What If You’re Injured by an Uninsured Driver?

  • You'd never think of operating your vehicle without insurance, but other drivers on the road may not be so responsible. In fact, in 2015 alone, it was estimated that about 13% of motorists in the United States were uninsured. Hopefully, you'll never be in a situation where you're injured by an uninsured driver, but if you are, it's important that you know what steps to take and what resources are available to you.

     

    Uninsured and Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage

     

    One of the biggest mistakes people make when they're involved in an accident with someone who is uninsured is to accept that there's nothing they can do to receive compensation for their expenses related to the accident. In reality, so long as you carry state minimum auto insurance coverage, you may already have protection built in for these exact scenarios. Specifically, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is a requirement in many states and is meant to cover damages caused by an underinsured or uninsured motorist, so long as they are determined to be at fault for the accident.

     

    What types of damages can UIM coverage cover? This can vary, depending on your specific policy, but most will cover:

     

    • medical expenses related to your injuries
    • damage to your vehicle
    • other expenses (such as lost wages) related to the accident.

    It's important to understand, however, that most states require you to file a UIM claim within 30 days of your accident in order to be considered for benefits. If you put off filing your claim for any reason, your coverage could be denied. Even if you do file a claim in a timely manner, there could still be a lot of back-and-forth negotiation with the insurance company to reach a settlement.

     

    And, of course, your UIM coverage will only pay out up to the maximum amount of your coverage. For example, if your UIM coverage provides $10,000 in personal injury protection and you end up incurring $15,000 in medical bills related to your accident, you could still be stuck footing that additional $5,000 bill out of pocket.

     

    When to Consider a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured Driver

     

    If you do end up in a situation where you don't have uninsured motorist coverage, or you do but your payouts aren't enough to cover your related expenses, another option you may want to consider is filing a lawsuit against the uninsured motorist who caused your accident. Keep in mind, however, that this can be done only in states that determine legal fault for car accidents. For example, if you live in a no-fault state like Michigan, you may be unable to file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver because drivers in these states are always considered responsible for their own injuries.

     

    If you live in an at-fault state and the uninsured driver has been determined to be at fault, then filing a lawsuit can be a viable option for recovering expenses related to your accident and injuries, such as:

     

    • medical bills
    • pain and suffering
    • lost wages
    • vehicle damage.

     

    One challenge of filing these types of lawsuits, however, is that drivers who fail to keep their auto insurance coverage active are also not very likely to be able to pay out any settlements that may be reached in your lawsuit. For example, the at-fault driver may be ordered by the judge to pay $5,000 toward your medical expenses, but actually obtaining that money from the driver can be a whole separate challenge in itself.

     

    The Bottom Line

     

    If you've been injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, seeking guidance and representation from an experienced attorney is one of the best decisions you can make. From there, you can receive the assistance you need with your insurance claim or pursuing a lawsuit against the uninsured driver.