Our Frequently Asked Questions include: What is uninsured and underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) coverage? This question often arises early in the course of representing a client who suffers personal injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident (MVA). They want to know what insurance limits apply. First, we look to the “tortfeasor,” i.e., the party that caused the crash. In Ohio, police officers will request the parties’ insurance information and record that in the police report so that a claim can be established. But often, the tortfeasor’s policy limits are not sufficient to cover all of the damages caused in a major accident.
When a tortfeasor has no insurance or carries insurance with insufficient limits, we next look to our client’s own policy to see whether UM/UIM coverage is available. UM/UIM coverage comes into play only if the client’s UM/UIM limits exceed the tortfeasor’s limits, however. In other words, if both parties carry single limit policies of $100,000 per person, then the client’s UM/UIM coverage of $100,000 does not apply; the client can only collect from the tortfeasor’s policy.
When insurance limits are insufficient to cover damages from a severe car crash, we look to other sources beyond the tortfeasor’s and client’s insurance limits. First, we ask whether either party was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the collision. If so, then the employer’s insurance limits may apply. Second, we look to excess policies, such as umbrella or surplus coverage. Third, we look to the circumstances of the crash to see if other factors contributed to the collision. Some factors to consider are whether the tortfeasor was drunk driving as a result of being overserved alcoholic beverages at an establishment (a so-called dram shop claim), whether another person negligently entrusted their vehicle to the tortfeasor knowing that the tortfeasor was uninsured, incompetent or unlicensed (a negligent entrustment claim), whether road conditions contributed to accident (political subdivision liability), whether an untreated medical condition caused the driver to lose control, etc.
UM/UIM coverage is one of the most important sources of recovery for MVA-related personal injuries in Ohio. However, there are some pitfalls involved in getting UM/UIM benefits when owed. I tell clients that they need a lawyer to navigate these waters any time the injuries are severe.
(Source: Frequently Asked Questions)