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March 2, 2017

The Resolution Advocate: Preparing for an Effective Mediation

The Resolution Advocate: Preparing for an Effective Mediation
The Resolution Advocate: Preparing for an Effective Mediation

The Resolution Advocate: Preparing for an Effective Mediation

Preparing for an Effective Mediation

It takes considerable effort and preparation to make the mediation process work. One complaint I hear over and over is that some lawyers — and perhaps clients —  just don’t get it. Based on my experience, some of what it takes to prepare for an effective mediation:

  • A common and good faith interest in mediation
  • An exchange of complete and thoughtfully prepared mediation statements and exhibits well in advance of the mediation date
  • The presence of those with real authority to settle
  • A level of candor and disclosure that allows the parties to realistically assess the other side’s position

Stating the Obvious

Perhaps the most important trait of a good advocate who also serves as a mediator is listening to what the other side has to say, along with carefully assessing the position counter to the clients. If this is done — and it should be if counsel’s representation in mediation is to meet professional standards — it allows for a full discussion and exchange of information before and during the mediation. The chances of reaching a settlement increase dramatically.

I am not alone. In an article by the Honorable James L. Cott, a Magistrate Judge in the USDC, Southern District of New York, “The Dos and Don’ts of Settlement Conferences,” in the Winter 2016 issue of Litigation, the Journal of the Section of Litigation of the ABA (Vol. 42, No. 2), the author provides a list describing what is required to be ready and effective at mediating:

  • Think about the case from the other side’s perspective
  • Don’t wing it
  • Bring documents and key evidence
  • Be as candid as possible in any pre-settlement submissions to the court
  • Be prepared to make an opening statement
  • Make a demand and engage in real negotiations before coming to the courthouse
  • Don’t bring someone without ultimate authority to settle
  • Don’t’ make the court manage your client’s expectations
  • Anticipate all the materials terms of the settlement before the conference
  • Don’t just come with a bottom line – be willing to be flexible and creative

Most of these points seem obvious because they are. So why would Judge Cott repeat them? My guess is because in his experience many lawyers representing clients in mediation are not doing their jobs correctly and are taking the mediation process too lightly.

Don’t Waste Time

From the plaintiff’s perspective, it is a waste of time and money to participate in mediation if the defense is not prepared. To effectively prepare, the plaintiff — well in advance of the mediation date — lays out the client’s case fully and candidly. Key exhibits and expert reports, not just conclusions and arguments without evidence to support them, included.

From the defense perspective, counsel needs to prepare the client representative well in advance of the mediation so any internal caucus can be conducted and the appropriate authority obtained. The defense also needs time to evaluate what experts might be involved, and obtain those reports. That has to be done well in advance of the mediation date. It is often a difficult task because the client representative or the insurance company claims handler is not local or is just too busy to devote the time necessary to participate in the preparation process.

Get Going

Indeed, as I sit here today, we just confirmed a mediation to take place in a bit over two months from now. I started the preparation process today by scheduling a meeting with our firm’s associate who will assist me, the client, and another lawyer who is involved. We will outline what needs to be done, confirm our objectives for preparation, and assign our tasks.

Are They Serious?

There is another point to consider: One of the important items on my agenda as a plaintiff’s lawyer is to assess how serious the other side is about going through the mediation process so as to ensure a meaningful dialogue. I often have a heart-to-heart talk with defense counsel to make sure the timing is right, the proper people are involved and the commitment is there. Or I might ask the mediator to make sure this is the case. Frankly, in most cases I do this myself, but I will inform the mediator of my intentions beforehand to make sure it is okay to proceed. Sometimes the mediator will offer to do this, which I welcome if I think the mediator has the presence to do this effectively. I have on occasion asked permission to make this call because I feel strongly that I will be more effective because of a prior relationship with opposing counsel.

Two More Good Articles on Preparing for Mediation

The first article, “Making Certain the Settlement You Intend is the Settlement You Get,” by Robert Hugh Ellis of Dykema Gossett PLLC in Detroit, stresses thinking through the terms of your settlement and making sure all aspects are clearly covered so the deal you expect is the deal you get. Indeed, a deal may not be a deal. He emphasizes two points:

  1. Think through the terms of the settlement so that you can be sure that any “term sheet” incorporates the material terms; and
  2. If the agreement at the mediation is not intended to confirm that a settlement has been reached until a final formal settlement agreement is reached, then say so in the term sheet. In short, make sure you understand what “finality” means.

