from acting unreasonably. Under Colorado law, insurance companies who unreasonably delay or deny payment can be held liable for damages, including statutory damages (two times the benefit owed plus attorney’s fees and costs), and potentially punitive damages. Despite these laws, insurance companies still often act unreasonably. Hiring an experienced bad faith insurance attorney can help you navigate these laws, investigate your claim, represent you in court, help you negotiate, and help you recover money to help pay for your injuries and damages.
Seeking legal help from a personal injury lawyer is critical to making sure your rights are protected, whether you are going up against an individual, a corporation, or an insurance company. When you’ve been injured in a car accident and need a dedicated, sympathetic, and talented personal injury and insurance law attorney with a proven track record of success who will fight for your best interests, contact Whalen Hersh today. We’re happy to offer you a free consultation with one of our insurance lawyers to review the details of your case and discuss your legal options. You can reach us in Denver at (720) 307-2666 or in Colorado Springs at (719) 644-7000 to learn more.