In An Ideal World What Do Washington UM/UIM Cases Look Like?
A significant reason people purchase insurance is for protection. Your liability coverage will protect you if you cause a collision. Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage will protect you in a collision when the other driver has no insurance or low insurance. The concept behind the two is the same, but the way they are supposed to work for injured people is very different.
Liability: Third-Party Claims
In a liability case, also known as a third party claim, the insurance company only has a duty to protect its own insured. In rough terms, the insurance company's goal is to pay and do as little as possible to make the claim go away. Sometimes that means it will pay the full policy limit without hesitation, and other times it means lowball offers with hard-fought legal battles.
UM/UIM: First Party Claims
In a UM/UIM case, also known as a first-party case, your insurance company has a duty to deal in good faith. That means that your insurance company cannot unreasonably delay its investigation nor unreasonably deny benefits, among other duties. Built into those duties is a reasonable investigation and payment of benefits. It does not always play out that way.
How Does it Work?
Far too often, an insurance company will fight a UM/UIM case as if it was a liability claim. It will lowball you; it will delay investigation; it will fail to explain its decisions; and it will try to get out of the case with as little work and for as little money as possible. As I said, the purpose of insurance is to protect, and the duty of good faith almost requires your insurance company to work as hard and pay as much as possible.
How Should it Ideally Work?
In an ideal world, your insurance company to bend over backward to pay your claim. It would pay to collect the police report. It would pay to gather your medical records and bills. It would contact your employer to learn about your wage loss. It would hire truly independent experts to review and investigate the more complex aspects of your case, and it should pay at or near the top end of what it could conceive a jury might do with the case. And you should not have to ask for any of this.
This is not to say there should never be a dispute with a first-party insurance company. Personal injury attorneys are important to ensure this process is gone about correctly, and that your interests are being looked after. If your ideas differ from the insurance company's ideas for the value of a case, or what documents or investigation may be truly helpful, we can guide that process or collect the information ourselves. We can call special attention to the issues in the case that your insurance company may not have fully appreciated. We can help you understand the process and allow you to make the best decision for you under the circumstances.
Sadly, my ideal picture of an insurance claim is unlikely to occur in the near future. After all, insurance companies are businesses. Their goal is to build a profitable company for their shareholders. That causes those in charge to set up systems in such a way that the bottom line is more important than the product being sold. After all, we purchase insurance to help us.