I remember when I was younger how much I loved driving in winter. I loved that sense of being slightly out of control as I hit that ice patch going around a corner. Ah, to be young and carefree! I see those young drivers now. Oh, to be old and nervous.
For many of us (I turned 65 last month, so I’m with you), driving in winter means the anxiety of potentially being hit by that young, carefree youth who probably has little or no insurance and certainly has little or no other assets. If you or someone in your car gets hurt through that person’s recklessness, are you simply stuck, knowing that any claim for damages you might have, however valid, will go unpaid? Isn’t there something you can do to protect yourself? The answer, as I learned over the past few months, is YES.
In a recent Bergeron Briefs interview, I talked with Ted Bassett, my colleague at Mirick O’Connell who specializes in personal injury matters. A few weeks later, I also spoke with Michael Murphy from the Murphy Insurance Agency in Marlborough. It turns out that, as the owner of a motor vehicle, you can buy something called “underinsurance.” As the name implies, it is meant to cover you and passengers in your automobile if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and the other driver, though at fault, does not have sufficient insurance to pay for your medical bills, pain and suffering. If you own a home, there may even be a way to obtain additional coverage through your homeowners’ insurance policy. However, there are a couple of caveats. First and foremost, you must report the accident to your insurance company at once. Ted has found that insurers tend to claim that they were “prejudiced” if they were not notified immediately, because it did not give the insurer the opportunity to investigate the case and learn all the details right away.
Second, don’t be your own lawyer. If you get into an accident, immediately call a lawyer who specializes in this kind of work. If your lawyer is a general practitioner, ask him or her for a referral. Get a professional opinion as to whether or not you have a claim, and do it right away.
If you would like to see my interviews with Ted Bassett or Michael Murphy, you can find them on my YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/elderlawfrankandmary.