Automobile insurance exists to help victims of car accidents pay for their damages and cover the damage they inflict on other drivers. While it’s illegal to drive without car insurance, many individuals still choose to do so, creating serious problems for other drivers on the road. It’s essential for every American motorist to acknowledge the importance of auto insurance, and to know what to do in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver.
Uninsured and Underinsured Driver Coverage
A few states require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, while insurers in other states simply offer it as an additional part of a purchased insurance policy. If you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, chances are high that you will need to file a claim with your own insurance company to recover your damages. Bear in mind that uninsured motorist coverage will only apply if the uninsured motorist is at fault for the accident. Additionally, most uninsured/underinsured motorist clauses in auto insurance policies will include various stipulations concerning when and how drivers may claim uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Most insurance companies do not allow uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to exceed the standard liability coverage in a policy. For example, if your auto insurance policy allows for up to $50,000 in liability coverage, your underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed $50,000.
Underinsured motorist coverage kicks in when an at-fault driver has auto insurance, but his or her policy does not cover the total cost of your damages. While this type of coverage can make up the difference for replacing a vehicle or paying for repairs, it will likely fail to cover any medical expenses or other damages if you sustained injuries during the accident. Similarly, uninsured motorist coverage kicks in when the at-fault driver has no auto insurance coverage.
Filing a Lawsuit
In some cases, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will not be enough to completely recoup your losses after a serious accident. Unless you live in a no-fault state, you can typically file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you happen to live in a no-fault state, you will need to use your own auto insurance to cover your losses, and you will only be allowed to sue in most cases if you sustained significant injuries and losses.
If you live in a typical negligence-based state, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. Bear in mind, however, that every state has unique laws concerning negligence in civil claims. If you bear any amount of fault for the accident, expect your settlement amount or case award to reflect this. For example, in most comparative negligence or contributory negligence states, the plaintiff will lose the percentage of his or her case award equal to his or her percentage of fault. If a judge in a $100,000 case finds the plaintiff 30% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff loses 30% of the case award, leaving him or her with $70,000 instead of $100,000.
If you have recently been in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist, handle your immediate medical concerns and then speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The right attorney will be able to advise the best options for legal recourse and help you collect compensation through the appropriate channels.