The second article, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Mediation,” by Joel Levine, an experienced mediator, explains how to avoid self-inflicted wounds in mediations. These include:

  • Not Preparing
  • Choosing the Wrong Mediator
  • Not Preparing the Mediator
  • Not Preparing the Client
  • Not Asking the Mediator for Help
  • Insulting Everyone
  • Lack of Clarity
Negotiating And Settling Tort Cases Book

Negotiating And Settling Tort Cases by Guy O. Kornblum

Finally, Judge Cott repeats a quote from Abraham Lincoln, which is one of my favorites and which I have in my book on negotiations (see bio):

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will be business enough.”

Good meditating. Let me hear your views. Send them to gkornblum@kcehlaw.com — Guy O. Kornblum, The Resolution Advocate

January 29, 2017

KCEH Clients Injured in Bay Bridge Melee

Bay Bridge Accident, KCEH Law

Guy O. Kornblum interviewed on KTVU Channel 2 regarding our Bay Bridge Case involving the Pettys.

KCEH Clients Injured in Bay Bridge Melee

In November 2015, 34-year-old Kerrie Morgan drove the wrong way on the Bay Bridge in a stolen cab. Under the influence of methamphetamine in a stolen car and an unlicensed driver, Morgan slammed head-on into one vehicle and sideswiped two more. She drove westbound in the eastbound lanes of the Bay Bridge for nearly two miles. As a result, our clients had to be extracted from their vehicle using the Jaws of Life. Angie Petty was critically injured. “She had fractured her skull, fractured both legs, fractured her right arm…She had torn all of the ligaments in her neck. They had to restructure her neck,” Mr. Kornblum told KTVU.

On January 25, 2017, San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascon announced that Morgan was found guilty on all counts by a jury. Morgan earned three felonies and two misdemeanors in this case:

  1. Felony: Driving under the influence causing great bodily injury
  2. Felony: Driving a stolen vehicle
  3. Felony: Hit and run causing serious or permanent injury
  4. Misdemeanor:  Being under the the influence of a controlled substance
  5. Misdemeanor: Driving without a license

A date for Morgan’s sentencing has not yet been set.

December 28, 2016

Rising Stars at KCEH Law

Kaitlyn G. Johnson

Congratulations to KCEH lawyers Kaitlyn G. Johnson and Nicholas J. Peterson, both recognized as Rising Stars by Super Lawyers in 2016. Super Lawyers, the Thomson Reuters lawyer rating service, recognizes outstanding attorneys who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Its annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes nominations and an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

Rising Stars at KCEH Law:

December 26, 2016

Charlie Cochran Lifetime Achievement from America’s Top 100 Attorneys

Charlie Cochran Lifetime Achievement from America's Top 100 Attorneys

Charlie CochranKCEH Partner Charlie Cochran received Lifetime Achievement recognition from America’s Top 100 Attorneys in 2016.

Selection to America’s Top 100 Attorneys® is by invitation only and is comprised of the nation’s most exceptional attorneys whose accomplishments merit a lifetime achievement recognition. Selection is not achieved based on a single accomplishment or a single great year of success, but rather on a lifetime of hard work, ethical standards, and community enriching accomplishments that are inspiring among the legal profession. This honor is not given every year, or every 10 years; it is given but once-in-a-lifetime.

To help ensure that all attorneys selected for membership meet the very high standards expected for selection, candidates for lifetime membership are carefully screened through third-party research and statistical analysis based on a broad array of criteria, including the candidate’s professional experience, lifetime achievements, significant case results, peer reputation, and community impact. With these extremely high standards for selection to America’s Top 100 Attorneys®, less than one-half percent (0.5%) of active attorneys in the United States will receive this honor — truly the most exclusive and elite level of attorneys in the community. Congratulations to Charlie Cochran!


December 22, 2016

Bad Faith Claims and Wins at KCEH

Bad Faith Claims and Wins at KCEH

Bad Faith Claims and Wins at KCEHBad Faith Claims

We recently filed the first of two cases against Anthem Blue Cross for failure to fully pay a claim for emergency medical evacuation by an insured who needed immediate transport to a medical facility after suffering a serious injury. The case is filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. In addition to the California Bar, Guy Kornblum is a member of the Indiana Bar and has joined with Dave McNamar of Indianapolis, who is Of Counsel with KCEH. The case is a compelling one indeed and includes a “bad faith” claim.
We also have a second and even more compelling case (with a great story about the insured who was on an “Angel of Mercy” venture when she suffered a stroke while trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro). More on that one later.

