Bernard: Hey, it’s Bernard Nomberg with Nomberg law firm. We’re here again on another Tuesday, talking about a very important area of the law. My buddy JD Lawrence is here with Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP. We’re talking about an area of the law that most folks may feel is covered but probably is not. We’re dealing with automobile insurance coverages. We’re talking more specifically about underinsured and uninsured coverages. JD is an expert in this area. In fact, got a great jury verdict earlier this week. Congrats, JD. It was an auto case; we might get into that in a few minutes. JD, tell the folks a little bit about yourself and let’s get started.
JD: My name is JD Lawrence, and I grew up in Ashford, Alabama, down in Houston County. That’s how I know Bernard and David. I’ve been practicing law for over 16 years. I’ve been here at Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP for over 4 years. I’m a partner here, and I constrict my practice primarily to helping people who have been injured in auto accidents.
Bernard: And JD, I know that in almost every automobile accident case that you guys handle, and David and I have handled, auto insurance is always one of the key factors when it comes to figuring out these cases.
JD: Of course, you’ve got to have some money there to be able to pay the client.
Bernard: Most folks, when taking out coverage, which is now state law for more than a decade, my experience is, they’ll tell us that they’re fully covered. And they may have liability, they may have collision, and they may have med pay, but there’s that other area of the law that we’re talking about today that most folks really are not that informed about. And I want you to explain what underinsured and uninsured coverage is.
JD: Well, when you obtain a policy of insurance, there’s a provision within your policy; it’s called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured is obviously if someone causes a wreck that does not have insurance. You can file a claim under that provision in policy; the uninsured. You also have what’s called underinsured motorist coverage, that’s a provision within your policy that allows you to file a claim with your insurance carrier if the driver who caused the wreck does not have enough coverage to pay your claim.
Bernard: So those types of coverages, UM and UIM as they’re called, really are to protect you compared to liability coverage, which also protects you. Explain the difference when they come into play.
JD: Well, liability coverage protects you if you’re at fault for the wreck. Under or uninsured motorist coverage protects you if someone else is at fault for the wreck.
Bernard: And there may not be coverage or enough coverage out there to satisfy the value of your case.
JD: That’s correct. There are studies that say that as low as 12-13% of drivers in Alabama have no coverage, and I’ve seen it as high as up to 20%of drivers in Alabama do not have any coverage for this situation.
Bernard: Most folks who are going to be watching, this may be new to them. Let’s take a scenario and kind of run through how this comes into play.
Let’s say that you represent somebody in a fender-bender, and your client, the plaintiff, has been injured in the wreck, and they have had a couple of surgeries. You have valued their case because the permanency is a six-figure case. And in this scenario, the guy who hit you from behind the defendant driver, the tortfeasor, only has 25,000 in liability coverage. But you have 200,000 in underinsured coverage.
So, let’s talk about what if we get a jury verdict of 100,000. How does this play out?
Legal Glossary 101
Tortfeasor: a person who has committed a tort, which is a civil wrong that causes harm or injury to another person for which the injured party may seek compensation through a lawsuit.
JD: Well, the first $25,000 would be paid by the defendant’s liability coverage, the other guy who caused the wreck. And then, you can file a claim with your insurance company to pay the remaining balance of the verdict of $75,000. So it’s important to have UIM coverage because it protects you if the other driver does not have enough insurance to pay your claim.
Bernard: So, if you have this jury verdict of $100,000, you collect the $25,000 from the tortfeasor. But you don’t have, as the plaintiff, UM or UIM coverage. Does the rest of that jury verdict potentially go away?
JD: Potentially, yes!
Bernard: So you’re only collecting that $25,000.
JD: Well, the insurance company may be liable only to pay that $25,000.
Bernard: So, is it required by law to have UM or UIM coverage?
JD: No, it’s not. But when you obtain your policy of insurance, you have to specifically state, when you sign your declaration page in your policy, that you do not want UM or UIM coverage.
Bernard: So let’s say folks watching this go and look at their declarations page from their auto carrier, but they don’t have the coverage. Can they call their agent and sign up for that coverage?
JD: Yes, they can.
Bernard: Do you have an idea or recommendation about how much coverage a person should take out?
JD: Well, I would recommend that you have at least as much coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as you do for liability coverage. So, if you have $100,000 of liability coverage, I would suggest that you have at least $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Bernard: That’s a good rule. Before I forget, how can folks get in touch with you if they want to talk about this topic?
JD: Well again, I practice at the law firm of Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP. We’re located in Downtown Birmingham. Our phone number is 205-324-1212. And we have a website and Facebook; we’re involved in social media also.
Bernard: Well, let’s go back for just a couple of minutes and continue our talk about underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage and why you need it, and the importance of it. JD, explain a little bit about the difference between the two coverages.
JD: First of all, uninsured is basically if the driver does not have any insurance at all. And underinsured is in the event that the driver has very little insurance or a limited policy. An interesting fact that I don’t think we have covered is uninsured motorist coverage will protect you in a situation where a driver causes a wreck, injures you, and leaves the scene, we call it the [06:47 incomprehensible] situation, but that’s when your uninsured motorist coverage will kick in to protect you.
Bernard: It’s good to know because I know that, unfortunately, [06:57 incomprehensible] cases are way too common, especially up on the highways with big trucks and folks who are in a hurry and just think they can get away with causing the accident.
JD, taking out this type of coverage, is it expensive?
JD: No, it’s not. And here’s the interesting fact; a lot of times, your agent’s not going to want to push this coverage and tell you a lot about the coverage because they do not want you to file a claim on your policy but generally speaking, it’s not very expensive. It’s prorated out over the 12-month period of the policy, and you can get at least a limited amount of coverage for very inexpensive.
Bernard: So folks, if you’re watching this, whether it’s today or in the upcoming weeks, if you’ve got handy your declarations page, which you could easily either get online from your automobile insurance carrier or call your agent, take a look at your declarations page and see whether or not you have that coverage. And if you’re reading that paperwork and you don’t understand it, talk to your agent about that or give JD a call here at Farris, Riley & Pitt, let’s repeat that.
Bernard: JD, I appreciate your expertise in this area and your coming on and talking with me for a few minutes. A very important topic that most folks, until they need that coverage, don’t realize how important it can be for them.
JD: Well, Bernard, thanks for having me.
Bernard: Well, guys, I appreciate y’all’s few minutes again this Tuesday to talk about another area of the law. Of course, you can always reach me at 205-930-6900 at the Nomberg Law Firm. We will be back next Tuesday; we’re going to talk with Shannon, who is the proprietor of John City Diner, a big Bama fan, and a great fan of downtown Birmingham and all that’s going on around here. We hope you guys have a good rest of your day and a good rest of your week.Disclaimer: Please note that this transcript has been generated automatically and may contain errors, inaccuracies or deviations from the original video. It is provided as a convenience and is not intended as an exact representation of the content.
To find the best injury lawyer for your case, it’s important to know what questions to ask. This will allow you to assess your lawyer’s qualifications, experience, and approach to your case, and determine if they are the right fit for you.