Legal Options When Injured by an Uninsured Motorist
Most states require all drivers to carry a minimum level of auto insurance, but not every driver does so. A car accident can cause serious injuries, and if the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance, there can be serious consequences.
Unfortunately, the Insurance Research Council has found that uninsured motorist bodily injury claims have been increasing in recent years. It is estimated that one out of six drivers have no auto insurance.
This article describes the problem of uninsured motorists and what your legal options are if you are injured by one.
What Happens If An Uninsured Driver Injures You?
If you are hurt by an uninsured driver, someone does need to pay for your damages and losses. Unless you bought uninsured motorist (UIM) bodily injury insurance, you may have a serious problem. If you have purchased personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, it will typically pay for about 80% of your medical bills.
However, PIP limits are usually quite low. This insurance coverage may not cover all of your medical costs, out-of-pocket costs, lost earnings and pain and suffering. Uninsured motorist coverage will handle all of these costs for you when the other driver has no coverage.
Having uninsured motorist protection is an effective way to cover yourself legally, as a supplement to PIP. Depending upon the policy limits you pay for, you could recover the same amount as if the other driver actually had insurance. It is recommended by the insurance industry that you have UIM coverage for at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident.
Uninsured motorist protection operates much like other liability coverage. If there is an accident with injuries, the UIM coverage will pay for:
- Lost earnings
- Medical bills
- Pain, suffering and emotional distress
- Loss of ability to earn a living
- Funeral costs.
As with all liability policies, limits on the policy can vary from state to state. Some states require drivers to purchase UIM coverage. Others that do not require this may require you to decline the coverage in writing.
Victim of an Uninsured Driver?
If you are hurt in an accident by a driver with no insurance, it is imperative to call the police immediately. Driving without insurance is a crime, and if you call an accident with an uninsured driver, the police will show up.
But the problem is that most uninsured drivers will try to leave the scene before the police arrive. They know that they could have their car impounded and they could be put in jail. If the uninsured driver is undocumented, he could be deported.
If you are hit by an uninsured driver, here are some important tips to remember:
- If it was a hit and run, try to get a description of the driver, passengers, vehicle and license plate number.
- If the driver stops, get his personal information if you can, as well as contact information. Ask for the names and contact information for passengers. Get a description of the car and the license plate number.
- Take pictures of the other driver’s car. Get pictures of the passengers and the driver if you can. Also take pictures of the accident scene, including vehicle position, skid marks, weather conditions, etc.
- Get the names and contact information for any witnesses. Ask the responding police office for what is called the ‘service number’ for the arrest report.
- If you or passengers are hurt, get to an emergency room right away. Accident injuries may not become clear for days or weeks after the crash. So, the sooner you start to have your condition documented by a doctor, the better chances for a claim or lawsuit later.
There is no question that the number of uninsured motorists is rising every year. So, there is a higher chance that you could be in an accident with one. It is important to carry sufficient uninsured motorist protection to ensure that you can have your injuries paid for in an accident. Remember – most uninsured drivers have few if any assets, so even if you can win a lawsuit against them, it is unlikely