What happens when a car accident exceeds insurance limits? Car accidents often cause serious injuries that leave individuals unable to work and provide for themselves. Accident victims may also experience extreme distress, pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
In most situations, victims can turn to the at-fault driver’s insurance company for monetary compensation. But what if that driver is totally uninsured or underinsured? Fortunately, victims of these types of accidents may have several legal options.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash where the responsible driver did not have insurance—or if they lacked sufficient insurance—you should immediately talk with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can discuss the accident and insurance circumstances with you and develop legal options for moving forward.
In some instances, you can turn to the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund which is established to cover claims where there is an unknown vehicle at fault or there is no insurance. You can also turn to your own insurance company for monetary compensation by way of an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim through what is commonly termed a SEF 44 claim. Your lawyer can review your options with you and help you decide on the best course of action for your case.
After filing a claim with the appropriate insurer, your lawyer can negotiate with the settlement adjuster and work to obtain fair compensation on your behalf. If the insurance company refuses to compensate you reasonably, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and pursue the monetary damages you deserve in court.
Common Car Accident Causes
While every car accident case is different, most accidents result from driver error and negligence. If you suffered injuries in a car accident that a negligent driver caused, you may be eligible to recover damages from their insurance company—or from your own insurance company—depending upon the circumstances. Some of the most common causes of traffic accidents include road rule violations, distracted driving, intoxicated driving, and road rage.
When drivers violate common traffic laws, they increase their chances of causing serious traffic accidents. Road rule violations that cause accidents include failing to use turn signals, failing to yield the right-of-way at the appropriate time, speeding, and aggressive driving.
In addition to road rule violations, some traffic accidents happen when drivers become distracted while behind the wheel. A distracted driver does not pay sufficient attention to the road. Drivers may become distracted by electronic devices in their vehicles, like cellular phones and tablets, or by loud music that they’re playing.
Other vehicle occupants may also distract drivers from their primary duty: watching the road and engaging in safe driving. When a driver becomes distracted—even for a brief period—they might fail to notice an approaching vehicle or pedestrian and cause a severe crash.
Drivers are intoxicated when they operate their vehicles with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds the legal limit. The legal limit for most drivers is a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. Alberta imposes administrative sanctions if the BAC is 0.05 percent or higher. Commercial vehicle drivers and minors who are under 21 years of age must follow stricter standards. Even if a driver has a BAC that’s below the legal limit, alcohol may still impair them, preventing them from concentrating and focusing on driving. At other times, intoxicated and impaired drivers experience blurred vision and delayed reaction times. Consequently, they cannot stop their vehicle in time to avoid a severe crash.
Finally, some car accidents happen because of road rage. Road rage is a driver’s unreasonable response to actual or perceived roadway situations that arise. Enraged drivers are usually in a hurry to get to their final destination. To achieve this goal, they might aggressively weave in and out of highway traffic, angrily honk their horn, or fail to use turn signals when executing lane changes. As a result, they may inadvertently cause a severe crash that leaves others injured.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash that resulted from driver negligence, your lawyer can meet with you to discuss your options for filing a personal injury claim. If can file a claim, your lawyer can submit the claim documents to the appropriate insurance company adjuster and begin settlement negotiations in your case.
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Injuries that Car Accident Victims Suffer
When drivers operate their vehicles negligently, they can cause serious accidents, including T-bone crashes, rear-end accidents, head-on impacts, and sideswipe collisions. The injuries that an accident victim suffers depend upon the type of accident that occurs, the speeds of the vehicles, the force of impact, the number of impacts, and the way the accident victim’s body moves in the car.
Sometimes, the impact force is so great that it causes a part of the accident victim’s body to strike something in their vehicle, like the headrest, steering wheel, window, dashboard, or door frame, causing severe injuries.
Common injuries that car accident victims sustain include broken bones, traumatic head injuries, soft tissue contusions, internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and death.
As soon as possible after your car accident, you should seek medical attention from a family doctor, urgent care center, or hospital emergency room. The doctor on duty can order the necessary CAT scans, MRIs, and X-rays necessary to diagnose your medical condition. If you require additional treatment, such as with an orthopedic doctor, neurologist, or physical therapist, the responding provider can make the necessary recommendations.
To ensure that your injuries do not become worse, you must seek prompt medical treatment as soon as possible after your drunk driving car accident. While you focus your attention on making a full recovery, your lawyer can start gathering your medical records, wage loss documents, victim impact statement, and other potential evidence and assemble them into a settlement demand package. Once your medical treatment is complete, your lawyer can submit this demand package to the insurance company adjuster and start negotiating a monetary settlement on your behalf.
Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program (MVAC)
When individuals suffer injuries in an accident that an unknown, uninsured, or underinsured driver causes, they can pursue monetary compensation through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program (MVAC). This fund provides coverage for up to $200,000 per accident. However, these claims are only available under certain circumstances, and you must notify MVAC of your accident within 90 days.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area can determine if you are eligible to file a claim or lawsuit for benefits through this program and, if so, can gather the documents necessary to file the claim on your behalf—and within the proper time.
SEF 44 Protections—Uninsured Motorist Claims
Even though drivers are supposed to carry at least minimal insurance, that does not stop some uninsured drivers from getting behind the wheel. When an uninsured driver causes an accident and one or more individuals suffer injuries, accident victims can file an uninsured motorist claim with their own insurance company. In most instances, the claim limits for SEF 44 protections are the same as the accident victim’s liability coverage limits.
In a totally uninsured motorist claim, the accident victim’s insurance company steps into the at-fault driver’s shoes, so to speak, and provides the necessary insurance coverage up to the available limits. The claim then proceeds in much the same way as any other personal injury claim.
SEF 44 Protections—Underinsured Motorist Claims
In some car accidents, the at-fault driver does have motor vehicle insurance coverage. However, their insurance limits are insufficient to adequately compensate the accident victim for all of their injuries and damages. Those potential damages may include lost wages, inconvenience, pain, and suffering. When that happens, the accident victim can first exhaust the full limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Then, they can turn their attention to their insurance company and file a claim for underinsured motorist benefits according to their SEF 44 protections.
To recover additional compensation via a UIM claim, the accident victim must demonstrate that the responsible driver’s insurance coverage was insufficient to adequately compensate them for their personal injuries and other damages.
If the at-fault driver’s insurer offers up the full limits of their policy, but the accident victim’s own insurer refuses to offer sufficient additional compensation, the accident victim’s lawyer can file a lawsuit against that insurance company.
As with uninsured motorist claims, underinsured claims proceed in much the same way as any other personal injury lawsuit.
Dealing With the Insurance Company
Even when an accident victim deals with their own insurance company, they oftentimes find that they are fighting an uphill battle. This is because when you file a claim or lawsuit against any insurer, they automatically become the adversary in your case.
Although your insurance company cannot retaliate against you financially when you file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you can bet that they are going to do everything possible to avoid paying you the full amount of compensation you deserve to recover in your case. In most uninsured and underinsured motorist claims, the initial offer from an insurance adjuster is meager—and far below your claim’s actual value. However, that is where a knowledgeable and experienced car accident lawyer in your area can help significantly.
A skilled car accident lawyer can help you negotiate with the insurance company adjuster and ensure that you receive a fair value for your claim. If the adjuster refuses to compensate you adequately for your injuries and other damages, your lawyer can always threaten litigation and, if necessary, file a lawsuit in the court system on your behalf.
Potential Damages You Can Recover Following a Car Accident
Any time you file a claim or lawsuit for monetary damages—whether it’s a claim through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program (MVAC), an uninsured motorist claim, or an underinsured motorist claim—you must prove all of the necessary legal elements.
Those elements may include:
- That another driver caused your accident
- That your insurance company breached its contract with you and failed to provide you with the necessary monetary damages
- That you suffered at least one injury in your accident
- That your injury or injuries directly resulted from the accident
To establish this last element, your lawyer will typically need to introduce testimony from a medical expert. The expert must be willing to state, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the accident and your injuries share a direct relationship. If you claim that you suffered a permanent impairment in your accident, such as permanent disfigurement or paralysis, a healthcare provider must state on the record that your injuries are unlikely to improve with time.
As part of your claim or lawsuit, you may recover compensation for:
- Lost earnings, by introducing documentation from your employer which notes the dates you missed from work and the amount of money you lost
- Inconvenience, by demonstrating the hardships you endured due to the accident and your injuries.
- Past/future pain and suffering, if you endured continuous pain and other symptoms beginning on the date of your accident and going forward.
- Mental Distress, if you suffered mental distress and emotional anguish due to the accident and your injuries.
- Loss of the ability to use a body part, if you suffered a permanent injury, such as paralysis, which prevents you from using one or more body parts
- Loss of life enjoyment, if your accident-related injuries prevent you from living life to the fullest and partaking in activities you once enjoyed
Your lawyer can help you maximize the compensation you recover from the insurance company and, if necessary, will litigate your case to a conclusion in the court system.
Talk With a Knowledgeable Car Accident Lawyer About Your Legal Options Today
If you suffered injuries in a recent car accident resulting from negligence, you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your lawyer can review available legal options for recovering monetary compensation.
If the insurance company adjuster refuses to offer you a favorable settlement, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and litigate your case in the court system. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept an insurance company’s settlement offer, take your case to a jury trial, or pursue alternative dispute resolution, including mediation or binding arbitration. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.