Accident Liability Involving Uninsured and Underinsured Vehicles

Driving on the public roadway in Indiana, as in each of the 50 United States, is a privilege, and not a guaranteed right. Because of this, motorists are required by law to carry auto insurance. IC 9-25-4-5 requires that vehicles registered or primarily garaged in Indiana carry insurance with minimum accident liability coverage of $25,000 for injury or death to one person, $50,000 for death or injury to more than one person within the same accident, and $10,000 for property damage. The purpose of this law is to protect not at-fault accident victims from suffering financial harm caused by at-fault motorists in vehicle collisions, since it mandates the at-fault motorist to be financially responsible for payment of such liability.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists (UIM)

Inevitably, some motorists will have either no insurance, known as uninsured motorists, or coverage that fails to meet the required limits set forth in Indiana, known as underinsured motorists. Underinsured coverage could have been written out of state or by a company that has become insolvent. When accidents involve UIM, the innocent party can suffer great financial loss. Because of this, IC 27-7-5-2 requires that all auto insurance providers offer UIM coverage along with each newly written policy, and that the limits of such a policy meet those in IC 9-25-4-5. However, this type of coverage is not mandatory, and can be rejected because it bears on the financial coverage of the insured party, and not that of fellow motorists.

It is important to note that, despite the name, auto policies are attached to the vehicle, and not the motorist driving it. This can create UIM issues even for vehicles that were properly insured, because insurance will cover only authorized drivers.

Legal Issues Arising out of UIM Accidents

UIM policies do not provide ubiquitous relief to any incident involving a UIM. Rather, each policy contains express language establishing conditions under which such a policy will pay.  In Whitledge v. Jordan 560 N.E. 2d 884 (, an authorized driver of a vehicle attempted to prevent the theft of that vehicle and was injured in the process. While the driver stealing the car was clearly a UIM because of his lack of authorization to drive the car, the policy stipulated that UIM coverage for that vehicle would not extend to the insured party, family members, or other regular users of the car. In other words, the UIM policy protected the insured party, family members, and other regular users of that car only in cases in which another vehicle driven by a UIM caused injuries and damage, and not that vehicle covered in the policy.

Claims involving UIM policies cannot be used to leverage coverage to victims in excess of state-mandated single accident limits. In Progressive Halcyon Insurance Company v Petty, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the statute requiring $50.000 in coverage for any single accident hold fast, even if the policy in question provided for greater than the state-mandated $25,000 per person, and that insurance providers are not be liable for payment calculated by the per person component and exceeding the per accident component.

Get Legal Help

Understanding UIM coverage can be difficult. Receiving payment for UIM accidents can be even more so. If you or a loved one has been involved in a vehicle accident involving a UIM, learn your rights, protect your finances, and preserve your privilege to drive. Contact or call the Law Office of Stanley E. Robison Jr. at (812) 945-3055 for a confidential consultation.

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