Picture this. You're driving home from work when suddenly you're in a car accident. Even if you don't have auto insurance, there are still options to cover your medical bills and car repairs. This article explains what an uninsured driver should do if they're hit by an insured driver.
Understanding Your Situation
If you're the uninsured driver in a car accident, and you aren't at fault, the insured driver's insurance company might cover your damages. But different states have different rules, so it's essential to know your local insurance requirements. This is where the concept of at-fault vs. no-fault states comes into play.
At-Fault States vs. No-Fault States
Most states in the U.S. are at-fault states. Here, the insurance company of the at-fault driver pays for the damages. That means if an insured driver hits you, their car insurance company should pay for your property damage and bodily injury.
But in no-fault states, your own insurance company pays for your medical bills after a car accident, even if you weren't at fault. This is known as personal injury protection (PIP).
If you're uninsured in a no-fault state, it might be more challenging to get compensation. One of the main features of no-fault insurance is that it limits the right to sue the other driver. This means that, in many situations, you can't take legal action against the at-fault driver unless your injuries meet a certain severity or cost threshold. If you're uninsured, this further limits your avenues for compensation.
While some insured drivers might have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to protect themselves against uninsured drivers, this is typically optional in no-fault states. Thus, if you're in an accident with an uninsured driver, there's no guarantee that you will be compensated unless you have UM coverage on your own policy.
Without an insurance policy to cover medical bills, property damages, or any potential liability, an uninsured driver could face substantial out-of-pocket expenses.
Given these challenges, it's always advisable to have the required insurance coverage — even in no-fault states — to ensure protection against the potential financial and legal repercussions of an accident.
Let's dive deeper into some different coverage types to understand their importance and how they work.
Liability insurance is one of the most fundamental types of car insurance. In many states, it's mandatory for drivers to have at least a minimum amount of this coverage. Liability insurance protects you financially if you're found to be responsible for an accident.
- Bodily injury liability (BIL): This covers the costs related to another person's injuries if you're at fault in an accident. This can include hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, and even compensation for lost wages and for pain and suffering.
- Property damage liability: This part of liability insurance pays for damage you cause to someone else's property. While it usually refers to someone else's vehicle, it can also cover damages to structures (such as homes or fences), personal property, or other types of physical assets.
Liability insurance does not cover your own medical bills or damages to your own car. For that, you'd need other types of coverage, like collision or comprehensive insurance.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to protect you financially if you're involved in an accident with a driver who doesn't have insurance. It also comes into play in cases of a hit-and-run where the at-fault driver isn't identified.
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): This covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related costs for you and your passengers if you're hit by an uninsured driver.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): This covers the damages to your vehicle or property if you're hit by an uninsured driver. Not all states offer UMPD, and in some places, collision coverage might handle these costs.
Uninsured motorist coverage won't kick in if you're the one at fault. Plus, it only works up to the limits of the policy. If costs exceed those limits, you are responsible for the difference.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM Coverage)
Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when the at-fault driver's liability insurance doesn't cover all your expenses because their policy limits are too low.
Suppose you have accident expenses that exceed the at-fault driver's insurance limits. In that case, your UIM coverage will pay the difference up to your policy's UIM limits. This coverage can include both bodily injury and property damage, just like uninsured motorist coverage.
UIM coverage is often subject to limits, usually based on your own policy limits. For example, if your UIM limits are $50,000, and your expenses after the other driver's policy pays out are $60,000, you're still responsible for the remaining $10,000.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
If you've been involved in an accident, take these steps first:
- Safety first: Move to a safe spot, if possible. Get medical attention, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Some injuries won't show up immediately.
- Gather information: Exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver. Note the details of the accident. This is important for your insurance claim.
- Call the police: They can provide an accident report, which is crucial when filing a claim.
- Consult a car accident attorney: Talk to a car accident lawyer for a potentially free case evaluation. They can guide you through your rights and next steps.
But I'm Uninsured. Now What?
Being uninsured complicates things. If you live in an at-fault state, and the other driver was negligent, their insurance might cover you. But if you're in a no-fault state, or if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may face challenges.
- Uninsured motorist claims: If a driver has uninsured motorist coverage and is involved in an accident with a driver who lacks insurance, their own uninsured motorist coverage can compensate them for their damages.
- Sue the at-fault driver: If insurance doesn't cover all your damages, you might consider legal action. This is where personal injury lawyers come in handy.
- Check state programs: Some states offer programs to help uninsured drivers hurt in an accident. It's a good idea to research these options.
Protecting Yourself in the Future
You need to have car insurance. It's often required by law, of course, but it also protects you from hefty costs after a motor vehicle accident.
You also need to have a valid driver's license. If you're involved in a car crash without one, your insurance provider might not honor your claim, even if you have an existing car insurance policy.
Consult an Attorney
Getting into an auto accident is stressful — and even more so if you're uninsured. However, you still have options.
Consider consulting with a car accident attorney to understand your state's insurance requirements. You can also be proactive and ensure you have the proper car insurance coverage in the future. Your safety, wallet, and peace of mind will thank you.