What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage in MO?
Underinsured Motorist coverage protects people in situations where the person at fault for the accident did not carry enough insurance. When someone causes an accident they are responsible for all the damages that result. This includes medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket expenses in addition to all of one’s pain and suffering. Many times however the at fault party carries an insurance policy with low limits. (The minimum limits in the State of Missouri for example is only $25,000). If the damages exceed the amount of the at fault party’s policy limits you may be left with little options to recover the money you are entitled.
This is where Underinsured coverage comes in. Underinsured coverage is carried through your own insurance and therefore it is a first party claim. If you can prove to your insurance company that the Defendant driver was “underinsured,” then you may be able to access additional funds to cover the full amount of your damages.
Missouri Underinsured Law
There is no specific Missouri Statute that governs Underinsured coverage and therefore each case is policy specific. The policy that you have with your insurance company is considered a contract, and therefore if your insurance fails to honor your rights to Underinsured Motorist coverage they can be liable for breach of contract.
In a recent Missouri case, Fanning v. Progressive Northwestern Insurance Co., the Missouri Court of Appeals handed down a favorable ruling for an injured party in a case against their insurance company.
In that case, a motorcyclist was seriously injured when another driver negligently caused an accident. The motorcyclist collected the policy limits of the negligent driver, $50,000, and then made a claim with his own insurance company for underinsured motorist coverage.
The motorcyclist had purchased underinsured motorist coverage through Progressive and had limits of $50,000. However, when a claim was made to recover upon these limits, Progressive denied coverage. Progressive claimed that the other driver was not “underinsured” under the terms of the policy because the other driver’s limits were the same as the underinsured coverage.
The Missouri Court of Appeals disagreed with Progressive and held that because the motorcyclist had incurred damages in excess of the $50,000 paid by the negligent driver’s insurance, he should be able to collect up to the limits of $50,000 under the terms of his insurance policy. The Court found the insurance policy to be ambiguously written and the policy could be interpreted to provide $50,000 in coverage in excess of the negligent driver’s limits.
The ruling opened the door for motorist across the state of Missouri to have the opportunity to collect on coverage that insurance companies had previously denied.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage or UIM, is a type of insurance coverage that most people do not realize is available to them after they have been involved in an accident. If you have been involved in a crash and are concerned that the party at fault did not carry enough insurance to cover your damages, it is important to review your potential insurance coverage with an experienced St. Louis car accident lawyer. Tony Bruning has been battling insurance companies for over 35 years, and will ensure you are maximizing your recover. Call us today for a free consultation at 314-735-8100.
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