Regrettably, most consumers understand the wiles and sometimes sad ways of insurance industry with regard to underinsurance protection: We pay them our hard-earned money and then when we need them most the insurance companies have been known to find ways to avoid providing a benefit. Fewer of us realize that in one area of automobile insurance, Underinsured Motorist Protection, the current state of California law prohibits insurance consumers from getting the protection for which they have been charged and paid. The law makes it legal for the insurance carriers to not give their customers the protection they believed they purchased. In short: We don’t get what we paid for.
Unlike liability coverage mandated by the State, the purchase of Underinsurance coverage is voluntary. When a motorist buys this benefit it is to secure financial protection if they are hit by a motorist carrying a very small insurance policy that fails to cover the extent of their injuries. Consumers of this insurance product seek to make sure their medical bills and lost earnings will be compensated and they will not incur a loss because of the fault of another.
That, however, is not the law. As it stands now, insurers have the right to reduce the amount of payable loss; under the law, they don’t have to provide the full measure of financial protection many consumers believed they were paying for under such policies. Consider the following examples: You are injured in a car wreck and your medical bills are $125,000. The driver who caused the wreck has a $25,000 policy. You have purchased a $100,000 underinsured policy. One would think they will be compensated with the $25,000 from the bad driver and collect the $100,000 dollars from the policy I bought. Wrong! In this case your insurance company gets a $25,000 credit for the amount paid by the other driver. It only has to provide you with $75,000 for your bills. You come up $25,000 light.
It can be even worse. Consider this application of the law. As a result of an accident you have medical bills of $200,000. The person who caused the wreck has a $100,000 policy. Your policy provides for $100,000 in underinsurance coverage. California law, however, does not permit you to “stack” the policies, because both parties to this accident having equal policy limits of $100,000 your insurer does not have to pay anything. The total payout by your carrier is zero and you owe $100,000 in medical bills. You get absolutely no benefit from a policy for which you paid good money.
Thankfully, help might be on the way. California Assemblyman Steve Bradford (D-Inglewood) has introduced AB 1063 to stop this bonanza in favor of the Insurance Industry. His bill changes the law and provides that if you purchase Underinsurance and you are in a crash with a person without sufficient insurance limits to pay your bills, your underinsurance limits will be available. You can stack policies if needed and there is no credit to your carrier resulting from the bad driver’s limited policy.
Guess what? The insurance industry is fighting tooth and nail to stop Californians from getting the benefits for which they have paid. Big Insurance lobbyists are pulling out all the stops to kill Assemblyman Bradford’s bill. As California consumers, we must not let that happen. We should all call our State Representatives and urge them to pass AB 1063. Heck, call your auto carrier and tell them you want what you are paying for – and ask them to stop the assault on this important bill. Tell them you will be in better hands if they were to provide the benefits you paid them to provide.
If you or someone you know is getting the run around from an insurance company, call Strick Injury Law and Mediation. Our San Francisco and Bay Area Insurance lawyers will provide you with a cost free initial consultation and work with you on your claim.
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