Wins

We settled a very interesting case on behalf of an infant who is the survivor of a father not married who was shot at a South of Market St hotel during an altercation over a drug purchase. The story has been in the papers (SF Weekly mid-Nov). Excellent settlement in a case of this kind. No insurance! Mr. Kornblum and Nicholas Peterson were the lawyers on the case with colleague Christoper Morales, a criminal lawyer in San Francisco who can be reached through his website.
December 3, 2016

Pursuing Arbitration in UM/UIM Claims

Pursuing Arbitration in UM/UIM Claims

How Much Auto Insurance Coverage Should I Have?

I often state that it is our recommendation that anyone owning an auto have primary liability (protection if you negligently hurt others) policy limits of $300,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. In addition, and an excess policy above that which provides at least $1 million in additional liability coverage and also if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist protection.

As to the latter, if you are injured by the negligence of a third person with no insurance or insufficient coverage to compensate you or others in the car, then your policy kicks in and provides additional coverage. For example, if you have the total of $1.5 million I have recommended, and you are injured by a negligent driver, you have that additional sum which is available to pay for your injuries. If the negligent driver has $100,000 in coverage you have $1.4 million. Your UM/UIM protection pays if a) the other driver is negligent (i.e. you have added to his or her liability protection on your policy), and b) causes injury, (i.e. medical expenses, pain and suffering).

I also stress that in order to qualify for this coverage you must purchase liability insurance in the same amounts as the UM/UIM insurance that you want. Make sure you cover this with your agent when discussing your auto policy.

Pursuing Arbitration

Let’s discuss how the matter proceeds if the UM/UIM claim is denied or challenged. In the case of UM/UIM claims, California law mandates that these claims be arbitrated, and that the decision of the arbitrator is final and cannot be appealed except in rare cases. See Insurance Code section 11580.02.

If you have gotten this far without a lawyer, I highly recommend your engage one to represent you. What will take place now needs an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process.

Arbitration is a formal proceeding in which the parties submit their dispute to a neutral (lawyer or retired judge usually), who has authority to make a decision, based on the evidence presented. The decision of the arbitrator is binding on the parties.

What is a Mediation?

One thing that might happen before an arbitration is that the parties agree to mediate the UM/UIM claim. A mediation is a meeting of the parties supervised by a “neutral”, usually a retired judge or experienced lawyer, who oversees the negotiation of the claim. By law, what takes place in preparation for, during and after a mediation is confidential. Nothing that takes place during this process can be used by any party against the other, so the parties can candidly discuss their views of the case and settlement. It is a far less expensive and risky way of resolving any dispute, including UM/UIM claims.

Arbitration involves the presentation of the case to an arbitrator much like a trial. There is no jury and the arbitrator performs the same function as a judge, and also the jury as a finder of fact. An arbitration is conducted in a private office, not in a courthouse. While it is informal in the sense that all the formalities of a court trial are not followed, it is a formal proceeding in that it follows the usually format of a trial. The presentation by both sides follows the normal court trial process: briefs are filed, exhibits presented, opening statements are made, witnesses are called (lay and experts such as medical witnesses), and when all parties have rested (i.e. finished their evidentiary presentation), the lawyers argue the case and possibly file post trial briefs.

The arbitrator then decides the case usually taking some time to review the evidence and the briefs. The decision of the arbitrator is usually written and is called an “award.” Once it is served on the parties, it can be converted to a court judgment, which then is enforceable against the defendant insurance company if the award is not promptly paid. If the award is for money in favor if the insured (it can be a zero which means the insurance company owes nothing), it should be paid promptly. Since tje arbitrator’s decision is final, there is no appeal, so to this extent it is an expedited process. If the insurance company does not promptly pay the award, it may be in “bad faith” which means the insured has a second suit for this delay or failure to pay as a separate claim.

In addition to representing our clients, Mr. Kornblum also serves as an expert witness in insurance claims and legal malpractice claims, and as a mediator. For more information contact our San Francisco office at 415-440-7800.

