Articles Posted in Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims

Every year, thousands of people across the country are injured in car accidents with semi-trucks. In 2014, famed comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was severely injured, and his friend was killed, when a semi-truck rear-ended the limousine they were passengers in. The truck driver stated that he had been awake for more than 28 hours straight when his semi-truck rear-ended the limousine. The truck driver told officials that he had spent 12 hours driving his own vehicle from his home in Georgia to pick up his semi-truck in at a Walmart facility in Delaware. A spokesperson for Walmart stated that the company did not believe the semi-truck driver violated any federal safety regulations. The semi-truck driver later pled guilty to vehicular homicide and four counts of aggravated assault. The estate of the friend that was killed, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, received a $10 million settlement with Walmart. Tracy Morgan also received an undisclosed amount in a settlement with Walmart. Continue reading

Last night, a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus struck and killed a pedestrian in the West Chatham neighborhood in Chicago. The pedestrian was walking in the crosswalk in the first block of West 79th Street at around 7:30 p.m., when she was struck by the CTA bus. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. The CTA bus driver was later cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. A similar accident occurred last month, when another CTA bus struck a pedestrian in the Old Town neighborhood in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, the pedestrian was walking in the crosswalk in the 100 block of West Division at around 4:30 a.m., when she was struck by the CTA bus. The pedestrian was taken to the emergency room and was treated for swelling and contusions.

Last summer, a CTA bus struck a mother and her three children as they were crossing the street in the Lakeview neighborhood. According to police, the mother and her children were crossing at the intersection of Halsted Street and Waveland Avenue around 10:15 a.m., when the CTA bus struck them. A witness to the collision told reporters that the infant being held by the mother flew out of the mother’s hands and violently struck the concrete. The children were taken to the emergency room at Lurie Children’s Hospital and the CTA bus driver was taken to the emergency room at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. The driver was later given a citation for failure to yield to pedestrians.

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As the weather starts to warm up, more and more motorcyclists will start hitting the roadways. With the increase of motorcyclists on the roadways, comes an increased danger of those motorcyclists getting into serious, and even life-threatening, accidents. According to the Insurance Information Institute, motorcyclists are more vulnerable on the road and are more likely to be injured or killed in a car accident than occupants in a car, bus, or truck.

In September 2017, three people were injured in a motorcycle accident in Henry County, Illinois. According to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, a group of motorcycles were driving on U.S. Route 150, when two of the motorcycles crashed into each other. That same month in McHenry County, a sixty-three-year-old man was killed when a SUV struck his motorcycle. The Crystal Lake Police Department’s Accident Investigation Team, in reconstructing the accident, determined that the driver of the SUV, a seventeen-year-old boy, turned left in front of the motorcycle, striking the motorcycle. The motorcyclist later died at a local hospital. A similar occurrence happened in May 2017 in DeKalb County, where a twenty-six-year-old motorcyclist died after a SUV turned left in front of his motorcycle. The driver of the SUV stated that she did not see the motorcyclist before turning. The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. Continue reading

Every day, Illinois drivers are injured in motor vehicle accidents with hit-and-run drivers or drivers who are uninsured or underinsured. In 2012, over 13% of Illinois drivers were uninsured, and the increasing number of uninsured and underinsured drivers nationwide only underscores the importance of having uninsured motorist coverage for the rest of us. In Illinois, it is the right of every policyholder who carries Uninsured Motorist coverage, or “UM” coverage, to have his or her injury claim seeking UM coverage heard at arbitration, to decide how much compensation or “damages” will be paid.

An UM arbitration is a legal proceeding held before a panel of arbitrators. The arbitration hearing is set up much like a trial, where parties represented by lawyers call witnesses and present evidence to the arbitration panel. After the hearing, the arbitrators render a decision, referred to as an arbitration “award.” The decision of the arbitrators determines whether the injured person has a right to receive any damages under the insurance policy and how much.
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Rental car insurance is confusing. Before you rent, it is important to know if your insurance provides coverage for the rented vehicle, and under what circumstances that coverage may be limited. The answers to these questions may depend on the language of your own automobile insurance policy concerning “substitute vehicles.” To trigger a “substitute vehicle” clause, an important fact to consider is whether your car is “disabled” and “withdrawn from use,” rather than when you simply are concerned that it may be on the brink of becoming disabled or possibly in need of repair. If your rented car is involved in a car accident, questions may arise as to whether your own insurance policy will still cover you for a bodily injury liability claim (if you cause an accident, injuring someone), an uninsured motorist claim (if you become injured due to the fault of an uninsured driver) or an underinsured motorist claim (if the at-fault driver carries an insufficient amount of liability coverage to adequately cover your injury claim).

