Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage pays the claims of all victims who are injured by a driver who failed to pay premiums and carry insurance and victims of hit-and-run drivers. Under the UM policy, you may claim payments for car and personal property damage under the uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage, and you can also collect for all injury claims under the uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage.
In hit-and-run cases, you cannot use the uninsured motorist coverage to pay for your property damage. This is unfortunate because the collision deductible is almost always higher than the standard $100.00 deductible that applies to UMPD claims. Also, in a hit-and-run accident, there must be a “hit,” or some measure of contact with the at-fault vehicle. If there is no contact, these claims are called “phantom vehicle” cases. For example, if a driver crosses the center line and you leave the roadway to avoid the collision, and if you succeed in avoiding any impact and the other driver leaves the scene, you cannot use UM coverage to fund your accident claims. Essentially, you are left with no coverage for injury claims other than medical payments. This leaves the victim with no compensation for lost wages or for pain and suffering.
The more typical UM claim involves a driver who failed to make timely premium payments or failed to ever buy insurance and who later causes an accident. If you are injured by an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist coverage pays for your claims. Once the claim is closed, the insurance company that paid UM benefits can then sue the uninsured driver for reimbursement, and they can also suspend the uninsured driver’s North Carolina driver’s license.
UM coverage applies exactly the same way that liability coverage applies. You should not trust the UM adjusters to volunteer full and fair payment. Instead, you should expect them to oppose your claims. In fact, they will act just as though the uninsured driver was their insured/policyholder. They will question your claims and force you to provide recorded statements and medical history, and they will even hire a lawyer to defend the uninsured driver in court if a trial is necessary to secure fair payment for your injuries and losses.
If you present a claim for car replacement or repairs under your UM policy, the adjuster will pay fairly with little resistance. This is solely because our insurance regulations require fair payment on property damage claims. However, if you present an injury claim, you should be extremely careful in all discussions and dealings. The UM adjuster will always seek to minimize what they pay in every injury claim. Just remember that the UM adjuster represents the uninsured driver, not the victims or the policyholder who paid the premiums!