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Involved in auto accident with an "underinsured" driver

San Francisco, CA |

Received a small settlement from auto collision accident. The insurance company informed me that their client is underinsured. I have an "underinsured" coverage of $500k on my policy and would prefer to confer with an attorney about how to present a tight-convincing case to my insurance carrier. I am facing surgery potentially due to aggravation of pre-existing conditions. Help!

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Attorney answers 9


These claims are a lot of work, and you are now dealing with insurance coverage issues, not to mention causation issues because of the pre-existing injurie(s). I would suggest you hire an attorney to assist you with this claim. Most attorneys that handle these matters do so on a contingency basis, so you won't have to pay them if they don't recover. Handling this without assistance is not worth the risk. Get the police report, medical records and bills together and set up a free consultation as soon as possible.

Legal disclaimer: PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU COMMENT, EMAIL ME OR PHONE ME. I'm only licensed in CA. This answer doesn't make me your lawyer, and neither do follow-up comments and/or emails and/or phone calls, and you shouldn't expect me to respond to your further questions if you haven't hired me. We need an actual agreement confirmed in writing before any attorney-client relationship is formed. This answer doesn't constitute legal advice, and shouldn't be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


With an underinsured motorist claim, you will need a very good personal injury attorney to get the recovery that you need, particularly when you have not undergone surgery. There are certain conditions that you must satisfy before you can proceed with your UIM claim. Failure to satisfy these conditions may result in a denial of your UIM claim. For example, you must exhaust the third-party insurance coverage. You need to explore whether the third-party was in the scope of employment or not. You need to determine whether anyone else was responsible for your accident and injuries. Further, depending on what you have told your insurance company, you may have handicapped the claim going forward. My advice is to consult a local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

This is a legal disclaimer that my advice here are for general purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Further, my advice is based upon the limited information and facts that have been provided. Additional facts and/or circumstances may materially change or affect the advice that I would provide. Finally, I have not agreed to represent you and anyone else who may read my response. (Sorry for this legal disclaimer, but it is important for your protection and mine. You do not want to think that I am representing you when I have not agreed to do so. In order for me to act as your attorney, we would need to execute a retainer agreement setting for the terms of the relationship.) Thank you for your understanding.


Your are wise to want to bring on an experienced personal injury attorney. Do you have a personal attorney? If so, ask him to recommend attorneys that have experience winning high dollar settlements and cases. If you don't have a personal attorney, ask around among people you know and do research on large dollar cases tried to verdict. Big verdicts make the news because they are rare. Don't settle with the underinsured driver until your attorney is on board.

This response does not create a lawyer client relationship. Each case is determined on its specific facts and this reply is intended for a general audience and facts particular to your case may affect the answer. Consult with an attorney in person for specific answers to your questions.


You definitely hit it on the dot! You need an attorney to help you out because insurance companies (including your own) don't make money by writing checks. You may need the surgery, however, the insurance company is going to try to argue otherwise. You are going to need some proof like a police report. Otherwise you might have to file a lawsuit and depose the at fault party and prove your case. Essentially you are going to have to prove your case IN FULL because your own insurance company will likely fight you even harder than the at fault party's insurance company.

You should hire an attorney so you're not bullied around because all the things that were mentioned should be paid for! There is no upfront cost to hire an attorney. With a case like yours it seems like you have some good facts in order to get a high settlement. The most important thing when building your case are: liability (were you at fault); how bad are your injuries to your body and your property; and of course how tough of an advocate your attorney is for you. A lot of these things sound like they are not complete yet in your case so its something that is worth hiring an attorney for in order to get a sense of whether you have a case and what the strategy would be for you to build a strong case! I've handled many of these cases and I'm speaking from experience.

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Simply retain one of the above local personal injury lawyers to investigate whether you meet the conditions to pursuing your UIM.


Be careful.

First, in order for the underinsured policy to be applicable, you must be able to prove that you have exhausted all other third party liability policies.

Second, protect the statute of limitations.

Third, consult with a personal injury attorney. The insurance company is not going to try to bolster your claim, the insurance company is going to try and diminish the claim.

The adjusters are professional who handle these types of claims all day every day, and they have many defense attorneys on their side to help guide them on how to protect the carrier's interests to boot.

You should have someone on your side to protect your interests as well.

Marc Lazarus


Yes, please contact a car accident/personal injury attorney immediately.

You said you "received a small settlement." What does this mean? If you settled for less than the policy limits of the 3rd party you might have some problems.

Remember, 2 years from the date of injury is the standard statute of limitations to file a lawsuit. All of these facts, plus the possibility of surgery means you need to contact an attorney sooner rather than later.

Not your attorney. This is not legal advice.


With a certainty you are doing the right things seeking out competent legal advice in regard to presenting your claim to the insurance carrier. The insurance carrier still will be manipulative, controlling and attempt to minimize the amount of money they have to pay you at all costs. This is the nature of the beast. The insurance representatives are highly trained and what they are trained to do is pay as little as possible on claims. This is how they get their raises and bonuses. After a lot of legal training, and understanding the art and science of presenting a claim, an attorney can significantly enhance the value. To put your case together it would be necessary to get a firm commitment from a medical specialist that in fact you will need surgery. Your attorney will get an estimate of the costs of the surgery and rehabilitation expenses and then compute your lost work and calculating the valuation for your pain and suffering. Attorneys have tools and they can analyze what juries have done with cases like yours with very similar facts to support their contentions in regard to valuation of your case to the insurance carrier. I hope this is helpful.

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Underinsured motorist claims require a lot of documentation to establish the claim - absolutely get an attorney involved. If less then the policy limit was paid out then you may have no right to proceed further. To further complicate you matter aggravation of a pre-existing injury is always difficult as to where you draw the line in the sand from what was old and what is new and what would have been the nature progression of your condition. If you want a further consultation please feel free to contact our office toll free at 800-809-8848.

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