In Alabama, it’s estimated more than one in four drivers lacks auto insurance. Even among those who do carry insurance, about 55 percent have policies that only cover the bare minimum, which is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash.
This usually is not enough.
Medical bills for serious injuries could easily top six figures. This makes uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage practically a necessity in this state. By having one of these policies, you ensure you are covered in case the at-fault party didn’t have insurance or didn’t have enough insurance to cover the damages incurred. Coverage also extends to you as a passenger.
However, car accident lawyers in Tuscaloosa recognize that even those with coverage may find themselves in court, fighting to get the insurer to pay.
This was what happened recently in Perry v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co., reviewed by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. According to court records, the case stems from an October 2/?p=1007 crash in which the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle struck by another car. The at-fault driver’s insurer offered to pay her the full policy limit of $50,000 if she would agree to indemnification against all future liability. She agreed.
She then sought underinsured motorist coverage from both her friend’s insurance carrier and her own. Her friend’s carrier tendered her $40,000, the UIM limit allowed under the policy.
Her own carrier, however, refused to settle. The policy limit was $50,000, but when the case went to a jury, it determined she was entitled to $275,000 in damages, minus the $90,000 paid by the other carriers, plus attorneys’ fees.
The insurer then fought vigorously to avoid paying those attorneys’ fees. The case made it to the state court of appeals. However, the matter was dismissed because it had not been finalized with an amount by the lower court. Only final orders are subject to review for appeal, the court ruled.
The case will now go back to the lower court for a final determination on attorneys’ fees, and the defendant will at that time have the option to decide whether to appeal or simply pay the bill for causing years of delay.
While underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is typically included in all Alabama auto insurance policies automatically, unless a waiver is signed, the cost to increase coverage is usually not much. People usually pay an additional $75 every six months to increase the plan to another $250,000 in coverage. Considering the odds of your colliding with a driver who lacks insurance, this is a wise investment.
Drivers in Alabama can stack underinsured policies as well, a benefit not afforded to those in all states. As this case shows, however, even those with a solid policy may need to steel themselves for a potential battle with the insurer. We are here to help.
Perry v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co., May 2, 2014, Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Lockwood v. Geico – Unreasonable Delay in Payment of Insurance, May 15, 2014, Tuscaloosa Car Accident Lawyer Blog