Hit by an Uninsured Motorist? What You Should Know
Getting hit by an uninsured motorist can leave you with a lot of questions. Can you still get compensation for your injuries? Should you hire a car accident attorney following an accident with an uninsured motorist? What should you do after your accident?
Unfortunately, about 13 percent of drivers do not carry auto insurance even though they drive regularly. They choose not to carry insurance due to the expense, they allow their policies to lapse, or they drive a vehicle they do not have the legal right to drive. When uninsured drivers get behind the wheel and cause an accident, it creates a big headache for everyone involved.
Do you know what to do after an accident with an uninsured motorist? Read on to find out.
How Can You Obtain Compensation After an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist?
Following a car accident, many victims, especially those with injuries like spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injuries, have substantial medical bills to worry about. Not only that, their injuries may also prevent them from returning to work and generating the income they need to pay those bills.
Can you get compensation or help to pay your medical bills after an accident with an uninsured motorist? You have several options.
Personal Injury Protection Insurance
Some states—like New Jersey and New York—have no-fault laws concerning car accidents. In other words, regardless of who causes the accident, each driver bears liability for paying his or her own medical bills up to their PIP policy limits. In a minor accident, this coverage may pay your expenses following an accident.
In a serious accident, however, what do you do when your damages exceed your no-fault policy’s coverage limits? What do you do if you suffer injuries in an accident in a state without no-fault laws?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage offers vital protection if you suffer an injury in an accident caused by a driver who does not have insurance. While not required in all states, New Jersey drivers, for example, must carry a $15,000 uninsured motorist policy on their vehicles. Your uninsured motorist coverage will cover damage to your vehicle as well as compensation for injuries you suffered in an accident. Typically, your insurance company will not allow you to carry more uninsured motorist coverage than you carry liability insurance on your vehicle.
If you have a liability-only policy on your vehicle, you probably do not have collision insurance, which provides compensation for damages to your vehicle in an accident. Most drivers use it to cover damages in an accident they caused. If you have an accident with a driver that does not carry liability insurance, however, your collision insurance can help provide compensation for damages to your vehicle.
Did you suffer serious injuries in your accident? If your injuries exceed the protection of your PIP insurance, you might turn to your health insurance to help cover your medical expenses. Have your car accident lawyer contact your health insurance provider as soon as possible to let your provider know that you sustained injuries in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Your health insurance provider can provide vital information about your copays, deductibles, and if applicable, providers in your insurer’s network. You can find out about the coverage your policy offers, including how many physical therapy sessions are included in a calendar year, whether your policy covers durable medical equipment, and, in the case of serious injuries, what you should expect for coverage for long-term hospitalization or the need to stay in a rehabilitation facility.
In the case of an uninsured driver, you may need to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for your injuries. Keep in mind that many uninsured drivers may simply not have the funds to compensate you for your injuries even if held directly liable, so even if you file a claim, you may not receive the compensation you expect. However, in addition to filing a lawsuit against the party that caused your accident, you may also file a claim against any party that contributed to the accident. An attorney can help investigate that accident and identify any other parties that contributed to the accident.
The Vehicle Manufacturer
Did a mechanical defect, especially one known but not addressed by the manufacturer, cause your accident? If so, you may have grounds for a claim against the vehicle manufacturer. Manufacturers must put out safe, roadworthy vehicles that do not pose an undue danger to the drivers of those vehicles or others who share the road with them. When they fail in that duty, they may end up on the line for some of your expenses.
A Mechanic Who Recently Worked on the Vehicle
Mechanics often take care of complex repairs on vehicles. If they fail to repair them properly, it could lead to an accident. Sometimes, mechanics may even inadvertently cause more damage to the vehicle. An honest mechanic will repair that damage and make the vehicle roadworthy before returning it. Some mechanics, however, may attempt to hide an incomplete repair job or damage to the vehicle. You may not notice that damage until it leads to an accident.
The Vehicle Owner
Did the owner of the vehicle knowingly allow an uninsured driver to get behind the wheel? Did the owner fail to properly maintain the vehicle? Sometimes, the owner, especially in the case of corporate or fleet ownership, may share liability for an accident that occurs in the vehicle.
