- What To Do if You’re Hit By an Uninsured Driver (Here’s Our Advice and Ways to Protect Yourself)
What To Do if You’re Hit By an Uninsured Driver (Here’s Our Advice and Ways to Protect Yourself)
In July 2020, the state of Michigan instituted an amnesty program that eliminated penalty fees for uninsured drivers who reinstated lapsed car coverage. By facilitating easier access to auto insurance, this program helped increase the number of Michigan drivers who carry motor vehicle policies. And while the amnesty period concluded as of January 1st, 2022, Michigan can no longer be criticized nationwide for our vast number of uninsured drivers, a distinction which tends to drive up insurance costs for everyone across the state and even the country. Starting now, we can all point our collective fingers at Mississippi, which has become the current “leader” among the states with the highest percentages of drivers who hit the roads without coverage.
But the news isn’t all good for us here in the Great Lakes State. Despite recent improvements, we’re still second lowest among the 50 states – with around 25% of Michigan drivers cruising the roads without insurance. Which means that you have about a 1 in 4 chance of running into someone who doesn’t have car insurance every time you get into an accident in Michigan. And that’s a bad situation – especially since, somewhat paradoxically, Michigan isn’t one of the 21 states that require drivers to buy uninsured motorist protection. (More on that in a moment.)
Since the odds of being hit by an uninsured driver in Michigan remain so high, we thought we’d take the opportunity to answer a few commonly asked questions about dealing with this dangerous situation. Hopefully the information presented here will help keep you from running into an even bigger problem should you happen to run into an uninsured motorist.
Why Buy Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
As we noted, Michigan doesn’t require this type of coverage. So, why buy it? Simply put, if you’re one of the unfortunate drivers who becomes involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you will have far fewer financial settlement options. This means you need to take steps to protect yourself financially; people who don’t buy insurance oftentimes have limited resources and attempting to recover damages by suing is a waste of time, effort, and even more money. So, to reiterate, while uninsured motorist coverage is optional in Michigan, we highly recommend you get it to protect yourself and loved ones. If your policy doesn’t include this coverage, we advise you talk to your insurance company or local agent as soon as possible to get it in place.
What Should You Do if You’re Hit By an Uninsured Driver?
Many of the steps we outlined in a recent article on how to proceed following an accident apply here as well. Beyond that, there are some other options to consider. Regardless of the insured status of the negligent driver, your No-Fault insurance (or health insurance in some cases) will typically cover your medical expenses, some wage loss, attendant care, and other economic damages from an accident. However, if the driver that hit you was uninsured and you chose not to buy uninsured motorist coverage you will likely not be able to recover for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc. You also will likely lose out on the ability to recover excess economic damages and mini-tort damages.
What if the Uninsured Driver Was Operating a Car Owned by an Insured Individual?
Depending on the exact facts of your situation, you may be able to sue the owner of the vehicle and/or their insurer. You will definitely be able to sue the uninsured driver, but as was previously noted, uninsured drivers are notoriously hard to collect against.
Is a Hit-and-Run Accident Handled the Same as a Collision with an Uninsured Driver?
Our recent article discussing the ins and outs of hit-and-run accidents offers some good advice on what to do if you’re ever the victim of someone who flees an accident scene. Much of what we’ve outlined in that article also applies to dealing with accidents caused by uninsured motorists. A key difference is that in this situation – as long as the uninsured driver remains on the scene – you’ll know who caused the accident. As a result, you can take steps to ensure fault is properly assessed and potentially recover your deductible from this person.
What Penalties Apply if I’m Get in an Accident While Uninsured?
Some very bad ones. First, regardless of whether you caused the accident, you’re likely to lose your driver’s license if you don’t have insurance and are stopped by law enforcement. Second, you can be sentenced up to a year in jail for driving without insurance. Third, fees of $1,000 can be assessed against you. And finally, you can be sued by the innocent parties you injured or whose property you damaged. Yes, getting car insurance costs money. But driving without it can cost you a lifetime of anguish. So, please, just get insurance! And, if you typically borrow someone else’s car to get around, you can also purchase non-owner car insurance that covers you for liability while helping protect the person who was generous enough to loan you a vehicle. Furthermore, if you don’t have insurance and get pulled over for any reason other than an accident, you’ll be fined. And even if you do have coverage but are unable to prove it to law enforcement officers (misplacing proof of insurance, for example), you’ll also have to pay a fee!
Has the State’s Amnesty Period for Uninsured Drivers to get Insurance Without Paying a Penalty Expired?
Sorry to share the bad news, but the answer is yes. More than 150,000 Michigan motorists took advantage of the state’s amnesty program for lapsed insurance policy fees, but that program ended on January 1, 2022. So, if you waited until now to consider reinstating insurance you allowed to lapse, you’ll unfortunately incur additional when resuming your coverage. However, don’t let that discourage you from getting insurance. If you continue to procrastinate, you risk serious financial consequences should you ever get in an accident — or even get pulled over — without proof of insurance.
Can Someone Who’s Uninsured Sue an Insured Driver Who Causes an Accident?
Nope! If you don’t carry car insurance, we can’t help you file a lawsuit following a collision if you were driving uninsured. Because if you don’t pay for car insurance in Michigan, you give up the right to sue an insured driver. It’s called the “No Pay, No Play” rule, and it means that people who have decided not to buy insurance coverage lose the privilege of filing lawsuits or collecting settlements — even if the accident in which they’re involved is not their fault. Yet another reason to carry car insurance! However, if you or someone you loved was a passenger in a car that was being driven by someone else who was uninsured, give us a call because in some cases you may be able to get coverage from your insurer, the negligent driver’s insurer, or the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.
What’s “Under-Insured” Motorist Protection?
As you may know, automobile insurance coverage limits in Michigan can start with relatively small dollar amounts (paying out as little as $50,000 if a single individual is injured or killed in an accident, or $100,000 for incidents involving multiple injuries or deaths). Medical bills and auto repair charges following a collision can eat up those funds in a heartbeat. Which is why you should consider protecting yourself by making a relatively small investment in under-insured motorist protection. This can sometimes be bundled with uninsured motorist coverage, but it may also be offered separately depending on your insurer’s policies and plans. Ask your insurance agent if you’re uncertain whether you have this protection in place.
This kind of coverage essentially stacks on top of the negligent driver’s liability coverage. So, if the negligent driver only had a $50,000.00 per person policy but you have $250,000.00 in underinsured coverage, then you could recover up to $300,00.00 in non-economic and excess economic damages.
Are There any Other Ways I Can Seek Compensation After an Accident with an Uninsured Motorist?
Possibly. Was the uninsured driver intoxicated? If so, who served them the alcohol? You might be able to seek damages from the bar or individual who contributed to the driver’s intoxication. Did a passenger in the other car contribute to the accident by distracting the driver? Did the accident result from an obstacle in the road or poor street maintenance? Every accident is unique, so there could be additional circumstances like these that mean other individuals, businesses, or governmental agencies share the responsibility for an uninsured driver’s actions. If you think that might be the case, give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) and we’ll be happy to discuss these possibilities with you. But remember – if you don’t have auto insurance, you do not have the right to sue following a car accident, regardless of who’s at fault. If there’s one takeaway from this article, let it be this: Don’t wait another minute to apply for coverage!