Your automobile insurance policy likely has a “Substitute Vehicle” clause, which provides coverage for a “temporary substitute vehicle” when the insured vehicle is not in “normal use” or has been “withdrawn from normal use.” When your rented vehicle meets the requirements of a “Substitute Vehicle,” the rented vehicle is covered to the same extent as your own vehicle. The public policy behind enforcement of substitute vehicle clauses is to prevent an insurance company from being liable for two vehicles while the insured has paid only one premium.
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A common risk faced by Illinois drivers is being struck by a driver that is underinsured. To save money on premiums, many drivers carry only the minimum amount of bodily injury liability coverage, which is $20,000. So what happens when you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not carry enough liability insurance to cover your personal injuries? If you elected to carry underinsured motorist insurance coverage, you may be protected from the risk posted by an underinsured driver.

History of UIM Coverage

Prior to underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage being offered by Illinois insurance carriers, motorists had the option of carrying only uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is insurance that offers protection from drivers who do not carry automobile liability insurance at all. If an insured motorist carrying $100,000 of UM coverage was involved in an accident with a motorist who had bodily injury liability limits of $20,000, the injured person could recover nothing from his or her UM policy; the only remedy was to collect the at-fault driver’s limits of $20,000. In effect, the responsible, insured driver would have been in a better position if the other driver had been completely uninsured. E.g Hathaway v. Standard Mut. Ins. Co., 285 Ill. App. 3d 67 (1996). Legislators responded to this inequity in 1980 by enacting a statute requiring insurance companies to offer underinsured motorist coverage in amounts equal to uninsured coverage. See 215 ILCS 5/143a-2.
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In car accident cases, lawyers for each party are permitted to conduct written discovery by issuing subpoenas, propounding a list of written questions called “interrogatories,” or serving document requests. The use of discovery to obtain personal information posted on social media sites has recently become a hot topic. To what extent should discovery in a lawsuit be allowed when it seeks information from personal social media accounts? More specifically, should someone’s Facebook account be a subject of discovery when that person has been involved in a motor vehicle accident?

Recently, Federal Courts have addressed whether Facebook and social media sites are discoverable in civil litigation. In 2011, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in Chauvin v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., denied the defendant’s request to access the plaintiff’s Facebook account and held that “…discovery requested is available through less intrusive, less annoying and less speculative means…there is no indication that granting access to Plaintiff’s private Facebook account would be ‘reasonably calculated’ to lead to discovery of admissible information.” Chauvin v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., Case No. 10-11735 (E.D. Mich 2011). The Court saw no reason for one party to have access to the other’s Facebook page where there were much less intrusive ways to obtain the same information. In 2011, a Pennsylvania Court in Piccolo v. Paterson held that the plaintiff in a car accident did not have to accept a friend request on Facebook from the defendant, particularly since the defendant wished to access the plaintiff’s posts and view pictures of the accident.
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Although amounts vary, nearly every state, including Illinois, requires minimum vehicle liability insurance. The mandate is designed to protect people from the risks posed by uninsured drivers. The reality, however, is that there are many uninsured motorists on the roads. Considering the most common personal injury claims arise from traffic accidents, the risks posed by uninsured motorists cannot be overstated. Unless the proper steps are taken, a relatively straightforward process can become an expensive, time-consuming endeavor, resulting in unpaid medical bills and a judgment-proof defendant.
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Illinois Traffic Crash Reports are made by the police when a vehicle is involved in a collision (See an example Illinois Traffic Crash Report here). They are used for vehicle crashes, vehicle collisions with a pedestrian, and vehicle collisions with a bicyclist. If police are called to the scene of a collision, an Illinois Crash Report will be filled out. A more detailed report will be made if there is a death, serious injury, or if a vehicle has to be towed from the scene.

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The basic information included in the Crash Report is the street or intersection where the accident occurred, the municipality where the accident occurred, the county where the accident occurred, as well as the date, and the time of the accident. This information can be found in the box at the top of the report.
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An uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) claim often arises after a car accident. If the person at-fault for the accident flees the scene and is unable to be located, or if the person at-fault does not have insurance or has inadequate insurance, an uninsured/underinsured claim (sometimes called, “UM/UIM”) should be brought immediately. UM/UIM claims often arise in pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and hit & run accidents.

In a typical liability car accident case, notice to the other party need not be given before filing a complaint. Contrastingly, when making a UM/UIM claim, there are strict notice provisions that must be met before the claim can proceed. A UM/UIM claim is made against the Plaintiff’s own insurance company, and the requirements for the notice provisions may be found in the Plaintiff’s insurance contract. In most instances, it is best to have your attorney inform the insurance company of the claim, in writing, via certified mail, as soon as possible. Giving notice and demanding arbitration under the policy is not the equivalent of filing a lawsuit. It merely informs the insurance company that a claim exists, and it allows the insurer to begin investigating the claim. Failure to provide timely notice with a proper demand for arbitration can result in waiver of the claim, even if there is no prejudice to the insurer.
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