The Company That Employs a Driver on the Clock
Was the driver who caused your injuries working at the time of the accident? If so, the driver’s employer could share liability for the accident, especially if the company’s unrealistic requirements led to the crash.
Working with a car accident attorney offers the best chance of identifying all parties that may have contributed to the accident. Often, those other parties may carry substantial insurance policies or have the resources that can help give you the compensation you need, even if the driver was uninsured.
What Five Steps You Should Take After an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist?
Regardless of whether the driver who hits you has insurance, you should take these five steps after the accident to protect yourself. In the case of an uninsured motorist, these steps can prove even more critical.
1. File a police report.
An uninsured motorist may attempt to tug at your heartstrings after an accident. “Please don’t report the accident! I don’t have insurance!” “My parents are going to kill me!” “I can’t afford to have this on my record!”
You may feel compelled to avoid reporting the accident due to emotional manipulation on the part of the liable driver. Failing to report the accident, however, could prevent you from getting compensation, either from your insurance company or from any other parties that may have contributed to the accident.
Not only that, it could also make it very difficult to prove who caused the accident. You can also face legal penalties for leaving the scene of an accident unless you do so to seek medical care, summon help, or remove yourself from a potentially unsafe situation.
Remain at the scene of the accident. Call 911. Wait for the police to arrive. The police will collect vital information, including contact information for the liable party, any evidence from the accident, and information about who caused the accident. The police report will provide a record of the accident.
2. Do not accept liability, even partial liability, for the accident.
If you accept even partial liability for the accident, however inadvertently, you may find yourself on the line for a percentage of the damages. That may mean that your insurance has to pay for the other driver’s vehicle and injuries, not just yours. Avoid making any statement that could seem like an admission of liability for the accident and your injuries—the other driver can take even innocuous phrases like “I’m so sorry this happened” out of context and use them against you. Offer honest answers to any questions asked by the police, but do not go into unnecessary detail or make any potentially incriminating statements.
3. Pursue a medical evaluation and care.
You may believe, at the scene of the accident, that you did not suffer any injuries. Unfortunately, adrenaline can conceal many serious injuries until well after the fact. Many auto accident victims discover injuries hours or even days after the accident. In the meantime, untreated injuries may substantially worsen. Don’t gamble with your health: Go to the hospital or an urgent care facility for an evaluation. If you need treatment, you should take care of it immediately, rather than putting it off.
4. Get in touch with all of your insurance companies.
If you sustained property damage or injuries in an accident with an uninsured driver, you may need to contact your auto insurance provider and your health insurance provider. Keep in mind, however, that insurers have their own bottom lines to worry about, so be cautious in your dealings with insurance companies.
Better yet, let your attorney handle insurance companies on your behalf. Unlike for-profit insurers, your attorney will keep your best interests at heart through every stage of the claims process and can help you understand the best way to proceed following an accident.
5. Work with a trusted car accident attorney.
A car accident lawyer can offer numerous advantages following an accident, including an accident with an uninsured motorist. A car accident attorney can:
Provide you with the information you need. An attorney can review your insurance policies and help you understand the compensation you deserve, investigate the circumstances of the accident to identify potentially liable parties, and give you a better idea of how your claim will proceed, should you choose to file one.
Negotiate with your insurance company, if needed. Your insurance company may make it difficult for you to get the full compensation you need for your injuries, damages to your vehicle, and other financial losses. An attorney can help negotiate with the insurance company or even fight for you in court if needed.
Support you throughout the claim. In many cases, an attorney can offer vital support that can help you navigate the claim process, obtain the compensation you deserve, and decrease your stress while you focus on your recovery.
Put together a claim for damages on your behalf. The legal process is often complex, and the dueling interests of insurance companies, attorneys, and liable parties make it extremely difficult for an unrepresented plaintiff to obtain the compensation they actually deserve under the law. By partnering with an experienced car accident attorney, you can maximize your odds of a successful recovery from your injuries.