A Conversation with Plaintiff’s Attorney

November 30, 2012

Recently, I had an in-depth conversation with a personal injury attorney. He indicated that, over the last few years, he has had a number of clients who were involved in automobile accidents. Many of the accidents involved third parties who did not have adequate insurance coverage. As a result, the injured plaintiff would look to his or her carrier for underinsured motorist coverage protection. The attorney indicated: “In virtually every case, these people had liability limits that were far greater than the underinsured motorist limits.” He then went on to indicate that, upon discovery of these lower limits, the clients talked to their insurance agents and that these agents could not really explain why they had not written or recommended higher underinsured motorist coverage limits. The attorney speculated that perhaps this was a relic from the past where multiple stacking of coverages was permitted. His speculation was based on the assumption that many insurance companies decided that they would write lower underinsured limits because those limits might be stacked. With the change in law, he thought that is no longer true. I can’t say I agreed with all of his assumptions or speculations.

Needless to say, it was a very interesting conversation. In my own personal experience, my agent has talked to me on several occasions about the limits available under the uninsured and underinsured coverage in my policy. He has been very clear that to obtain increased coverage amounts, there is an additional premium. I then make an economic decision as to whether or not I want to pay for that added coverage. In short, I have not had the personal experience that plaintiff’s counsel relayed.

More importantly, I would submit that the issue involving limits of underinsured and uninsured coverage presents a “marketing” opportunity for an agent. If stacking is now limited, it certainly makes economic sense to have increased limits of uninsured/underinsured coverage. Both of these coverages make excellent sense because there will always be individuals who drive automobiles without insurance or with minimum coverage and cause accidents. When that individual causes a personal injury to occur, the resulting cost from that injury invariably exceeds the coverage that is available. I think that agents should use the availability of increased coverage as a marketing tool, and there is every economic incentive to do so. If additional premiums are charged for increasing the limits, then there is an additional commission. In other words, I was having some trouble accepting the attorney’s suggestion that agents do not recommend higher UM, UIM coverages because there is every economic incentive to sell increased coverages in these circumstances. I would urge agents to do so. They will benefit economically. Additionally, the insured, in the right circumstance, should have sufficient protection in the uninsured/underinsured situation.

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For more information about "A Conversation with Plaintiff’s Attorney," contact Timothy D. Fenner at tfenner@axley.com or 608.283.6733.