Who pays for your injuries if the other driver is uninsured depends on:
- What type of car insurance you have
- How much car insurance you have
- If your car accident lawyer thinks it is a good idea to file suit against the other driver
Do You Have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
This type of insurance could make all the difference if an uninsured driver hits you.
Under normal circumstances that is, when both drivers involved in an accident have sufficient insurance you can seek the compensation you need from the other driver’s insurer.
When the other driver has no insurance, you could instead turn to your uninsured motorist coverage to help pay for:
- Car repair bills
- A new vehicle
- Emergency medical care
- Follow-up and long-term care
Some states require uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. This type of policy could save you from spending thousands after an accident with an uninsured driver.
Uninsured Versus Underinsured: What Is the Difference?
An uninsured motorist has no car insurance. An underinsured motorist has a policy, but they either do not have all of the mandated policies or their policy does not cover the resulting damages.
These examples illustrate these differences:
- Driver A allows their car insurance policy to lapse, but they continue driving their car anyway. They are uninsured.
- Driver B has insurance to cover bodily injuries but not property damage. They are underinsured.
- Driver C has only $20,000 worth of insurance for bodily injuries, but their state’s law requires them to carry $25,000. They are underinsured.
If any of these drivers hit someone else, that other person’s uninsured motorist insurance would help them pay for any damage.
What Damages Does My Car Insurance Cover?
Each state has its own policies regarding how much insurance a driver must carry before they can drive their vehicle.
Usually, the law requires you to purchase insurance for:
- Property damage to your vehicle and/or the other driver’s
- Medical bills for treating physical and psychological accident-related injuries, either your own or the other driver’s
- A set maximum amount that the insurance company will pay out for the accident as a whole
To illustrate that last point, consider an example:
- Your policy covers $50,000 worth of medical expenses per accident because that is what your state’s law requires of you.
- Another car hits you and your passenger.
- Your injuries cause you to incur $45,000 worth of medical expenses, while your passenger’s injuries cost $10,000.
- You incurred $55,000 in medical bills.
- Your policy, while legally valid, will not cover all of your medical bills.
You do, of course, have the right to purchase as much insurance as you can afford: if you chose to purchase a $60,000 policy despite state law not requiring this amount, your policy could cover all of your medical expenses in that situation.
To learn more about what your policy covers, you can contact your insurance agent or a car accident lawyer.
When Does My Car Insurance Pay Out?
Before your insurer pays you anything, they will send an insurance adjuster to investigate the crash.
This adjuster may:
- Interview you about the accident, including what you saw, did, and felt at the time
- Request copies of any evidence you have gathered, such as photos of the accident scene or your medical records
- Visit you to see the damage to your car for themselves
- Speak with the other driver and any other involved parties
- Request evidence from other sources, such as the police officer who responded to the accident
- Analyze all of the evidence to decide what happened and who deserves payment for what
It might take the insurance adjuster a while to complete their investigation, especially if they have difficulty finding evidence or if there is any confusion over what happened. Once the insurance adjuster finishes investigating, if they decide that you qualify for payment, they will let you know and offer you a settlement.
However, the insurer may decide not to pay out because they might:
- Claim your policy does not cover the types of injuries you suffered
- State that your losses are not as severe as you say, so they will pay less than what you asked for
- State that your losses are not related to the crash so they have no obligation to pay you
- Claim your policy is not relevant in this case
Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?
Yes. However, you may encounter challenges that someone suing an insured driver would not have to worry about.
When you successfully sue an insured driver, their insurance would cover all of the damages you ask for, including:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Loss of income or employment
- Pain and suffering
- Impaired quality of life
- Permanent or temporary disability
By contrast, when you sue an uninsured driver, any compensation you receive comes directly from their personal assets.
You might have trouble recouping your full losses if:
- Your injuries are costly, requiring a large amount of compensation.
- The other driver has limited assets and cannot afford to cover your losses.
- The other driver decides to declare bankruptcy to try to avoid paying you.
All of this could affect how much you get in a car accident settlement. You may want to hire a lawyer who can help you navigate such challenges and recover as much compensation as possible.
How Do I Sue an Uninsured Driver?
To start a lawsuit, you should first make sure you have a strong case against the driver.
A lawyer’s team can assist you with this task by:
- Providing you with a free case review to help you better understand your case
- Collecting evidence about the accident and your injuries
- Identifying what specific actions the other driver took that caused the accident
After that, you can send a demand letter to the driver and/or their legal representative. This letter details the injuries you suffered, how the driver caused those injuries, and how much you want the driver to pay you in damages. What happens next depends on how the driver responds to your demand letter.
