By law, car owners are required to carry liability insurance that covers property damage and personal injuries in a car accident. The four categories of car insurance are as follows: add-on, choice no-fault, no-fault, and tort liability. These categories can differ concerning whether an insurer intends to pay first-party benefits regardless of the person who caused the accident, and whether there are any restrictions in place on a victim’s right to sue. The minimum amount of required coverage differs from state to state.
Recovering money from an at-fault driver depends entirely on them not having adequate coverage in tort liability states. Many drivers either don’t have insurance at all or don’t have enough coverage to cover major accidents, including spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage helps you pay for your property damage expenses and medical bills should the at-fault party in a car accident not carry automobile insurance.
You could choose to sue the at-fault driver in a situation like this or if they are independently wealthy, they may be able to write you a check to cover all of your expenses and bills. The chances of this happening are relatively slim, since most people who elect not to carry automobile liability insurance are not sitting on substantial amounts of money or assets. Because it’s impossible to get blood from a stone, you’re better off making a claim under your policy’s uninsured motorist provision.
On the date of the accident, you will typically know whether the at-fault driver has liability insurance. If police are present to investigate the crash, they will ask each driver if they have automobile insurance. The police will inform you if the driver at-fault doesn’t have coverage. Police should fully investigate the accident, but in the event that they do not, insurance information should still be exchanged with the other driver. If the other driver tells you they are not insured, you should make a claim under your own auto policy’s uninsured motorist provision.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage pays for property damage expenses and medical bills should an at-fault driver not have enough auto liability insurance to cover all of your losses. This coverage is essentially designed to bridge the gap between the coverage limits an at-fault driver’s policy provides, and what your expenses and bills are after a car accident.
For instance, if you incur $25,000 in medical bills and over $10,000 in property damage following a car accident and the at-fault driver’s liability insurance only covers up to $10,000, that driver is underinsured. In this case, you would need to make an underinsured motorist claim on your auto policy.
It can take some time to determine whether you were involved in a car accident with a motorist who was underinsured, unlike getting in a car accident with a motorist who is uninsured. It will also take some time to determine where your claim fits or doesn’t fit within the extent of your claim, while you may be able to figure out the limits of the at-fault driver’s automobile coverage quickly. You will also need to figure out how much work you will miss and how much medical treatment you will need. If the driver at-fault carries state-minimum liability coverage, you will definitely need to make an underinsured motorist claim; however, it could be several months before you realize you need to make an underinsured motorist claim if the driver at-fault has only $50,000 or $100,000 in liability coverage.
Once you know that the driver at fault is underinsured, regardless of your circumstances, you must immediately make an underinsured motorist claim.
How to File an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim
You should let your insurance carrier know if you may need to file either an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim right away. Certain language will be included in your policy regarding how long you have to file a claim. Policy time limits and the types of accidents your policy covers will also be mentioned in your policy.
Whenever you make an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim, your injuries and medical treatment will be investigated by your insurance company. While you are responsible for cooperating with your insurance company, they also have an obligation in good faith to handle your claim as well. Insurance companies could be subject to bad faith lawsuits if they approach insured members’ claims combatively or illegally deny claims.
Other Options for Injuries Sustained by an Uninsured Driver
If you become injured by an uninsured driver, there are other options available besides filing a claim with your own insurer. These options include:
Employer: If, during the time of the crash, the driver who hit you was working, their employer may be responsible for your losses. Most employers carry commercial liability policies.
Social Host or Business: If a restaurant, store, or bar sold alcohol to a minor or a driver who was already visibly intoxicated, you may be able to seek compensation from them. If a social host gave alcohol to a minor, they could also be held liable if the minor caused your crash.
Driver’s Personal Assets: If the driver at fault has no insurance, you could attempt to seek damages from their personal assets. This is rare, as most drivers lack the financial resources necessary to cover most of your losses.
Legal Assistance with Underinsured/Uninsured Claims
A driver is responsible for any losses that occur as a result of a car accident if the accident causes injuries. An at-fault driver is still responsible for any damages they cause even if they lack adequate coverage or are uninsured. The car accident attorneys at The Eichholz Law Firm can assist you with filing a personal injury case against the responsible party for any injuries you have sustained and take care of any complex issues you may face with an insurance company.
Our car accident attorneys have years of experience helping victims recover the maximum compensation they deserve.
- Carol DiBari. “The Other Driver Doesn’t Have Car Insurance. Now What?”, NOLO, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-other-driver-doesnt-have-car-insurance-now-what.html. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Julia Kagan. “Underinsured Motorist Coverage”, Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/underinsured-motorist-coverage.asp. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Michelle Megna. “Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage”, Insurance.com, https://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/coverage/uninsured-underinsured-motorist-coverage.html. Accessed June 2, 2020.