Often, when we talk with accident victims, they ask us if they need to sue the driver directly or sue the driver’s insurance company. Understandably, this is a perplexing issue for many people. Some accident victims get upset because they want the driver who caused the wreck to personally pay for all of the inconvenience and disruption the driver caused. On the other hand, some accident victims do not want the person who caused the wreck to be personally responsible because the person at fault did not do anything on purpose- it was just an “accident.” So that you understand this process, I will explain the appropriate Indiana insurance law.
When you’re in a vehicular collision, normally you talk to both your own insurance company and also the insurance company of the other driver. Even if you are not at fault, we always suggest you inform your insurance company about the wreck. Your insurance policy requires that you cooperate with your insurance company—so you should advise them about the facts of the wreck. In addition, it is important to inform your insurance company of the wreck because, if the other driver does not have liability insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your claim, you are entitled to file a claim pursuant to the Uninsured/Underinsured provisions of your own insurance policy.
For all practical purposes, you (or your attorney) will not be dealing with the at-fault driver. You will be dealing with his insurance company. If your case cannot be settled and a lawsuit is filed, Indiana law requires that you sue the individual who caused the collision instead of his insurance company. However, when the at-fault driver is sued, his insurance policy requires his insurance company to provide an attorney to represent him and, if you prevail at trial, pay you up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy. As I stated above, some people have a knee-jerk reaction and want to punish the person who caused the wreck, but the reason we all have insurance is to provide coverage for us and pay any damages we might cause.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured (or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages), you have the right to make a claim against your own uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage policy. Often, accident victims do not want to request their own insurance company to help cover their damages since the other driver was at fault. However, that is exactly the purpose of your UIM policy. You paid premiums to protect yourself, knowing that the other driver might not have any, or enough, insurance to adequately compensate you for your damages. There is nothing wrong with doing this. Your insurance company insures you and has agreed to pay for your damages to make sure you receive appropriate compensation.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage or your UIM limits are not sufficient to compensate you for all of your damages, you do have the right to claim damages directly from the at-fault driver. Seldom is this an option we recommend. If the other driver does not have insurance, or has low limits, he or she probably does not have significant personal assets. I have learned my dad was right- “You can’t get blood out of a turnip”—meaning if people have no insurance, they almost always have no money or assets.
To summarize, when you file a personal injury lawsuit, you file a civil claim against the at-fault driver. By purchasing insurance, the at-fault driver is protected up to his policy limits. By purchasing UIM coverage, you have protected yourself. UIM coverage is one of the most important types of coverage you can buy to protect yourself. UIM coverage is relatively cheap, and the higher your UIM coverage, the more protected you will be if you suffer serious catastrophic injuries by an at-fault driver who does not have adequate coverage.
Our law firm handles car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, dog bite, product injury, wrongful death, and social security disability cases. To see a full list of cases, go to FleschnerLaw.com and click on “Cases We Handle.” Even if you have a case we normally do not handle, call us. We have a Referral Department that can help find an attorney to represent you.
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The financial burden that often comes with a serious injury can be too much for many people to bear. Unexpected medical debt, damaged personal property, and the sudden loss of income can impact the budgets of most families. The good news is that a successful injury claim could help reduce that financial strain after a serious accident. Get in touch with a Terre Haute personal injury lawyer with Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin to learn more.
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