November 15, 2016

Insurance Company Responsibilities in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims

Insurance Company Responsibilities in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims

Insurance Company Responsibilities in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist ClaimsThis is the third article from Guy O. Kornblum on Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). He has discussed what it is, how it works and why you should have as much coverage as you can. As a reminder, it is our recommendation for primary policy limits of $300,000 per person and $500,000 per accident, and an excess policy above that which provides at least $1 million in additional coverage for UM/UIM. I also stressed that in order to qualify for this coverage you must purchase liability insurance (i.e. which protects you from suits by others resulting from your negligence) in the same amounts as the UM/UIM insurance that you want. Make sure you cover this with your agent when discussing your auto policy.

Insurance Company Responsibilities

Now let’s discuss how the insurance company must handle a UM/UIM claim once it is presented. First of all, there is an important point to recognize: UM/UIM coverage involves a claim made by an insured to its own insurance company. Thus it is that relationship, based on the insurance policy – a contract – that is at the heart of the claim. This results in a conflict between the insurer and the insured, as the insurer “steps into the shoes” of the negligent driver. If the insurer is contesting a claim it is going to argue a) that its own insured was totally or partially at fault for that insured’s injuries.

Nonetheless, the insurer must still handle the claim in “good faith” and not act unreasonably and arbitrarily. That is, as a first party claim (i.e. the insured is making a claim to its own insurance company), the insurance company has a legal obligation (i.e. duty) to comply with the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is implied (even though not expressly stated) in every insurance policy in California. This means that the insurer must comply with certain obligations, including not acting unreasonably in handling, evaluating the making a decision about the claim – i.e. whether to pay or not.

The Good Faith Obligation

As part of this “good faith” obligation, the insurance company must also comply with California’s Unfair Claims Practices Statute (Insurance Code §790.03(h)) and the accompanying regulations (10 California Code of Regulations 2695.1 et seq.) which regulate the conduct of insurers with respect to claims handling . For example, the insurer must “attempt to effectuate a prompt fair and equitable settlement after liability becomes reasonably clear.” (Cal. Ins. Code §790.03(h)(5).) It also must “diligently pursue a thorough, fair and objective investigation and shall not persist in seeking information not reasonably required for or material to the resolution of a claim dispute.” (10 Cal. Code Reg. 2695.7(d); emphasis added.). The insurance company has no choice. It is required to follow the “good faith” claims handling rules regarding their investigation, administration, and decisions regarding your claim.

When to Fight Back

If your insurance company violates these duties to you, you can sue and obtain money damages for what is owed you under your policy plus damages for your worry and anxiety and in some instances attorney fees. And, in the cases of malicious and fraudulent claims handling, your insurance company may be liable to you for punitive damages based on a civil fine which you receive to punish the company for its wrongful conduct. This “good faith” claims structure applies in cases of UM/UIM claims even though the insurance company’s responsibility is based on the question of the negligence of the third party driver who was not its insured – you are!

These “good faith” rules prohibit “low balling” (offering below value numbers in an effort to force you to accept this offer because you need the money), or unfair and unreasonable denials. When the insurance company does not live up to these rules, you have the right to seek a recovery against your insurer for failure to provide you – as the insured and purchaser of UM/UIM coverage – what the insurance company promised to pay you for the protection that you purchased?

Next: What Happens if the Insurance Company Denies Your Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claim? Pursuing Arbitration.

In addition to representing our clients, Mr. Kornblum also serves as an expert witness in insurance claims and legal malpractice claims, and as a mediator. For more information contact our San Francisco office at 415-440-7800.

November 2, 2016

U.S. News & World Report Recognizes KCEH Law Among “Best Law Firms”

KCEH Main Logo
Best Law Firms Badge

U.S. News & World Report Recognizes KCEH Law Among “Best Law Firms”

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recognized Kornblum, Cochran, Erickson, & Harbison LLP among its “Best Law Firms” rankings for 2017.

Firms included in the 2017 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

“U.S. News is the global authority in rankings,” says Tim Smart, executive editor of U.S. News & World Report. “Evaluating law firms is a natural extension of what we do best.”

The 2017 rankings are based on the highest number of participating firms and highest number of client ballots on record. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the U.S. Over 10,000 attorneys provided more than 800,000 law firm assessments, and over 10,000 clients provided more than 90,000 evaluations.