Your lawyer might have to:
- Exchange multiple communications with the driver or their attorney
- Evaluate any settlement offers they make to determine if they fairly reflect your losses
- Negotiate for an appropriate settlement
- Take the driver to court and present your case before a judge and jury
Many cases do not go to trial: the party you sue may be just as eager to end the case quickly as you are, so they might put effort into good-faith negotiations.
If not, your lawyer could save you the trouble of preparing for a trial and making your own case, which would involve:
- Deciding on which days the trial will occur
- Submitting all necessary paperwork and evidence in a timely manner
- Having witnesses and experts either submit statements or agree to testify in court
- Delivering oral arguments, including opening and closing statements
- Following all courtroom procedures and making sure the other party follows them as well
Are There Other Ways to Get Paid After an Accident?
That depends on your situation.
If your lawyer finds evidence incriminating someone other than the uninsured driver, you can sue them in addition to or instead of the driver.
These examples illustrate such cases:
- After the uninsured driver hit your vehicle, your airbags failed to deploy, worsening your injuries. You could sue the airbag manufacturer for selling a faulty product.
- A broken traffic light caused the accident. The local government knew of the broken light but did not fix it in a timely manner, making them liable for your crash.
- A third driver contributed to the crash by texting while driving. You can sue them, regardless of whether they have insurance.
As part of their investigation into your accident, your lawyer can determine how many liable parties there are and help you take action against them.
When Can I Sue for My Injuries?
If you want to take legal action, start as soon as possible. In most states, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is only a few years.
If you do not start your case within that time, you:
- Forfeit the right to ever sue the liable party for the accident
- Can never collect compensation
- Will never hold the liable party accountable for their actions
Other important considerations include:
- The availability of evidence: The more time passes, the more evidence will start to disappear, and the more potential witnesses will forget what they saw. Starting sooner could make it easier to build a strong case.
- Your need for compensation: You have already suffered injuries, and you do not want to wait any longer than you have to achieve financial stability and security.
- The uninsured driver: The longer you wait, the more time they have to hire a lawyer and consider their options for protecting their own assets.
Why Is Car Insurance so Important?
Car accidents can do catastrophic damage to vehicles and to human life. Most drivers do not have the resources to cover such events.
Without insurance coverage, an accident survivor might have to:
- Try to pay all of their expenses out of pocket
- Forego crucial medical care
- Live without a car or try to drive a car that has sustained serious damage
- Go into debt to afford everything they need
State laws mandating car insurance purchases recognize the harm that may result if drivers cannot afford the losses that accidents so often inflict, so they require all drivers to purchase insurance.
They also realize that insurance providers may try to take advantage of customers who are legally required to buy policies from them. Many states also have laws that dictate how insurers behave, including how much they can charge customers.
How Common Are Uninsured Drivers?
Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III) show that, nationwide, about 12.6 percent of motorists have no insurance. This number varies greatly: in some states, over a quarter of all drivers lack insurance, while in others, the percentage is in the single digits.
These statistics do not include the number of underinsured motorists. Combined, the number of uninsured and underinsured drivers is surely much higher.
Are There Penalties for Uninsured Drivers?
If the authorities find out a driver has insufficient insurance, they could:
- Fine the driver
- Send the driver to jail
- Suspend the driver’s license
Penalties could be even harsher if the other driver causes an accident while uninsured.
Depending on the severity of the accident and the driver’s other actions, a court could make them pay for both their crime and the damage they inflicted by:
- Imposing additional fines
- Ordering them to pay restitution to you as the wronged party
- Ordering longer jail terms or prison terms
- Suspending their driver’s license for a longer period of time
- Sentencing them to probation, parole, or another form of supervision
- Making them attend alcohol or drug awareness classes if they used intoxicants before or during the accident
While onerous, these penalties do not persuade everyone to purchase the correct amounts of car insurance. This can be frustrating, especially if an uninsured driver hits you. Remember that you have rights, the other driver is in the wrong, and a car accident lawyer can help protect you in this situation.
Did an Uninsured Driver Injure You in a Car Accident?
If the other driver is uninsured, a lawyer in Myrtle Beach can help you recover compensation for your injuries, your lost or damaged property, and more. They understand you have a lot of questions about who pays for your injuries and losses after an accident, and they would gladly answer them for you.