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Following a car accident, suing the driver that caused the accident and seeking compensation through that driver’s insurance policy offers the best, and often easiest, way to get compensation for your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, and the suffering you have faced following a car accident. However, what happens when that driver does not have insurance?
Is it worth suing an uninsured driver?
Across the United States, around 12.6 percent of drivers do not carry auto insurance. While that number varies by state about 16.6 percent of California drivers, for example, do not carry auto insurance you have a relatively high chance of getting into an auto accident with someone who does not carry enough insurance to provide adequate protection to you in the event of an accident.
Often, an uninsured driver does not have insurance in the first place because of the cost of that insurance. Auto insurance costs, however, are much lower than the cost of damages associated with even a potentially minor accident, which means that you may have a hard time recovering damages from the driver that caused your accident.
In general, if you have grounds for a claim, you may want to talk to a lawyer to learn more about your rights and whether you should file a claim against the liable driver directly since you cannot pursue compensation through an insurance company.
Frequently, you may discover that filing a claim directly will not result in substantial compensation, and may cost more in legal expenses than you can recover. However, in some cases, such as if you have an accident with an affluent individual, you may recover significant compensation through a personal injury claim filed directly against the person that caused your accident.
In some cases, you might even recover more compensation than the assistance offered through an insurance policy, since many auto insurance policies will provide inadequate protection for serious injuries from an auto accident.
An accident with an uninsured driver can quickly grow very complicated. You may find yourself wondering whether you have any right to compensation at all or how to go about seeking it. Fortunately, you do have some options that can help you pursue compensation if you suffer damages to your vehicle or injuries in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Most auto insurance policies include an option to carry uninsured driver coverage. Uninsured coverage kicks in when the driver that causes an accident does not carry insurance. In that case, your auto insurance policy may cover the repairs to your vehicle and, in some cases, a percentage of your medical expenses related to the accident.
Typically, an uninsured auto insurance policy will cost relatively little compared to the overall cost of your insurance. Talk to your insurance provider to make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage and that you will have adequate coverage in the event of an accident. You may also want to revisit your coverage to make sure that it includes adequate protection for your vehicle, since many policies offer only minimum coverage that might not pay to repair your vehicle after an accident.
In addition to uninsured motorist coverage, you may also carry underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage kicks in when a driver does not have adequate insurance but does carry some coverage. For example, if you get into an accident with a driver who carries California minimum auto insurance, that driver might carry just $5,000 in damage protection. If you drive a $25,000 vehicle, $5,000 will not cover the cost of your repairs.
That policy might also offer only $15,000 in protection for injuries caused to a single driver, which could be inadequate in covering the cost of serious injuries and high medical bills.
Underinsured coverage helps provide additional coverage, up to the value of your vehicle, if you get into an accident with a driver who does not carry sufficient insurance to manage repairs.
In addition to insurance designed to cover the cost of repairs to a vehicle, California insurance companies also offer drivers the option to choose to carry MedPay insurance. MedPay insurance is designed to offer compensation for the cost of medical expenses directly related to a car accident, regardless of which driver caused that accident or whether other factors may have contributed.
MedPay insurance can provide vital compensation for your medical costs, especially if you do not carry adequate health insurance.
The steps you follow after an accident with an uninsured driver look very similar to the steps you should take after an accident with an insured driver. However, as you manage your response to the accident, make sure you follow the right steps to protect yourself both medically and financially.
Uninsured drivers often do not want you to report an accident. They know that they can face significant personal repercussions, including serious fines, for failing to carry adequate insurance. The driver may even try to insist that they will personally take care of your costs or that they will “make it right” in some other way. However, failure to report the accident can make it very hard for you to seek the compensation you deserve in any form.
Report the accident to the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene of the accident. Provide an accurate picture of what led to the accident. Keep in mind that the other driver may try hard to prove that they have neither caused nor contributed to the accident, since they know they may face substantial consequences for failing to carry insurance.
Keep your cool, and avoid starting a conflict. The police will take a look at the scene of the accident, take statements from both drivers and any witnesses, and create an effective report of what led to the incident. If you have questions or find inaccuracies in the police report, you can discuss them with the officer.
Sometimes, after an accident with an uninsured driver, you may feel more reluctant to seek medical care than you would be if you knew that the other driver carried adequate insurance. You might know from the beginning that you will have a harder time getting compensation for any costs that you face after the accident and that it could become extremely costly. However, failure to get adequate medical treatment can worsen your injuries, which may ultimately lead to increased medical costs.
See a doctor immediately after the accident. Let the doctor know about any pain or weakness you may have experienced, whether you hit your head or lost consciousness as a result of the accident, and whether you suffered any additional symptoms. A doctor can provide you with a full report of what injuries you may have suffered and what treatment you may need for those injuries. Furthermore, seeking medical attention immediately can help prove that your injuries took place during the car accident, rather than at another time.
Many people have it ingrained in them that they need to contact their insurance companies as soon as possible after an accident, especially if they get into an accident with a driver who does not carry auto insurance. Your insurance provider, after all, serves as your best source of information about your policy, right?
The reality, however, is that your insurance company may not provide the support you need after you get into an accident with an uninsured driver. Sometimes, insurance companies will issue low settlement offers even to their own customers and you may feel more pressured to accept that offer because you want to maintain your relationship with your insurance company.
Talking to a lawyer first can help you get a better idea of your rights and your next steps.
Do you carry MedPay insurance? What coverage does it offer, and what exceptions does the policy have? What about additional coverage for ongoing care? What type of medical treatment does your policy offer?
If you carry uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage, how much coverage does it offer, and how do you need to take care of repairs to your vehicle in the meantime?
A lawyer can help walk you through your coverage and the compensation you might expect for damages caused in an accident by an uninsured driver. As a result, you can feel more confident dealing with your insurance company, including determining whether a settlement offer provided by your insurance company reflects your actual needs.
In some cases, it may be practical to sue the liable driver for the damages you sustained in an auto accident. Most of the time, your insurance company will not act to sue the driver directly. Insurance companies usually deal with other insurance companies, not with private individuals, in pursuing the compensation deserved after an accident.
Your lawyer, on the other hand, can help you determine whether you can pursue compensation directly from the driver that caused the accident, which may provide you with additional compensation for your injuries.
In other cases, the lawyer might determine that it is impractical to sue the other driver for damages. If the other driver does not have the funds necessary to offer you compensation, the legal process may cost more than you stand to gain, which would make it impractical for the lawyer to help you pursue a claim.
You have the right to negotiate an insurance settlement that does not seem to fit your needs or reflect your financial losses, even if that offer comes from your own insurance company. You do not have to simply accept the offer provided over the phone, and you can continue to negotiate until you arrive at a reasonable settlement agreement or decide to take the claim to court.
Working with a lawyer can make it easier to handle those negotiations. Not only can a lawyer provide you with information about the compensation you should pursue from how much to ask for to cover your medical costs to how to handle a settlement offer that does not reflect the real cost of damages to your vehicle a lawyer can help negotiate on your behalf. Sometimes, your insurance company will even take the negotiation more seriously once the company realizes that you have hired a lawyer to work on your behalf.
Sometimes, another entity may bear liability for some or all of your car accident. For example, if you have an accident due to a manufacturer defect in one of the vehicles, the manufacturer may share liability. Finding another entity that shares liability for your car accident can make it easier for you to pursue compensation for your injuries, since those entities may carry insurance policies or have the funds necessary to provide compensation.
If you suffer serious injuries in a car accident with an uninsured driver, an attorney can help you understand your rights. Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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