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Why UM/UIM Insurance Coverage Is Important For Accident Victims In Washington

What Is UM/UIM Coverage?

You may have never heard about it, or if you have, you may really not know what it is. Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage (often referred to as UM/UIM) is a type of insurance coverage that may be included in your own Washington automobile insurance policy. If you decide to purchase it, UM/UIM coverage can compensate you for damages that have been caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

A related type of coverage is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM is designed to pay you for damages caused by another motorist who may not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for all of your damages. UIM is considered “floating coverage.” That is, this type of coverage floats on top of the other motorists insurance to provide you an additional layer of coverage if it is needed.

Dollar for dollar, UM or UIM coverage is the best deal money can buy. Usually the cost of this coverage is considerably lower than the standard liability coverage (the type of coverage you buy to pay for damages that you cause to another person if you are at-fault for an accident). But I see many people who try to save money by refusing UM/UIM on their policy. This is a big mistake.

How Does UM/UIM Coverage Work?

If you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver who either does not have any liability insurance coverage or has inadequate liability insurance coverage (meaning the level of your damages exceeds the limits of their liability coverage) and you carry UM/UIM coverage on your own auto insurance policy, you may make a UM/UIM claim with your own auto insurance carrier.

In order to be eligible for UM/UIM benefits, you must have purchased UM/UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy when you initially signed up for that policy. As is the case for all types of insurance, you may not retroactively apply UM/UIM coverage to an accident which has already occurred.

When you make a UM/UIM claim, your own insurance carrier "stands in the shoes" of the negligent driver and is permitted to assert all defenses that this driver may have had against you (e.g., comparative fault, excessive medical treatment, etc.). This is an important distinction as many people are surprised to find that their own insurance carrier may fight agains their claim or deny coverage outright. If this happens to you, it may be time to consult with an attorney who has experience handling UM/UIM claims. 

Is There A Difference Between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Technically speaking, there is a difference between these two types of coverage in that Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) protects those who are injured by an at-fault driver that has no insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is applied when the at-fault driver has motor vehicle insurance that is not sufficient to pay damages for bodily injury.

In the end, however, there is not really much of a distinction in how UM/UIM coverage functions for an accident victim or a person making a claim. Both types of coverage essentially pay out in the same way and there is no real distinguishable difference in how these insurance benefits are utilized. 

What If There Is More Than One Policy?

If there are multiple forms of UM/UIM coverage that may apply to an individual accident, then the separate UM/UIM coverage amounts may be stackable (unless the policy specifically excludes stacking coverage between separate policies). You should consult an experienced car accident attorney to make this determination.

As an example, if you were injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver as a pedestrian, your UM/UIM coverage could potentially serve as a floating layer of coverage on top of the at-fault motorist's layer of auto insurance coverage. 

There are different types of insurance policies or types of coverage that may be held by the at-fault party. Understanding the different types of applicable insurance coverage is key to the success of any personal injury case. If you are unsure about how these different types of coverage may apply to your case, it may be in your best interests to consult with a lawyer.

If You Are Hit By An Uninsured Driver

Things can become complicated if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Insurance law and personal injury law has many complexities, and figuring out the UM/UIM policy without the assistance of an experienced attorney can be difficult. Filing a claim on your own can quickly become a hassle, especially with the sometimes deceitful and aggressive insurance companies and insurance adjusters.

Davis Law Group has a stellar track record of representing victims of serious accidents involving uninsured drivers. We make the legal process as easy as possible for you, with the goal of letting you recover from your injuries and have the peace of mind you need to get your life back on track. We offer a free case review for those who wish to consult with a lawyer about their case. Call our office at (206) 727-4000 or use the contact form on this page to get started.

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Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.