​Is it Worth Suing an Uninsured Driver?

Someone hit your car, causing substantial damage and personal injuries. Since the accident did not render you unconscious, you called 911 and reported the accident. While waiting for the responders, you ask the other driver for their contact information and insurance information. You note down the details of their identification documents and license.

Until the driver drops the bombshell, you have managed to hold up, taking the unfortunate events in stride. They inform you that they do not have insurance. That admission crushes you. As you begin to feel the weight of the burden before you, likely aggravating the suffering from your injuries, you ponder how you will get out of the mess.

One in eight drivers lacks insurance. Most people who drive without insurance can’t afford it. Still, some drivers disagree with the automobile liability insurance system or believe they are such good drivers that they won’t need it.

An uninsured liable party can complicate your claim if you suffered an injury in an accident with an uninsured driver and want compensation for your injuries.

In some cases, it isn’t worth suing the uninsured driver, as you won’t receive compensation even if you win your case.

A car accident lawyer can determine your legal options and file and prove your claim.


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What Options Are Available to You?

You have a few options based on certain conditions. You can file a claim with your insurer if you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM).

Most states do not require UM coverage. Although it is available as additional coverage to a regular liability policy, not every motorist has it.

One never expects to be involved in an accident, much less one caused by an uninsured driver. So, if you find yourself in this situation, you can sue the uninsured driver to recover your damages.

Is Suing an Insured Driver Worth It?

There is a financial burden in the aftermath of a collision with an insured motorist. However, the central question is: should you sue an uninsured driver?

Again, it depends on a few factors. Whether the motorist can afford to pay for your damages might not be worth it. You may sue the driver if they have assets you can realize to cover some or all of your damages. It’s more likely that if the driver can’t afford the minimum liability coverage, they might be unable to pay you.

A lawsuit usually costs a lot of money. You will have to pay court fees at the very least. When hiring a lawyer, you should also consider additional expenses, such as case administrative costs (expenses related to gathering evidence and generally developing the case) and expert witness fees. If you get a favorable ruling, the lawyer will also be entitled to a portion of the settlement on a contingency fee basis.

Unless the at-fault driver has enough assets to satisfy the judgment, including covering all these relevant expenses, it is pointless to file the case. The defendant may also file for bankruptcy following the ruling, freeing themselves from paying the claim.

What Your Insurance Coverage Can Do for You

You can cover your financial burdens with two types of auto insurance. You can claim against your insurer under your uninsured driver coverage (UM). In this case, it’s important to remember that your insurance company will fight the claim. It is best if you treat them as your adversary.

However, as your insurer, they do have certain rights under your contract. Lawyers frequently handle cases against UM carriers, as state laws have special rules for UM claims.

As with any claim, your insurer will investigate your medical treatment, injuries, and other details regarding the crash. They can even represent you in court or at arbitration if necessary. UM claims are unique from actions against the defendant’s liability insurer and require knowledgeable lawyers to navigate.

If the Defendant Can Pay, What Happens?

You cannot dismiss all uninsured motorists as financially challenged. In particular circumstances, the driver can compensate you, in which case you can sue them to recover damages.

An attorney can run an asset and credit check on the driver to establish their financial standing. The attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit if the assessment shows the driver is financially stable.

As soon as your lawyer files the lawsuit, the defendant may begin to dispose of some of their properties to escape losing them once the court orders them to pay your damages. To avoid such a situation, your lawyer may file a lien on the defendant’s property to freeze their assets. After the court rules in your favor, the assets will be available for disposition so you can recover your compensation.

Even after winning the case, the defendant may fail to pay you. You can seek a court order to compel them to pay if this happens. If the court finds that the defendant can satisfy the judgment, it may set up a flexible weekly or monthly payment plan that it can manage.

Claims Against Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage

It may be better to file a claim with your insurer if you have uninsured motorist coverage. Unless the at-fault driver is stable financially or has well-off parents or guardians and can afford to cover your damages in full, you may want to avoid the unnecessary trouble of suing.

The UM process is a bit different than filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer. Here, you will deal with the insurance provider you have a contract with.

Because of this, you should be thorough in your evidence documentation and tactful in your negotiation, as you can’t file a lawsuit against them if you fail to reach an agreement.

Accordingly, your insurer will investigate the claim as the opposing insurer will. As soon as you discover the other driver is uninsured, collect all the evidence and keep all the essential documents so you can construct a solid case.

These steps that can help you achieve this:

Report the Accident to the Police

If you have suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident, you should call the police. In addition to being a legal requirement, this creates an official record you can use to support your claim.

