If you’re injured in a car accident, you may be able to sue the person at fault to recoup damages for your injuries. But what if the person who hit you doesn’t have insurance? As long as you have your own insurance, you will have a form of coverage called “uninsured motorist” coverage. You pay for this coverage, and it’s there to make sure you can recoup compensation when an uninsured person is responsible for your injuries in a car crash.
If you live in Missouri, and your insurance company refuses to negotiate, or negotiates unreasonably, you can hire a skilled personal injury lawyer to pursue your interest directly in court, much the same as when you bring a lawsuit against another insured driver. However, it’s different in Illinois.
Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) Motorist in Illinois
The law requires insurance companies to include arbitration clauses in all insurance contracts containing UM coverage (215 ILCS 5/143a). Additionally, many insurance companies have arbitration clauses in their “underinsured motorist” (UIM) clauses as well. UIM is there to help you when the person responsible for your injuries does not have enough coverage to fully compensate you for your damages.
For both UM and UIM, Illinois utilizes arbitration to provide a more efficient process than going to court. Medical bills from a car accident add up quickly. The sooner a result can be obtained, the better.
How the Illinois Arbitration Process Works
Step 1: Contact a personal injury attorney
Arbitration of a UM/UIM claim can be very complicated. It is important to have competent counsel on your side who understands how arbitration works in order to protect your rights. If you have a UM/UIM claim, please contact experienced attorneys, like those at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP, so that your rights are protected.
Step 2: Your lawyer will send a written demand for arbitration to the insurance company
The demand for arbitration must be clearly stated and sent within the time specified by the insurance policy. The demand will provide information about the car accident, your damages, and it will also name an arbitrator. This arbitrator is usually another lawyer who is authorized to serve as an arbitrator in Illinois.
Step 2: The insurance company will then name their own arbitrator
Step 3: These two people will select a third “neutral” arbitrator to complete the “arbitration panel”
If the third arbitrator is not selected within the allotted 45-day time period, either party may request that the case be sent to the American Arbitration Association, sometimes referred to as “AAA.” Some insurance contracts provide that all UM/UIM arbitrations be sent to the AAA. When the AAA hears the arbitration, they may choose to use a single arbitrator or a panel of three.
Step 4: These three arbitrators will hear the evidence of the case
When the arbitration occurs, it is generally governed by the rules of the AAA. These rules grant the arbitrators the power to order pre-arbitration discovery. These rules also control the evidence that comes in at the time of the arbitration.
However, if the amount demanded exceeds $20,000.00 to any one party, then any medical opinion testimony is governed by the Rules of Evidence. This requires either live testimony or an evidence deposition from a doctor or other healthcare provider who treated you for injuries.
Step 5: The arbitrators make a decision
The arbitrators’ decision is binding, and it will not be overturned on appeal for errors of law or fact or for minor violations of the rules. However, if the arbitrator awards more than $50,000.00 to any one party—even if that amount is within the policy limits—then either party can dispute the arbitration award and demand a jury trial.
An insurance company may elect to do this if it feels the amount of the arbitration award was excessive. After consultation with your attorney, you may decide to do this if you both believe the arbitration award will not be adequate to cover your damages. This “escape hatch” is provided by Illinois law for uninsured motorist claims, but, with respect to an underinsured motorist claim, it must also be provided in the insurance contract itself.
What happens if the insurance company requests the insured file suit against the uninsured at-fault driver?
If the case involves an uninsured motorist claim, the insurance company may request that the insured file suit against the uninsured at-fault driver. Illinois law requires the insurance company make this request in writing for good cause and to advance any trial costs to you prior to trial.
The insurance company must also send a written acknowledgment of the claim and the demand for arbitration. It is important for a lawyer to thoroughly examine such an acknowledgment for any denials of coverage, conditions, or other claims that might either limit or terminate your rights to recover under the policy.
Contact Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP
Our experience in all manner of car accident claims lends itself to these cases. The personal injury attorneys at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP want to protect the rights of innocent people who were hit by uninsured or underinsured motorists.
We are licensed to practice in both Illinois and Missouri. Contact us now to see if you have a case!