Although the vast majority of states require drivers to carry car insurance, and their laws might back this up with fines and criminal penalties, a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) showed that 12.6% of drivers (about one in eight) are uninsured. In this article, we'll cover:
Whether your state's law requires calling the police might depend on the extent of property damage or injury resulting from the crash. If you're looking at anything bigger than a fender bender, it's quite possible that calling the police is mandatory, and you should explain as much to the other driver. Besides, you might have sustained car accident injuries that won't show up right away.
There are several advantages to having police officers visit the scene. They can interview witnesses, collect information and evidence, and potentially assess who is at fault. The latter might not mean much with an uninsured driver, but it might help you make a claim under your own insurance policy (as discussed below). The evidence in the police report might also help protect you from a surprise lawsuit by the other driver. Learn more about police reports in car accident cases.
The driver of the other car might actually offer you money on the spot, trying to make the problem go away. Accepting cash is usually a bad idea, particularly if there's a chance you might have uninsured motorist coverage (discussed next). At best, you'd be helping the insurance company pay for the claim, since you won't be allowed to double-dip.
Uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) is required in many states, as part of a standard auto insurance policy, and in most states where it's not required, insurance companies are required to offer it to customers (who often must decline it in writing). So there's a decent change UIM is part of your car insurance policy.
As with any other insurance claim, you'll want to contact your carrier as soon as possible and provide an account of what happened, along with any evidence you collected. If your UIM coverage applies, it will provide compensation for a wide range of losses ("damages" in the language of the law) resulting from your accident (up to coverage limits), including:
One thing to note here is that the dollar amount of your uninsured motorist coverage usually can't exceed the limits of your liability coverage. For example, if you purchased $60,000 in liability coverage for all injuries resulting from an accident, you can't usually have more than $60,000 in UIM coverage.
Note that in most instances UIM coverage only applies to car accident injuries. Similar (but distinct) coverage (i.e. "Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage") might be available in your state, and from your insurer, to cover vehicle repair or replacement if you're in a crash with an uninsured driver.
Finally, even when you're entitled to an UIM payout, you usually won't receive the money right away. It will take time to establish what your medical bills and other damages will add up to, and then to agree upon a settlement with your insurance company.
If you happen to live in a "no fault" insurance state, whether the other driver is uninsured won't necessarily matter. Broadly speaking, the no-fault (also called "personal injury protection" or "PIP") portion of your own policy would cover your injuries, lost income, and certain other economic losses resulting from the accident, up to a certain dollar limit.
Even in states where no-fault/PIP car insurance isn't mandatory, you might have PIP coverage as an add-on to your policy. If so, after an accident with an uninsured driver, at least some of your losses will be covered. Learn more about personal injury protection claims after a car accident.
It's a similar story with "medical payments" (or "MedPay") coverage, which is usually an add-on to a car insurance policy, and which pays your accident-related medical bills (relatively) quickly, usually as they come in.
Finally, you can always use your health insurance coverage to receive treatment for your car accident injuries. If you've got health insurance alongside PIP or MedPay coverage, you might be required to exhaust your coverage under one of these options before trying to use another. Check the fine print of the applicable policies and talk to an insurance company representative to understand the interplay of these different coverage options.
The car insurance coverage options we've discussed so far (uninsured motorist, no-fault, PIP, and MedPay) only apply to car accident injuries and related losses resulting from a car accident. They don't apply to damage to a vehicle or other property.
If you have collision coverage (which is always available as an add-on to a car insurance policy) it will pay to get your vehicle repaired or replaced (after you pay any deductible) regardless of who caused your car accident.
In theory you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who hit your car. Consider, however, whether it's worth the time and energy. Someone who carries no car insurance (in violation of the law) is not likely to have significant assets. No matter what amount the judge were to award you, the task of collecting on the judgment would be largely up to you. There's a reason why attorneys sometimes refer to someone with little in the way of assets as being "judgment-proof."
If a car insurance company pays on a claim arising from an accident that was caused by someone else (an uninsured driver, for example), the company always has the legal right to turn around and try to get reimbursed (by those responsible for the accident) for whatever the company paid out via the claim. But practically speaking, for the same "judgment-proof" reasons we touched on in the previous section, an insurance company isn't usually going to waste time and resources trying to get money from someone who might have little or nothing in the way of assets.
This can seem like a confusing scenario, but it's actually quite simple from an insurance coverage standpoint. If the driver who hit you was driving an insured vehicle, that driver is almost always going to be considered a "covered driver" under the terms of the policy that applies to the vehicle. There are exceptions of course, including where the driver didn't have permission to drive the vehicle, or where the policy names certain covered drivers (i.e. family members) while specifically excluding anyone else from coverage, and the driver who hit you wasn't named as covered.
For information that's tailored to your situation after an accident with an uninsured driver, it might make sense to talk with a car accident lawyer.
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