“For seven years now, we have added law firm rankings to our rankings of individual lawyers,” says Steven Naifeh, CEO and co-founder of Best Lawyers. “It has been a daunting task. This year we reviewed 13,803 law firms across the United States and across 122 practice areas, for a total of 2,005 firms receiving a national law firm ranking. Each year, we have expanded our reach while also trying to simplify the process, as much as possible, for the law firms that provide us with the information that we use to create the rankings. We are proud that the legal profession has come to view our law firm rankings each year with such deep and widespread respect.”

Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for its abilities, its professionalism and its integrity.

Awards were given in 74 national practice areas and 122 metropolitan practice areas. One “Law Firm of the Year” is named in each of the 74 nationally ranked practice areas.

The 2017 “Best Law Firms” list will be featured in two publications. The national First Tier rankings will be featured in the Third Edition of the “Best Law Firms” Legal Issue, which will be distributed in January to more than 35,000 C-level executives. National and metropolitan First Tier rankings will be featured in the “Best Law Firms” General Counsel Publication, which will be distributed in December to more than 30,000 in-house counsel, and in digital format to more than 60,000 private practice lawyers worldwide.

The 2017 “Best Law Firms” rankings can be seen in their entirety by visiting bestlawfirms.usnews.com.

ABOUT “BEST LAW FIRMS”

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer listed in the 22nd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© list for that particular location and specialty.

ABOUT U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

U.S. News & World Report is a digital news and information company that empowers people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. Focusing on Education, Health, Personal Finance, Travel, Cars and News & Opinion, USNews.com provides consumer advice, rankings, news and analysis to serve people making complex decisions through- out all stages of life. More than 37 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

ABOUT BEST LAWYERS

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected attorney ranking service in the world. For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Best Lawyers lists are published in leading local, regional and national publications across the globe. The Best Lawyers in America list recognizes the very best lawyers in each practice area and metropolitan region in the country.

October 24, 2016

Guy Kornblum Named Top Attorney in North America

Guy O. Kornblum

Guy Kornblum Named a Top Attorney in North America

Top Attorneys of North America 2017 Our own Guy O. Kornblum was selected for inclusion in the forthcoming  Top Attorneys of North America 2017 edition of The Who’s Who Directories.

Guy O. Kornblum has specialized as a trial and appellate lawyer for over forty years in a wide range of civil litigation, including serious injury and wrongful death, professional liability (legal and medical),  financial and physical elder abuse, business disputes, and all aspects of insurance including ‘bad faith’ claims. Mr. Kornblum himself has handled over 4,000 litigated matters to conclusion and has several million dollar plus cases to his credit, having represented hundreds of clients, small businesses, individuals, and large Fortune 500 corporations.

He is certified in Civil Trial Law and Civil Pretrial Practice Advocacy by the prestigious National Board of Trial Advocacy and is a Charter Fellow of the American College of Board Certified Attorneys and of the Litigation Counsel of America Trial Lawyer Honorary.

Mr. Kornblum is also the author of ‘Negotiating and Settling Tort Cases: Reaching the Settlement,’ published by the Thomson West Publishing Company and American Association for Justice, Third Edition, 2015-2016 and co-author of two books on insurance law. He regularly teaches continuing legal education courses for various bar organizations, including the Bar Association of San Francisco, and bar course providers.

Guy received his B.A. from Indiana University and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He is a member of the American Bar Association, California and Indiana State Bar Associations, American Association for Justice, Consumer Attorneys of California, San Francisco Bar Association, and San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.

The Who’s Who Directories, a New York based biographical publication company, distinguishes and profiles leading professionals who demonstrate recognizable success and leadership in their field. The directory is valued for promoting awareness of individual accomplishments and achievement within the North American community.

October 17, 2016

What Happens When Motorists Don’t Have Insurance?

What Happens When Motorists Don't Have Insurance?

