What Happens When You Are Hit by an Uninsured Driver?
What to expect
on May 12, 2022
The scene of a car accident can be a noisy and chaotic place. If you have experienced a car accident, your priority should be to check on the safety of everyone involved and call 911 if anyone is injured. Unless you are going to the hospital for emergency medical treatment, you should not leave the accident scene without exchanging contact details and insurance information with the other drivers.
But what happens if the driver who hit you does not have car insurance? Below you will find a summary of your options. Most likely, you will need to seek compensation from your own auto insurance company to recover for the losses your auto accident caused.
Suing an Uninsured Driver
If an uninsured driver causes a traffic accident with you, you have the right to sue them. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you with your lawsuit. This will entail collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, visiting the scene of the accident, and more. Using this evidence, your lawyer will build your case and demonstrate that the other driver was at fault. They will also gather records of your medical expenses and property damages. With these records in hand, they can request reimbursement for these expenses from the at-fault driver. They might request compensation for your pain and suffering or mental anguish too.
If the at-fault driver does not agree to your demands, your attorney can negotiate a settlement. Settlement negotiations can go back and forth for weeks or months. In some cases, it may become impossible to work out a fair settlement through negotiation. In this case, your attorney might need to take your case to court.
However, suing an uninsured driver will only be worth your time and effort if the driver has sufficient assets to compensate you for your damages. Unfortunately, uninsured drivers often do not have the financial ability to provide you with proper compensation. If the at-fault driver in your collision is not financially capable of providing you with fair compensation, you will have to go to your own insurance policy for reimbursement.
No-Fault or Personal Injury Protection Coverage
Some states are considered "no-fault" states for car insurance purposes. You usually cannot sue the other drivers for your car accident damages in a no-fault state. In this sense, it does not matter who caused your accident in a no-fault state. The exception to this would be if your injuries and property damage were severe and exceeded a certain threshold.
So, if an uninsured driver hits you in a no-fault state, you will probably not have much legal recourse against them. Instead, you will need to make an insurance claim for your covered losses from your own no-fault insurance policy. A no-fault insurance policy is also known as "personal injury protection" or PIP coverage. Your no-fault or PIP car insurance coverage will usually reimburse you for:
- Medical bills you incurred because of the crash
- Wages you lost while recovering from the collision
- Funeral expenses if someone died in the accident
Notably absent from the above list is reimbursement for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is one of several "non-economic damages." Non-economic damages include difficult to quantify damages such as loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. In states that follow an at-fault model for car insurance, you can seek reimbursement from the other party's insurance company for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. However, insurance does not cover pain and suffering in no-fault states.
Suing an Uninsured Driver in a No-Fault State
You might be able to sue the at-fault driver even in a no-fault state. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. Suing the other driver in a no-fault state is only possible if you sustained severe bodily injury such as:
- Permanent disability
- Loss of a pregnancy
- Fracture of a weight-bearing bone
Further, if your medical costs or property damage were substantial (several thousand dollars), you may be able to sue the at-fault driver in a no-fault state. An experienced car accident attorney can help you determine your legal options in your state. To prove that the accident was the other driver's fault, your attorney will need to gather evidence. This evidence will include police reports, medical records, video footage, eyewitness testimony, and more. Next, they will need to build a case and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Keep in mind, though, that even if you are legally permitted to file a lawsuit in a no-fault state, you still might not be able to receive compensation from an uninsured driver. If you are lucky, the uninsured at-fault driver in your accident has sufficient assets to cover your losses. However, it is often the case that uninsured drivers simply do not have the funds to reimburse you for your damages. So, even though the uninsured driver ought to reimburse you, they might not have the means to do so. For this reason, many drivers add uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage to their car insurance policies.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The majority of states require all motorists to have valid auto insurance. However, many drivers on the road violate these laws by failing to obtain insurance or letting their coverage lapse.
If the at-fault driver in your crash was uninsured, you will probably have to recover your expenses through your own insurance coverage. The best way to financially protect yourself from uninsured motorists is to purchase uninsured motorist coverage, or UIM.
UIM is an optional add-on to your liability insurance in most states. Keep in mind, though, that your UIM coverage can usually only be equal to or less than the amount of your liability insurance. With UIM, you can recover for physical injuries you sustained due to a crash with an uninsured driver. However, you would need additional uninsured driver property damage coverage to receive an insurance payment for your vehicle and other property damage.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Suppose you were in an accident with an insured driver whose policy limits were too low to cover your losses. In this instance, underinsured motorist coverage can help. Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to cover the gap between the at-fault driver's coverage and your damages.
For example, suppose you were in an accident that caused property damage and medical expenses of $300,000. The at-fault driver’s insurance policy only covers $200,000. In that case, you can make a claim through your underinsured motorist coverage for the remaining $100,000. However, you will only be able to recover this cost up to the limits of your insurance policy.
Underinsured motorist coverage is legally required in some states. Although it is not the same as uninsured motorist coverage, you might have purchased them together. Your car insurance company can provide you with more information about your policy and can probably sell you additional coverage if you choose.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If an uninsured driver struck your vehicle and caused injuries, it would be wise to explore all legal options to recover for your expenses. First, you will need to seek reimbursement from your own insurance company. But you may also need to explore the possibility of suing the at-fault driver.
An experienced car accident attorney can perform a case review to help you determine whether suing the uninsured driver will be worth your time and effort. Most car accident attorneys offer a free consultation. So, you most likely will not need to pay anything to learn more about your legal options. If you hire an attorney to guide your case through the legal process, they and their law firm staff will gather evidence and build your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Car insurance companies usually place a time limit on your ability to make an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist claim. Further, your state probably has a statute of limitation that places a deadline on your ability to file a car accident lawsuit. To preserve your legal options, you should contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.