Collect Evidence

Document as much evidence as possible before leaving the scene. Include photos of your injuries, car damages, surroundings, skid marks, etc. Whatever you can use as proof of the accident, the better.

Seek Medical Attention

You should seek medical attention even if the injuries are not sudden, requiring a trip to the emergency room. The sooner you seek medical attention, the better.

Even if your injury takes days to manifest, you should see a doctor as soon as you feel any pain. Even though your insurer is obligated to compensate you, they may fail to do so if they can come up with a reason to support their arguments.

Therefore, you do not want them to question the gap between your accident and the first doctor’s checkup since they can easily de-link the injury from the accident.

Once you seek medical help, document every relevant record that attests to the treatment. Keep each physical diagnosis, medical test, prescription medication, surgical note, medical bill, and so on.

Record Eyewitness Testimony

Gather the contact info of any eyewitnesses at the scene. If possible, record their statement right away. You should, however, arrange to meet them or have your lawyer speak with them to get their testimony if you cannot meet them. You should not delay collecting the testimony, however, so the eyewitnesses can provide a detailed account of the accident while their memories are still fresh.

Request CCTV Camera Footage

If the area has surveillance cameras (private or public), ask the camera owners for footage. Doing this can reveal how the accident occurred and convince your insurer that you are not at fault.

Keeping a Journal of Your Treatment

Keeping a journal of your treatment and recovery can also help demonstrate how the accident has affected your life. In addition, you can use this along with the medical records to support your claim for pain and suffering damages.

Whenever you experience any pain or symptom, no matter how minor, share it with your doctor. By doing so, the doctor can monitor your recovery closely while diagnosing if necessary to catch any incubating conditions as early as possible.

Hire a Lawyer

It is possible to make a claim with your insurer on your own, but the move disadvantages you in many ways. You will need an attorney’s advice to offer some of the tips discussed above. Also, the attorney can analyze the evidence and find ways to enhance it to demonstrate the severity of your injuries and the impact the accident has had on your life.

A lawyer can also help you calculate fair damages and negotiate strategically to win a reasonable settlement. When you retain an attorney experienced in motor vehicle accident cases, you stand to benefit from their exposure to similar cases. You are more likely to receive the settlement amount you deserve if you do this.

Be Aware of the Deadline for Filing Claims

Finally, different insurance providers have different deadlines for filing claims. If you delay filing for compensation and the deadline passes, you may miss out on recovering the damages.

After an accident, review the policy document (preferably with your attorney) and note all the relevant provisions. This will help you remain compliant and prevent losing a good claim.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: What You Need to Know

As much as you have the right to a first-party claim against your insurer under uninsured motorist benefits, you cannot claim more than your coverage. For example, if you purchase a $50,000 policy and your damages are $100,000, you can only recover $50,000.

You cannot sue your insurer if they do not settle your claim fairly. If you are unsatisfied with the compensation offered, you can usually proceed to binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration requires you to adhere to the result. Arbitrators conduct it. The arbitrator makes a binding decision once both sides have presented their arguments.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

When insurance companies offer uninsured motorist coverage in a state, it covers bodily injury and property damage:

  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: This coverage protects you and your passengers against accidents with an uninsured motorist. The policy covers medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: This add-on protects your car in the event of a collision with an uninsured driver.

You can choose how much coverage you want when you take out the policy. Every state imposes a minimum level of coverage. It should not exceed your standard liability policy.

We generally express uninsured motorist coverage as two numbers. For instance, your cover can be 10/20 or 15/30. This stands for $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident. A 15/30 cover will provide $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.

Though the benefits might be limited, especially when the injuries sustained are severe, they can offer some form of financial relief when the unfortunate happens, as may have happened to you. Even so, engaging an experienced car accident lawyer immediately after the accident can help maximize the settlement from your insurer. Their experience in similar cases and settlement negotiation skills can be invaluable in getting your insurer to settle fairly.

Summary

Most states require a minimum amount of auto insurance for all motorists, but there are still a few drivers without coverage. According to a study by the Insurance Research Council, 12.6 percent of drivers in the U.S. are uninsured.

Finding out that the motorist who hit you is uninsured can leave you in a bind, especially when the injuries are severe.

The driver might not have enough assets to pay what they owe you if you sue and win. Alternatively, suppose you file a first-party claim against your uninsured motorist coverage. In that case, you can only recover damages through an out-of-court settlement because you cannot sue your insurer.

While these limitations may limit what you can recover, hiring a lawyer increases your chances of receiving a better settlement than you will probably get by suing the driver. Suing the uninsured driver might not be worth it unless they are financially capable of satisfying a judgment. After a crash with an uninsured driver, contact a car accident lawyer about your legal options.

July 13, 2022
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