Television advertising for auto insurance is so frequent that it would be helpful if it contained more useful and helpful information. While saving you money is so frequently the theme, some commercials actually do talk about getting the right coverage, sometimes even discussing the help of an agent. How many of those ads discuss the need for good uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage? When was the last time you saw a commercial that discussed the need for underinsured motorist coverage? Have you ever seen one? When was the last ad you saw that talked about medical payments coverage? Again, have you ever seen one? Why is this?
Uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage are some of the most critical coverage a person can buy to protect their family, but it appears to be neglected in the advertising. It certainly appears that it not popular enough with customers or a big enough concern among consumers that the insurance companies find it worthy to advertise on the subject. Montana is a state with a small enough population, that the big companies do not seem to be worried about reaching out to Montana consumers in their ad campaigns, or even particularly concerned about running afoul of our law when it comes to advertising. Our Unfair Claims Practices statute – Montana Code Annotated 33-18-201 – as interpreted by the Montana Supreme Court – places burdens on insurers to make an effort to live up the advertising
33-18-201. Unfair claim settlement practices prohibited. A person may not, with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, do any of the following:
(8) attempt to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would have believed the person was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application
If you insurance company has not lived up to its advertising in how it has addressed or handled your injury claim (or your family) arising from a motor vehicle wreck, contacting a Montana attorney that emphasis personal injury law, notably insurance and motor vehicle injury cases is the right decision.
The time to find out that you do not have enough of the right kind of auto insurance is not after having a wreck where you or your family are injured because of the negligence or reckless conduct of an uninsured, or underinsured, drunk driver. Insurance coverage has to be in place before the crash, wreck or other loss. If you are injured in a car wreck and find out that the at fault driver has no insurance, or simply not enough to address the medical expenses and lost wages, much less other damages, it is like being injured all over again. As the Montana Supreme Court so eloquently stated in the Ridley decision:
One of the most significant obligations that innocent victims of automobile accidents incur and for which mandatory liability insurance laws were enacted, is the obligation to pay the costs of medical treatment. If the insurer has no obligation to pay those expenses in a timely fashion, even though liability is reasonably clear, then the protection provided by Montana’s mandatory liability laws would be of little value.
Medical expenses from even minor injuries can be devastating to a family of average income. The inability to pay them can damage credit and, as alleged in this case, sometimes preclude adequate treatment and recovery from the very injuries caused. Just as importantly, the financial stress of being unable to pay medical expenses can lead to the ill-advised settlement of other legitimate claims in order to secure a benefit to which an innocent victim of an automobile accident is clearly entitled. We conclude that this is not what was intended by the Montana Legislature when mandatory liability insurance laws and unfair claims practice laws were enacted.
Ridley v. Guaranty National Insurance Company, 951 P.2d 987 (Mont. 1997)
– See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mt-supreme-court/1453789.html#sthash.Doyr5aOV.dpuf
However, many people believe that they have “full coverage” and will have enough insurance for the loss. When folks come into the office after a car wreck and tell us they have “full coverage” the prudent response on our part is to ask them if they have a copy of the declaration sheet, the “dec page” that shows the coverages. While having collision and comprehensive coverage can be helpful and are certainly advisable on most policies – the bodily injury limits, medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage ultimately often have more to do with a good outcome. This is because the ability to pay medical bills and recover for lost earnings are far more important in the longer term – and often the short term – than the coverage to pay to have a vehicle repaired.
If your agent did not properly advise you about under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage, did your agent live up to the advertising of the insurance company? Some large insurers run advertising, and have run advertising touting how helpful an agent is and the company is at making sure you the right coverage. They advertise that agents can help make sure you don’t have gaps in coverage or not enough coverage. If you suffered a loss and your agent did not do so, or if the insurance company changed your coverage without your permission or knowledge, contact us. We seek to hold insurers accountable and live up to their promises in their advertising to their insureds, the customers that pay the premiums.