THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - COMPASSIONATE AND AGGRESSIVE REPRESENTATION FOR ACCIDENT VICTIMS OF CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
In the majority of traffic accidents in South Carolina, the innocent victim of the car crash will be able to recover compensation from the at-fault driver for injuries through the at-fault driver's liability insurance. However, with the increasing cost of medical treatments and considering the relatively low legal limit we have in South Carolina for liability insurance ($25,000.00 per person / $50,000.00 per accident), I am seeing more and more occasions where the medical bills of my clients exceed the liability limits of the at-fault driver. In this instance, the victim will have to utilize the Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) of their own policy to be fully compensated.
For the sake of this argument, I am going to assume the innocent accident victim has purchased underinsured coverage. Remember, underinsured coverage is optional coverage, so please make sure to read my article on this blog about why having underinsured coverage is necessary!
HOW DOES MY OUTSTANDING LIABILITY CLAIM AGAINST THE AT-FAULT DRIVER EFFECT MY UNDERINSURED CLAIM AGAINST MY OWN POLICY?
The answer to the above stated question requires that the accident victim be wary of any paperwork they sign to settle the liability claim prior to filing and/or settling the underinsured coverage claim. When the at-fault driver's liability carrier pays out the limits of the liability policy on a claim where there is a likely going to be an underinsured claim, the at-fault carrier may still send a “Full Release” by mistake. Signing a "Full Release" from the liability carrier releasing the at-fault driver may prevent you from collecting compensation on an otherwise legitimate underinsured claim. Let's examine specifically how the execution of a Full Release for the liability claim against the at-fault driver can hinder or terminate a legitimate underinsured claim against your own policy.
Example: The at-fault driver's liability carrier pays its policy limits to multiple victims of a car crash (Claimant A, B and C). Claimant A has serious medical injuries that exceed the liability policy limits and will most likley file an underinsured claim. Claimants B and C can be fully compensated within the policy limits and will not seek underinsured benefits.
The liability carrier sends three Full Releases, and in processing the settlement, the attorney's office that represents all three victims has all three claimants sign Full Releases.
When Claimant A tries to pursue an underinsured claim, the Full Release bars the claim.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
THE BETTER PRACTICE IS TO AVOID A "FULL RELEASE" ON THE LIABILITY CLAIM IF YOU ARE GOING TO PURSUE AN UNDERSINSURED CLAIM
The legal consequences of executing a Full Release for the liability carrier of the at-fault driver is that you may inadvertently surrender the right of your insurance carrier to seek any reimbursement from the at-fault driver for any underinsured coverage payments. Under what is know as the Doctrine of Subrogation, when you seek and receive benefits from your own carrier through underinsured coverage, your insurance company reserves the right to "step into your shoes" and seek reimbursement for these payments from the at-fault driver. If you, as the innocent victim, execute a Full Release for the liability carrier, you not only waive all future claims against the liability carrier, but also against the at-fault driver personally.
The Full Release is just that: it releases both the at-fault driver and the underinsured claim. The Full Release could terminate the subrogation rights of your insured, and without the option of pursuing reimbursement from the at-fault driver, your underinsured claim will most likely be denied.
Therefore, a “Full Release” should always be avoided and not executed in claims involving underinsured motorist claims. More times than not, the Full Release may have been sent as a clerical mistake by the liability insurer more out of habit than anything else. Yet, a signed Full Release is very difficult to pull back and the liability carriers are generally unwilling to void releases that they feel protect their insureds (even against claims the liability insurer will not be paying).
AVOID THE PITFALLS OF AN UNDERINSURED CLAIM, HIRE AN EXPERIENCED CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER
As a car accident attorney in my solo practice, I will take all necessary steps to protect your rights and earn just compensation for you as a result of your car accident. Through my efforts, I can bring about much needed financial relief to an auto accident victim who may be suffering from serious injuries and permanent disability. Being a small firm allows you to have direct access to your lawyer during this entire process, with open lines of communication as we work together towards a viable solution to your specific case.
Being an experienced personal injury attorney, I have experience dealing with insurance companies. I also know where the courthouse is and will not be afraid to call the insurance company to the mat in front of a judge and jury if necessary.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident due to the negligent or reckless acts of another in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, or any of the other fine communities of the Low Country, and need to meet with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact me to set up your free case evaluation today. Let me help prevent you from being taken advantage of by the insurance company. I am serious and I am here for you! Contact The McMillian Law Firm today @ 843-900-1306