What Happens If the At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Car Insurance?

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One of the few comforts that you have in the aftermath of a car accident is knowing that car insurance exists to help in situations just like this. It is there to fix the things left broken from the crash, including yourself, and every state requires a minimum amount of coverage. However, not every driver is responsible enough to get or even able to afford car insurance. If you suffered damages from an auto accident and the at-fault driver does not have insurance, what can you do?

What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

The first step after a car accident, no matter how minor or serious, is to assess everyone present for injuries. The nature of a collision is abrupt and jarring, even at low speed, and even a small fender bender may result in whiplash or a mild concussion. Once everyone is safe, your priority is collecting evidence:

  • Call the police to report the accident. Most states do not require reporting to the police when no one sustained an injury and there is less than $500 in property damage. If someone does have an injury and the property damage is severe, you must report the accident to the police. If the at-fault driver attempts to discourage you from reporting, there is a high likelihood that the driver is uninsured or underinsured. Report the accident regardless.
  • Document everything in photos. Use your phone to take photos of everything around you, including the scene of the accident, vehicle damage, your injuries, your passengers’ injuries, and the surrounding area. Document the other driver’s vehicle as well. 
  • Take a video. If you have a smartphone, use the camera function to record everything around you. Narrate the details of the incident as you record. This is when the entire accident is freshest in your mind, and the video provides visual evidence along with your statement. 
  • Exchange information with the other driver. Refrain from talking to the other driver about the accident, but you should exchange first and last names, driver’s license numbers, contact information, and insurance policy information. If the driver is uninsured, document yourself asking for the information.
  • Report the accident to your insurance company. This is particularly important in cases involving an uninsured driver. Let your insurer know immediately and find out if your own insurance covers you in this case.
  • Contact a car accident lawyer. If you sustained serious injuries in the accident, you should speak with an attorney about your options when facing an uninsured or underinsured driver.

During your initial conversation with the lawyer, he or she will ask you several questions about the accident. Be sure to ask for a copy of the police report and tell the lawyer everything you collected so far. If you missed anything, an experienced lawyer may offer advice while you are still on the scene.

What Should You Avoid Doing

Finding out that the at-fault driver in your accident is uninsured can be discouraging, but treat the incident the same as if the driver is insured. Avoid these actions:

  • Forgoing medical attention. Everyone knows that medical expenses are costly. However, your health is important, and if you plan to file a lawsuit, you will struggle to receive compensation without proof of your injuries.
  • Sharing information on social media. Anything you post on social media is also available to an insurance adjuster. If your own policy covers the accident, something you post online may jeopardize your case.
  • Accepting a settlement too quickly. It is tempting to accept an offer quickly because you need the money, but the first offer is usually the lowest.

An experienced car accident lawyer is particularly helpful in guiding you to a fair settlement. 

Will Your Own Insurance Cover the Damages?

New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S. that does not require liability insurance. However, only 22 jurisdictions require uninsured motorist coverage. Even if you do not live in one of those states, it is always a good idea to include this coverage in your insurance policy.

How Uninsured Motorist Insurance Works

If you suffered serious losses in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver, you have no choice but to turn to your own coverage to recover damages. Uninsured motorist is usually equal to or less than your liability coverage. If your liability coverage is $100,000, you probably cannot carry more than $100,000 in uninsured motorist protection. Ultimately, you file a claim with your own insurance rather than the other driver’s insurance. 

How Underinsured Motorist Insurance Works

If you carry underinsured motorist insurance, this policy is helpful in very serious car accidents with high-valued losses. When the cost of damages exceeds the limitations of the at-fault driver’s insurance, you can file a claim with your insurance company to cover the difference.

How No-Fault or Personal Injury Protection Works

If you live in one of the 12 no-fault states, you are required to carry personal injury protection coverage. PIP provides a much easier process to recover compensation because it takes away the fault element of a car accident. In a no-fault state, an uninsured driver is not an issue. Your PIP insurance covers your damages, including medical bills, a certain amount of lost wages, and costs associated with replacement services. Of course, you may still face issues while trying to collect a settlement from your insurer.

Can You Still File a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured Driver?

You can still file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver. As previously mentioned, not all states require uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage, and you may need to exhaust all options to receive compensation for your losses. One of the advantages of speaking with a car accident lawyer after an accident is that he or she will assess your case and help you decide what you should or should not do next. 

Why It May Not Be a Good Idea

Unfortunately, filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver does not guarantee that you will receive a settlement. In most cases, uninsured drivers are uninsured because they lack the means to pay for car insurance.

There are situations in which filing a lawsuit against an uninsured or underinsured driver may benefit you. For example, if the at-fault driver is independently wealthy, which is unlikely, or has assets. In such cases, your lawyer will do a few things, including running a credit and asset check to search for valuable assets. If your attorney finds assets, he or she will file a lien to stop the defendant from getting rid of them during the case process. This is a common tactic used to avoid paying. If a judgment is made, you should not expect a lump sum payout, such as you would receive from an insurance company. The defendant would likely enter into a low payment plan. This is certainly better than nothing, but this scenario is also unlikely.

If you suffered an injury or damage to your property in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may have many questions. Every case is different and requires an assessment. The experienced car accident attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm will approach your case with compassion and critical assessment to search for any way to recover the damages you lost. Contact Mike Morse Law Firm today for a free case review. 

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