It is important to understand that Arizona is a fault-based State. That means that the wrongdoer's insurance company is not going to pay your medical as you go. They will make one lump sum offer (if any) or force you to prove your case before you are compensated.
Insurance is supposed to offset the cost of an injury when you need it most. We all purchase insurance to help with the unexpected. Here in Arizona, insurance coverage is mandatory for motor vehicles and motorcycles, and insurance is also often required or recommended for homes and many other types of property. Tucson-area drivers and property owners routinely purchase insurance with the belief that, in the event an injury, the insurance company will provide appropriate compensation.
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Insurance companies look out for their own interests first. An insurance company owes a duty to its own insured, and in most cases to their shareholders. That means that if you are looking to the wrongdoer's insurance to step up to the plate and take care of you, you may be in for a surprise. That carrier owes you no duty.
A liability carrier is an insurance company that represents the person who hurt you and is responsible for your injury. They owe a duty to their insured, not to you. Their job is to get their insured off the hook by paying as little as possible so as to maximize their profits. Clients have reported that carriers sometimes stonewall, lowball, send letters that they do not believe the injuries were caused by the collision, etc. Intimidation is sometimes used against the injured person to get them to go away and drop the claim. Intimidation might be in the form of demanding irrelevant personal information and medical records and sifting through tax records and credit reports. Many insurance companies profile the injured person specifically looking for any socially undesirable information that might embarrass you into taking a small offer or withdrawing your claim.
Clients have also reported that some insurance adjusters have said things like "you have to give me medical authorizations or I can't help you." Or, "I'm going to close your file if you don't do ... [what I want.]"] These are very well studied and organized tactics to get you to accept an insufficient settlement.
Please note that these tactics are more likely to come from the liability carrier as opposed to your own carrier where you have your own coverage. You do have a duty to cooperate with your own carrier. You do not have a duty to cooperate with the carrier for the person who hit you.
In many cases, insurers act unfairly by leveraging a policyholder's financial weakness and emotional distress following a collision or loss, in order to pay minimal compensation.
There are a variety of tactics used. It is our job step between you and these tactics so that you can concentrate on getting better.
Your Auto Policy
There is no such thing as "a full policy" or "the works." You must know what is offered and what you are buying and how much you are buying.
You can protect yourself by having certain kinds of coverage on your own policy, a policy where the carrier owes YOU the duty to take care of you.
If you use your own coverage, and the collision is NOT substantially your fault, Arizona prohibits your auto insurance company from increasing your premiums. That means that if you have to use your own auto insurance because the wrongdoer is either uninsured or doesn't have enough insurance coverage, you can do so without worrying about rate increases.
You may have collision protection for your auto on your own policy. You have the right to have your own carrier estimate the damage to your vehicle as well as the wrongdoer's carrier. You can choose the higher offer. If you use your own carrier, they will go after the wrongdoer's property damage policy for you to get their money back and get you your deductible back.
Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage
Uninsured Motorist coverage, or UM, is a policy that you or someone in your household has that will cover you in the event you are injured by a motorist who has no insurance. Although automobile insurance is mandatory, many people choose not to purchase it. A hit-and-run where the driver is never found can cause you to use your uninsured motorist. A negligent driver of a stolen vehicle is considered to be uninsured.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured Motorist coverage, or UIM, is a policy that picks up where the wrongdoer's policy stops. Arizona only requires $15,000 in liability coverage which might not be enough to pay for an overnight stay in the hospital (let alone surgery and physical therapy). It has been over 40 years since Arizona increased the minimum insurance requirement and the cost of medical attention has soared since then.
MEDPAY or medical payments coverage is a type of “no fault” coverage that will pay your medical expenses as you go. I can help process your MEDPAY and do NOT take a fee for processing it. That means you get the maximum benefit of using those funds for your injury treatment. MEDPAY works side by side with your health insurance and provides benefits that your health insurance might not allow. In all cases, I recommend that people purchase the highest level of UM, UIM, and MEDPAY that they can afford.
Your own insurance does not require that you be in your car when you are injured, as long as the injury involves a vehicle. You can be a pedestrian, on your bicycle, or sitting on your front porch swing when a car jumps a curb, and if you are injured by a vehicle, then your insurance will be required to cover you.
Sometimes, your own carrier will forget their duty to you and low-ball. We are glad to take these claims to trial or arbitration. In certain situations, your carrier might cross a line and commit the act of bad faith in dealing with you. We are glad to handle bad faith cases.
In some cases, home owner insurance comes into play. Home owner insurance does not have a consumer protection law in that if you use YOUR home owner insurance, your rates might be affected. You might find that your home owner insurance will cover the property damage loss of your bicycle.
Aircraft insurance works in similar ways to auto insurance. A policy might cover the damage to the aircraft itself and injuries to the people on board and on the ground. Bicycle insurance is starting to become popular for those who do not own automobiles.
Umbrella policies are a type of insurance coverage that will come into play after all other policies have been used up. Uninsured and Underinsured umbrella policies are available, but they are not standard. If you have an umbrella policy, you will have to specifically ask to have UM and UIM added to it.
Many insurance policies are limited by what is in the contract. You may or may not have the coverage you thought you had. Even if a particular coverage is denied, for public policy reasons in Arizona, the carrier may have to extend coverage to you anyway. Insurance law is always changing and can be complex.
Read your policy and if you want, bring it to me and I'll go over it with you. One of the latest trends is for a carrier to sell you a substantial policy and then in fine print, write in that a resident relative only is covered by the $15,000 minimum for Uninsured and Underinsured. That means if you thought you bought a $500,000 policy, your children who are injured might only have $15,000 available to them. Watch for these kinds of clauses that limit what you thought you were paying for.
If you have a claim in Arizona and need an attorney, you will want an attorney who understands the complex nature of insurance policies and coverage. Call the Law Office of Eric Post, P.L.L.C.