An Accident with an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver
Car accidents are a traumatic but common driving experience. The average driver files a claim for a collision about once every 17.9 years. If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, this experience can be even worse. You also have a 12% chance of this being the case, because 1 in 8 drivers does not have auto insurance.
When the Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance or is Underinsured
What should you do if the driver who has hit your car is uninsured? Knowing how to tactfully navigate this situation and avoiding common mistakes will greatly improve your likelihood of receiving compensation for the damages you’ve incurred:
Make sure everyone is okay: Of course, health comes first. Make sure that you and everyone else involved in the accident are physically stable and do not need emergency ambulance services. If everyone is okay, you can begin documenting the incident.
Call the police: Whether or not the person has auto insurance, calling the police can be helpful in documenting the accident. The police report will provide essential information that can be helpful in getting your expenses covered. Make sure you keep records of the following: the time the police arrive, the officer’s name and badge number. The claims or court process will run a lot smoother if you have the police officer’s unbiased report of the incident available.
Exchange contact information: If the other driver has insurance information, record it. If the other driver does not have insurance information to provide you with, collect as much personal information as possible, including their license plate number and license information. Get their contact information and call their number once you enter it into your phone. This not only serves the purpose of giving them your phone number but can also confirm that theirs is valid.
If there are any witnesses involved, make sure to get their contact information too. Witness statements can be helpful during the claims process.
Document the scene: Document the scene of the accident as comprehensively as possible. Take extensive and detailed notes, whether on paper or in a notes application on your smartphone. Write down the make, model and color of all vehicles involved. Note the exact speed you were driving, weather conditions and road conditions. Date your notes with the approximate time that the accident occurred.
Take photographs from multiple angles of the damages incurred to both their car and your car.
Make sure your photographs clearly depict the direction each car is facing. Take photos showing exactly where the accident occurred, such as freeway offramp signs or storefronts. Photograph traffic signs, stop lights, road hazards or any other factor that may have contributed to the accident. You will be supplying these images to people who will likely never see your car’s damage in real life, so document accordingly.
Take care of yourself: Car accidents are traumatic and everyone can have different emotional and physical reactions. Make a doctor’s appointment if you’re having trouble sleeping and eating. Avoid rushing back to school or work activities before you have thoroughly checked in with yourself.
Call an attorney: If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you should consider contacting an attorney. If you are planning to take the other driver to small claims court, it is important to get legal advice before pressing charges. Many lawyers offer free consultations to people involved in car accidents.
Panic: After a car accident, you will likely feel very shaken up. However, being emotional will not be helpful. A bad attitude will likely only make the unfortunate situation worse. Follow protocol and try to be calm and civil as you navigate the situation.
Accept money: Driving without insurance is illegal in most states, and the other driver may offer you money in an attempt to avoid fees and legal consequences. The other driver may try to convince you to take a cash payment or promise payment at a future date. Do not accept any payment from the other driver under any circumstance.
Admit fault: You should never admit fault for an accident, even if you feel that you may have caused the accident. Leave that determination to third-party professionals. Admitting fault puts you at risk for having a personal injury lawsuit filed against you. Do not admit fault to anyone, including the other driver, witnesses, police officers or your insurance agent.
Talk about it on your social media: After a major life event, many people turn to social media for support. Whether you feel the need to vent or just want to share your experience, your social media activity may be detrimental to your claims or court process. Ensuring your network that you are okay could be an issue if you have a change in your medical condition down the line. Be especially wary of any information that you post because insurance adjusters and lawyers use social media to gather information on claimants.
Experts suggest disabling your social media profiles until after the claim or case is settled. Any posts about your accident could be used against you in future proceedings. At the very least, avoid posting anything about the car accident. Instead, contact and respond to loved ones privately.
The Claims Process
As soon as you are able to, contact your auto insurance company to inform them of the accident. In order for the representative to correctly begin your claims process, inform them that you were involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Expect your insurance representative to ask you for the following information:
- Your insurance policy number and personal identification information
- Date, time, location of the accident
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Any details you’ve written down
- Police department number and names of police officers involved
- Insurance information of underinsured driver or contact information for uninsured driver
What Kind of Insurance Do I Need?
Almost every state requires liability car insurance. Unfortunately, this does not stop people from driving without insurance or without sufficient coverage. If the other driver is at fault in the accident and is uninsured or underinsured, your uninsured or underinsured insurance may help to cover your expenses that exceed the other driver’s insurance (or lack thereof). This coverage is not expensive and may save you thousands of dollars if you’re ever in a situation like this.
Collision coverage is a great addition to consider adding to your policy. Collision coverage will pay for vehicle damages sustained during an accident with a hit and run or at-fault uninsured driver. Collision coverage will not cover your injuries but it will assist in covering damages to your car. If you have high enough limits on collision coverage, you may be able to forgo buying uninsured/underinsured insurance.
The average car accident settlement is approximately $21,000. It is likely to fall somewhere between $14,000 and $28,000. Some injuries, such as whiplash, can take hours, or even days to appear. You may have unforeseen expenses weeks after an accident. Knowing how expensive a car accident can be, most people cannot afford to drive without uninsured motorist coverage.
No-fault States and Threshold States
If you live in a “no-fault” state, your insurance will cover property damages, personal injury and other related claims, including lost wages, regardless of who’s at fault. If you live in a threshold state, you can only sue the other driver as a result of very serious injuries, like dismemberment or death. If you live in a no-fault or threshold state and want to know more about your coverage, visit here.
The following 12 states are considered no-fault states:
The following are verbal threshold states:
Going to Court
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage and are not in a no-fault state, you may have to take the at-fault driver to court for the damages and expenses you’ve incurred. In some no-fault states you may also be allowed to take the driver to court if you suffered serious injuries or medical bills past your state’s designated limit.
The court process can be time consuming and expensive, with no guarantee of a settlement. Even if you do get a settlement, you may not see that money for a very long time if the uninsured motorist does not pay according to the court order. Some people never receive the money they win in a settlement.
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