In previous posts in this series, I have described Uninsured/underinsured (um/uim) insurance and discussed "stacking" of coverages. Today, let’s talk about damages. Um/uim coverage provides "bodily injury" damages, but not property damage. In short, it provides coverage for the same damages that you are able to recover against the at fault driver. Those damages include medical bills, physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, permanent injuries, disfigurement, loss of the ability to earn a living and lost wages, past and future. Your spouse may also maintain a claim for loss of consortium (also known as loss of services) subject to the same individual coverage available to you.
If that at fault driver’s conduct is particularly egregious (drunk or reckless driving, for example), punitive damages may be recoverable. Check your policy, however. By law in Alabama, your insurance company may exclude punitive damages from um/uim coverage. The only instance where that exclusion would not apply would be on a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, the only damages available for a wrongful death are punitive damages and so the exclusion would not apply.
If your medical bills related to the incident have been paid by your health insurance provider, a worker’s compensation carrier, Medicaid or Medicare, they will want to be paid back. There are different rules that apply for each and private insurance may not be entitled to full, or even partial, reimbursement. The bottom line – make sure that the attorney you hire you is well versed in this area of the law. Ask a lot of questions and find out what you can before you sign a fee agreement. There are a lot of traps for the unwary in um/uim law. In this series, I have only scratched the surface.
Cum Laude graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Pet Mackey is a civil trial litigation expert who represents plaintiffs in business and consumer tort, contracts and construction, employment disputes and insurance. He is board certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Certified Alabama Mediator, and an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell.