Common Questions Answered about Uninsured or "UM" insurance and Underinsured or "UIM" coverage
What kind of uninsured/underinsured insurance is there in Louisiana?
When you purchased your auto liability insurance, you were given the option to also purchase uninsured/underinsured insurance at your liability limits, lower than liability limits, or to reject coverage. There are two types of UM coverage: economic or bodily injury/non-economic (which also includes economic coverage).
You had several "selections" in terms of UM coverage: (1) you could reject ALL coverage UM coverage; (2) choose "economic only" or "non-economic" limits the same as your liability limits or (3) a lower amount if you had more than minimum limits ($15,000).
"Non-economic" or "Bodily Injury" losses include, but are not limited to, pain, suffering, mental anguish & "other non-economic damages." "Economic" losses include losses that can be measured in specific monetary terms, including but not limited to, medical costs, funeral costs, lost wages and out of pocket expenses.
CAUTION: If you rejected coverage, you should consult a lawyer to make sure the rejection was effective and complied with Louisiana law!!
When does uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage apply?
Basically, UM/UIM applies when the at fault driver has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to completely cover your "damages." If the at fault driver has no liability insurance, UM is available for all covered damages for the type of insurance you purchased (economic vs. bodily injury). A significant % of people in Louisiana only have minimum liability limits of $15,000. Moreover, a significant % of people in Louisiana HAVE NO INSURANCE COVERAGE. If the at fault vehicle has minimum or low limits, then the injured person can make an underinsured motorist claim if the injured person's damages exceed the at fault liability limits. However, if you are a passenger and do not own the vehicle in the accident, you must 1st collect UM from the vehicle you are riding in if there is coverage on that vehicle.
There are exceptions for certain situations where a person is injured while in the "course and scope of employment," or where there is no "actual physical contact" between the covered car and an uninsured car. Those exceptions are beyond the scope of this guide. Seek legal advice if you think you fall into one of the exceptions.
What sort of proof is needed?
You will need to likely give a statement to YOUR insurance company. You will need to cooperate since the uninsured/underinsured insurance company is "your insurer" under Louisiana law, and you have a duty and obligation to cooperate with your insurer in investigating an accident. BE HONEST! If you have to file suit later, the insurer will use any lies, exaggerations, etc., in any statement you give against you.
Proof needed: you will need to prove the at fault driver's limits or no insurance. You will need documentation of any lost wages, co-pays, deductibles, etc., if you have economic only coverage. If you have non-economic, you should submit everything to make an "economic only' claim (like co-pays and medical bills), but you will also need all the medical records documenting your injuries and your treatment. As a general rule, the amount of your "non-economic" damages claim is determined by (1) your length of treatment, (2) the amount of your medical bills, & (3) the SEVERITY of your injuries.
How long does the insurance company have to respond after I provide them proof of my loss?
After you have all of your documentation together, I recommend you send your "proof of loss" to your insurer VIA CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT. Your insurer has a mandatory deadline ater receipt of your "proof of loss" to pay policy limits or to make an "unconditional tender." However, if you do not provide everything in the "proof of loss" required by law, your insurance company may not owe you any tender/payment. An "unconditional tender" is generally the amount that no reasonable person contest is the minimum value of your claim. You still can seek additional money from the insurance company if you think the insurance "tender" was too low, but you may have to sue your insurer.
Your insurer must act in good faith in dealing with you. If your insurer doesn't, you can make a "bad faith" claim. A "bad faith" claim is very difficult to prove in most situations, and you should hire an attorney if there is any possibility of making a "bad faith" claim.
What is "bad faith" by an insurer?
There are several situations where an insurer may be in "bad faith." For example, if you provided ADEQUATE "proof of loss," and the insurer did not timely make a tender, your insurer is likely in "bad faith." There are other types of "bad faith" by an insurer. Consequently, penalties differ depending on the type of "bad faith." If you think you have a "bad faith" claim, YOU NEED TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE TO FILE SUIT TO ASSERT ANY "BAD FAITH" CLAIM AGAINST AN INSURER.
How long do I have to file suit on a UM claim?
The period to file suit against the UM insurer is two years from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff sues a tortfeasor or a defendant who negligence caused the accident within one year from the date of the accident, that suit will interrupt the running of "prescription" (Louisiana's term for a statute of limitations) against the UM insurer. However, a timely filed suit against the liability insurer (insurance company for the "at fault" driver) alone will NOT interrupt prescription as to the UM insurer.
This GUIDE is made available by the lawyer or law firm for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. This guide is NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE!! No representation of accuracy is made about the information presented in this guide; the law changes constantly, and new developments in the law may not account for any changes in law. There is no attorney client relationship between you and us. This law firm does not wish to represent anyone desiring representation based upon viewing this answer in a state where this site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state. This answer should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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