In our last post, we shared an an overview of what Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) is and why you should have it in your auto policy. Another staggering fact is that despite efforts by states to curb the number of uninsured motorists on the roads, the Insurance Research Council found 12.6 percent of drivers nationwide were driving without coverage in 2012, the last year for which data is available. All told, 29.7 million people were driving uninsured during that year nationwide.
How Much Coverage do you Need?
As a result, we recommend primary policy limits of at least $300,000 per person and $500,000 per accident, and an excess policy above that which provides at least $1 Million in additional coverage for UM/UIM. To obtain such, the insurer must offer this level of coverage and you must purchase the same amount of liability insurance coverage as you purchase for this UM/UIM insurance.
Making a Claim
There are certain requirements in making a UM/UIM claim under the governing statute, California Insurance Code §11580.2.
There are three classes of people who are covered by a vehicle policy with UM/UIM coverage. These include:
  1. The person named as the insured, his or her spouse, and his or her relatives while residents of the same household. Persons in this category are given the widest coverage. For example, they do not have to be riding in the insured vehicle at the time of the injury. If they are in a vehicle which is uninsured or underinsured that can qualify for coverage. They can even be injured as pedestrians and qualify for coverage.
  2. The second group includes any person in or upon or entering into or alighting from an insured motor vehicle. So the only question is if the vehicle is insured.
  3. The third group is more limited – any person who is entitled to recovery for care or loss of services because of bodily injury to which the policy provisions apply. This applies primarily to “loss of consortium” (damage to the relationship and loss of services) claimed by one spouses for injury to another.
There are three alternative means by which a claimant can preserve a UM/UIM claim (and thus not have it barred):
  1. File a complaint against the negligent driver (and owner of the vehicle if the driver is not the owner) within two years of the accident (this is the limitation period for filing in California).
  2. Conclude an agreement as to the amount to be paid for the UM/UIM claim with your insurance company.
  3. Submit a demand for arbitration to the insurance company by certified mail, return receipt requested within the two year period.
Hit and Run Coverage
There is also UM coverage for an accident resulting from a “hit and run” driver. Here there is only UM coverage because the offending vehicle has disappeared and there is no insurance available for that vehicle.
In order to qualify for this coverage there are three requirements:
  1. There must be “physical contact” between the “hit and run” vehicle and the insured vehicle (to avoid fraudulent claims).
  2. Within 24 hours of the accident, it must be reported to the police or sheriff.
  3. Within 30 days of the accident, a statement under oath must be provided to the insurance company setting forth the facts and circumstances of the claim.
Who is Protected?
Remember, UM/UIM coverage protects you, the occupants of your car, and insured family members who are residing with you if any of them is a victim of an accident by a motorist who carries no liability insurance (i.e. insurance who provides coverage for claims by third parties) or the amount of liability insurance coverage is less than the amount of UM/UIM coverage you have.
How it Works
So, again (I gave a different example last issue) here is how this coverage might work as underinsured motorist coverage.
You and two family members are hit by a vehicle being driven negligently and suffer injuries. The negligent driver has liability coverage of $100,000/$300,000. There is no additional insurance – i.e. excess or umbrella coverage for that driver. You have primary coverage of $300,000/$500,000. Thus the amount of liability insurance protection for the negligent driver is less than the UM/UIM coverage you have.
There are three claims against the negligent driver. The most his insurance company will pay is $100,000 per claim, and $300,000 total for all claims. You have more protection under your UM/UIM coverage: There is an additional $200,000 per person under your primary policy UM/UIM coverage ($300,000 limits minus the $100,000 liability limits of the negligent driver’s policy), subject to the $500,000 per occurrence (i.e. accident) limits as reduced by the total of payments made under the driver’s policy (if $300,000 is paid out, there would be only $200,000 left in the aggregate of your primary policy) plus the $1 Million additional coverage applied to all claims under your UM/UIM excess coverage. So there is more insurance money available for these claims.
As noted, if the negligent driver is not insured (or it is a “hit and run” accident that qualifies as noted above), then the entire amount of your UM/UIM coverage is available to pay for the claims arising out of the accident.
Which Coverage to Buy
As a general rule the cost of this additional insurance protection for you and your car’s occupants, those family members who are residing with you is normally not that great. But in order to qualify for this coverage you must purchase liability insurance (i.e. which protects you from suits by others resulting from your negligence) in the same amounts as the UM/UIM insurance that you want.
Make sure you cover this with your agent or broker when discussing your auto insurance.
Next: The Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claim: What are the Insurance Company’s Responsibilities in Handling the Claim? 
 
In addition to representing our clients, Mr. Kornblum also serves as an expert witness in insurance claims and legal malpractice claims (www.jurispro.com), and as a mediator (www.kornblummediations.com). For more information, please  contact our San Francisco office at 415-440-7800.