All insurance companies doing business in Illinois and offering motor vehicle insurance must offer Uninsured Motorist coverage.  Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) applies when a driver causing an accident does not have liability insurance, despite state law requiring all drivers to have this, or runs away following an accident and cannot be found. In such instances, a claim can be made under one’s own insurance company, seeking compensation for damages caused by the uninsured driver. The rationale for the policy is straightforward- insurance companies in the business of offering car accident insurance and which charge customers a premium for UM coverage, are in a better position than the accident victim, or the public at large, to pay  damages resulting from an accident.

Surprising Requirements of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

The requirements necessary to assert a UM claim may be surprising, however. Suppose you’re driving at 55 mph on a 2 lane highway and suddenly see a car coming towards you in the opposite lane, attempting to pass a truck. You realize that there is not enough room for the oncoming car to pass the truck and get back in its lane before crashing into you.  To avoid a certain crash, you veer your car over towards the shoulder of the road, but lose control, run off the road and suffer a concussion and broken leg. The other car does not stop, and you had no time to see/write down his license plate number.  Two drivers traveling in your direction come to your aid following the crash.  Both confirm that the oncoming driver caused you to suddenly leave the road to avoid a head on crash.  Neither witness was able to identify the license plate number of the oncoming, negligent driver.

This would seem to be the very time to file an uninsured motorist claim, wouldn’t it?  This was a hit and run accident, there’s no way to locate the negligent driver, and so there is no way to have his insurance company pay for the damages he caused.  You will be successful in making your UM case, right?

Hit & Run? - No Contact Means No Uninsured Motorists Coverage

Wrong. The Illinois Supreme Court has interpreted the term “hit and run” to require actual physical contact between vehicles to present a UM claim.  The rationale for this rule is based on preventing rampant fraud, where injured drivers could claim a phantom driver to be at fault whenever an accident occurred. To avoid this possibility the law requires some evidence of physical contact with the negligent vehicle before UM coverage applies. This rule has been upheld even when there have been multiple witnesses to describe the negligence of the hit and run driver, thus defending the anti-fraud rationale, while protecting innocent victims who had the good sense to avoid a head on crash.  Of course if the hit and run driver can be found a direct action can be taken against that driver, despite the absence of contact between the vehicles.  But in the UM setting, unfortunately, no contact means no insurance, and the victimized driver is on his own to pay for medical bills lost wages, and other elements of damage.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

A counterpart of UM is Underinsured motorist coverage, which is also automatic in Illinois when purchasing liability insurance, and will have the same limits as your Uninsured coverage.  Where UM applies if the negligent driver is totally without insurance, or runs away from an accident and cannot be found, Underinsured (UIM) coverage applies where the defendant has insurance, but the limits of coverage is insufficient to cover the damages resulting from an accident.  In this situation, you would file an Underinsured Motorist Claim for the difference between the negligent defendant’s insurance limits, and the value of your case, up to the limits of your UM/UIM coverage.

An example will make this clear:  Say your total accident claim is worth $100,000, for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and disability.  Say the negligent defendant had a $20,000 policy and further, that you had a $100,000 UM/UIM limits.  You would receive $20,000 from the defendant’s insurer, and file a claim for $80,000 under your UIM coverage.

Obtaining Fair and Full Compensation For You

In every case where our client has sustained damages due to an uninsured driver, Lipkin & & Apter will explore whether UM benefits are available.

In every auto accident case where our client’s damages exceed the defendant’s insurance limits, Lipkin & Apter will explore whether UIM benefits are available to our client. The goal in all injury cases is the same: obtaining fair and full compensation.

Depending on circumstances, the source of UM/UIM benefits could be: a) our client’s policy of insurance; b) a family member’s policy; or c) an employers policy of insurance.