Brad Pistotnik Law
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Insurance requirements for personal auto and motorcycle coverage varies with different mandatory minimum amounts of coverage state by state. Some states provide for what is called no-fault coverage where your own car insurance will come in and pay the first several thousand dollars of your medical bills, as well as your immediate wage loss benefits. Unfortunately, not all states have no-fault laws. These no-fault insurance coverages are also called Personal Injury Protection benefits or PIP. In order to understand what your state requires for specific types of coverage that are mandatory, you can contact a local attorney or you can contact your State Insurance Commissioner. Many different types of coverage can be purchased.

No-fault, personal injury protection and medical payment coverage

Many states have insurance laws that provide for the insurance company to provide a minimum level of no-fault, personal injury protection benefits or medical payment coverage. These PIP benefits or no-fault laws have no bearing on whether or not the truck driver or motor carrier is at fault. These are simply a quick and efficient means to get immediate compensation for the injuries and wage loss that results out of a motor vehicle accident with a large truck. The issue of fault is completely separate and distinct from whether PIP or medical payment coverage applies. It is something that you have purchased on your insurance policy through a contract of insurance. Many individuals believe that because their insurance company makes a payment that that specifically means that the trucking company was at fault. The payment by your insurance carrier has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the truck driver or company that he or she drove for was at fault. Many states allow the driver of a motor vehicle or motorcycle to buy minimum levels of coverage. They also allow the person and their insurance agent to provide for the purchase of higher levels of coverage to protect your family. Caveat emptor or buyer beware is the rule that best describes the decision making on the purchase of your insurance coverage. If you do not have a good insurance agent who goes out of the way to advise you about the necessity of having higher levels of coverage, then you may be in a position where you have insufficient insurance coverage for the short-term recovery. Insurance agents have a loyalty and duty that is owed to the customer. However, that same insurance agent is usually under what is called a loss ratio rule with the particular insurance company they sell for. Independent agents will sell policies through many different companies. Regardless, almost all companies place the agent under a specific loss ratio analysis. When an agent sells an average of 100 policies of insurance, the underwriting insurance carrier will require analysis of the agent to determine what percentage of every 100 policies results in a loss. This means that if they sell too many policies to bad drivers who statistically end up with a claim for benefits, the agent may lose their license to sell insurance policies to that company. As result of these insurance industry protocols, it is absolutely necessary that you inquire of your own agent about how much coverage you should purchase.

Uninsured Truck Drivers

The concept of an uninsured truck driver is rare. It does happen. Many independent truck drivers may believe that their policy is in effect, when they have in fact missed a payment deadline. The policy lapses and the truck driver becomes uninsured. There are many smaller independent contractor trucking companies in larger metropolitan areas who, for whatever reason, fail to purchase insurance on a timely basis. Some of the worst truck drivers actually fail to carry any insurance. They do so intentionally due to the high cost of insurance. In order to protect a person from an event where you are hit by an uninsured motorist truck driver you can purchase your own policy of insurance. Almost all 50 states have laws that allow for the purchase of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These are two distinct topics which will be discussed separately. The uninsured motorist coverage is usually equivalent to the state minimum levels of liability coverage. In other words, if you are required to carry $25,000 of coverage and you are hurt, you may have $25,000 of uninsured motorist coverage. Many states will allow you to reject certain limits of uninsured motorist coverage. Some states let you reject the coverage in its entirety. The important thing to remember is that you have to have enough insurance to cover your injuries. While many trucking companies carry $750,000 of coverage or $1 million of coverage, the trucking companies that have a lapse will have zero coverage. Most individuals do not realize that purchasing liability coverage as well as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is relatively cheap. You can ask your agent for a quote. In many circumstances, you can purchase $1 million of UM and UIM coverage for rather small annual fee. You should always carry at least a minimum of $250,000 of liability coverage per person with accompanying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of the same amount. When a person can afford the higher premiums required for additional coverage, it would be wise to carry a minimum amount of $1 million per person. Surprisingly, this may only cost a few hundred dollars extra per year. In the event that you are hit by an uninsured truck operator or driver then you make a claim for benefits to your own company for uninsured motorist benefits. The simple fact that you buy $100,000 or $500,000 of insurance coverage does not mean that you have a claim for that value. You have to evaluate the fair amount of your damages as it relates to past and future medical expenses, past and future economic and wage loss, past and future loss of consortium for your spouse who performs household services and other services like replacement services for things you can no longer do. Damages will include the noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish or loss of time. The important thing to remember about having uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is that the cost of medical treatment continues to escalate annually. In the present day it is extremely high. Many people do not have insurance coverage for health benefits even though federal law now requires everyone to carry health insurance. Many people simply cannot afford the cost of health insurance do to the high monthly premiums. In the event that you were severely injured, it is likely that you would have medical bills which would exceed $50-$100,000. Some people get injured badly enough with truck accidents that their medical bills exceed $1 million. For the unfortunate few, the medical bills can exceed the one million dollar mark and leave a person in a destitute stage where bankruptcy may be the only option. If you carry high uninsured and underinsured limits, this may be avoided by carrying high levels of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage benefits.

Underinsured Truck Drivers

The concept of underinsured truck drivers is a topic that needs to be understood in order to protect yourself. If the damages and injuries are great enough, then the trucking company limits of insurance may not be sufficient to compensate you for your medical and economic losses. Some of the smaller trucking companies take out low levels of insurance at a level of $300,000. Given the present economics of the medical community and the increasing costs of medical treatment and prescriptions, it does not take that substantial of an injury to pass the $300,000 mark. Underinsured motorist coverage is different from uninsured motorist coverage. Underinsured coverage may be mandatory in your state. You can speak to a knowledgeable insurance agent or your state’s insurance commissioner to determine whether your state requires a certain level of underinsured motorist coverage. In the event that you have underinsured motorist coverage, you can buy higher levels of coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage is defined differently in different states. In some states the underinsured motorist coverage actually is stacked on top of the amount of coverage of the driver that hit you in the full amount of the UIM coverage. In other states, the law has been interpreted to mean that the underinsured motorist coverage is only the difference between the level of coverage of the driver that hit you, and whatever coverage you have. For example, if you are in a state where you only look to the difference between the two levels of coverage and the truck driver had $300,000 of coverage where you have $1 million of UIM coverage and your damages meet or exceed one million dollars, you would have an additional amount of $700,000 of coverage. This is dependent upon having actual compensatory damages that meet and exceed this level of one million dollars. Simply purchasing an amount of coverage does not mean that your damages are in the same amount. Each injury is distinct and depends upon its own characteristics and evaluation. The concepts of uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist will only come into play in certain limited circumstances with trucking cases. The primary circumstance would be where the truck driver had a lapse in insurance or has a smaller amount of insurance than required by regulation. Uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits come into play quite frequently in the circumstances where a truck driver or co-driver is injured by another vehicle that causes a collision, regardless of whether that other vehicle is a truck, tractor-trailer or automobile. In those circumstances, if the motor carrier that you worked for has not rejected the highest limits of coverage and purchased only state minimum levels of UIM and UM benefits, you may be able to get additional underinsured motorist benefits from the vehicle that you are operating. The analysis of UIM coverage for a truck driver who is injured by another vehicle is a unique area of the law that has many complexities involved in determining whether or not a driver and/or co-driver can obtain coverage through the insurance on the truck or tractor-trailer. In these types of factual circumstances, you will need the services of a skilled trucking attorney who has an understanding of insurance law.

Contact Kansas Accident Attorney and Pistotnik Law founder Brad Pistotnik now for free consultation!

Bradley A. Pistotnik © 2015


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