Sadly, seriously injured victims of motor vehicle crashes in upstate New York are often surprised to learn that neither the negligent driver nor the owner of the at-fault car had purchased sufficient “liability” insurance to fully compensate them for their pain and suffering and other losses.
Why? In the Syracuse area and in all of central New York, including Geneva, Auburn, many people are of limited means (in case you haven’t noticed, good jobs are hard to come by around here!) and thus purchase only this cheapest insurance. This minimal automobile liability insurance in New York State pays out a maximum of only $25,000 per injured person and $50,000 per accident.
So what do you do if you are seriously injured by a minimally insured car? Well, you have the option of refusing to accept the insurance policy limits. You can instead sue the negligent driver (and the car owner) and hope to get at their personal assets. But what personal assets? We just said that Upstate New Yorkers with small insurance policies generally have limited income. As a corollary, they also have no assets worth pursuing.
So again, what do you do about it? There is only one thing to do, really: Find additional insurance! The minimal policy insuring the car that struck you might not be the ONLY insurance available. Look around for more!
A good motor vehicle accident attorney will chase down ALL possible liability insurance that might provide additional coverage to his or her client. Generally here’s how this Central New York Injury Lawyer does it:
• First, I check the police accident report to see which insurance company insured the at-fault car.
• I get a statement in writing from that insurance company as to the insurance coverage available under its policy.
• I ask this insurance company representative to check with its insureds (the driver and owner of the car) for additional and excess insurance policies.
• I write directly to the driver and the owner of the car and tell them they must turn my letter over to any additional insurance carriers they have.
• I investigate whether the at-fault driver might have been “on the job” for an employer at the time of the accident. If he was doing his employer’s business at the time of the collision, then the employer is liable, too, and any liability insurance the employer has will kick in. Also, unlike the employee, the employer usually DOES have assets worth going after!
• If the driver is not the same as the owner of the at-fault vehicle, this is fertile ground for turning up additional insurance. If such a driver owns his own car, or lives with a relative who owns a car, there will be additional insurance coverage there.
• Finally, I carefully review the auto insurance policies of my client and of any relative he lives with. There is often some hidden extra insurance in there. It is called “supplemental underinsured motorist” (known as “SUM”) coverage. If the SUM policy limit is more than the liability limit for the at-fault vehicle, then SUM provides additional insurance coverage for the pain and suffering and other losses.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury from a motor vehicle accident, make sure your attorney is experienced enough to know how to explore all avenues of potential liability insurance coverage.