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Low Policy Limits For Third Party Insurance In Car Accidents

When the driver of the other car involved in an accident has low policy limits

I just signed up a great new case!! There were 5 people in a vehicle involved in a car accident where 4 of the 5 people in the car were badly injured. The 5th person was somehow not injured. The driver of the other car made a left turn in front of my clients and a head-on collision ensued. From a quick glance at the police report, I can see that the other car is listed on top of the report which usually means that the police thought that he or she was at fault. The other car’s insurance company is Progressive, which is a good insurance company in Illinois. Everything looks great, or does it?

After setting up the claim, I learn that the policy limits that the at fault driver has with Progressive Insurance are $25,000/$50,000. This means that any one person can only recover up to $25,000 and that the most money that Progressive will pay out is $50,000 for everyone involved. The 4 people that I represent all have severe injuries, the worst being a fractured vertebrae in the neck along with bleeding on the brain and an 8 night hospital stay. What you do now? How can you or I protect against this very situation?

The first thing that we all can do is make sure that we have adequate policy limits on our own auto policies. If we carry a higher limit of underinsured motorist coverage than that of the other driver (in this case, higher than $25,000), then once we get the $25,000 from the other company, we can pursue an underinsured motorist claim against our own company. Hypothetically, if I carry $100,000.00 in underinsured motorist coverage, in the case that I have been talking about, I would be able to collect up to an additional $75,000.00 from my own insurance company on top of the $25,000 that I will collect from Progressive. If, however, my limits are the minimum, $25,000.00, then my underinsured motorist coverage will not kick in as you cannot stack the policies. 

This situation presents itself more often than I would like to see and it can often be a big problem. If my client does not have any health insurance, then there are usually several unpaid medical bills that need to be paid out of the third party settlement. As an attorney, it is often difficult to explain to someone who has suffered horrible injuries from a car accident that was not their fault that their recovery is limited to $25,000.00 less their medical expenses and my fee. Sure, you can always file a lawsuit against the at fault party, but usually if someone is carrying the bare minimum policy limit on their insurance policy, that person probably does not have deep pockets worth chasing after in Court. At this point, my job becomes one of trying to negotiate the medical bills down as low as I can and sometimes even reducing my fee so that the client can walk away with a few dollars in his or her pocket. 

In conclusion, we cannot control what policy limits other people carry on their own cars, but we can prevent situations like these from happening by making sure that we carry adequate policy limits on our own auto insurance policies.

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Law Office of Ryan M. Rosenthal
Formerly:
The Law Offices of Richard S. Sennett.
Practicing Law For Over 60 Years

Ryan M. Rosenthal - Partner
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Northbrook, Illinois 60062
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