Uninsured Drivers & Car Accidents

3/24/2014

A recent report by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) reports that 1 in 7 drivers in the U.S. is completely uninsured. The report estimates that 14% of North Carolina drivers are uninsured!. Despite being required by law in most states, many drivers fail to carry even the required minimum limits of insurance on their vehicles. When an uninsured motorist is involved in an accident, the lack of coverage can cause hardship for the uninsured driver, and also for any other persons who suffer injury as a result of the uninsured driver's negligence. Here are some issues to consider if you become involved in a claim with an uninsured driver:
 
Liability of the Uninsured Driver - The consequences of being uninsured vary by state. Some states now limit the damages that an uninsured driver can recover following a car accident, even when they are not at fault, for example by barring them from making a claim for non-economic damages (typically "pain and suffering'). They may also face increased potential liability in some no-fault states - for example, an at-fault uninsured driver in Michigan may be liable for all damages to another driver's vehicle, while insured drivers have their liability capped at $500. Also, in most states it is a criminal offense to drive without having your car properly insured.
 
Where an uninsured driver causes injuries to another person, the driver will not be able to call upon the auto insurance carrier to defend against any resulting lawsuits, or to pay any settlement or award of damages resulting from litigation. They may have to pay a judgment out of their personal assets. In some states, a driver with an unsatisfied judgment resulting from a car accident will be unable to renew his driver's license until the judgment has been paid. Uninsured drivers may well be forced into bankruptcy.
 
Problems Recovering Damages - As uninsured drivers often have little to nothing in the way of personal assets, and by definition do not have any insurance coverage for the accidents they cause, a person injured by an uninsured driver may have difficulty recovering adequate compensation for those injuries. A person injured by an uninsured driver should explore the possibility of:
 
1. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage - When you purchase auto insurance, you will typically have the opportunity to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. Such coverage may be required by law in your state. Make sure that you have an adequate amount of uninsured motorist coverage, which will help compensate you for your injuries in the event that you are struck by an uninsured driver.
 
2. Other Auto Insurance Coverage - Sometimes an uninsured driver will have coverage under somebody else's policy, for example, by virtue of being a dependent residing in the household of an insured driver. Coverage can depend upon state law and insurance regulation, as well as the terms of the other driver's insurance policy, but this is an avenue of recovery that should be explored whenever possible.

 

Be sure to check to see what coverage you have under your own policy, or may have through the insurance policy of another member of your own household. To prevent financial hardships in the event that you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist, contact our agency about adding uninsured and/or underinsured coverage to your auto policy. Considering the growing number of uninsured drivers, it is worth the additional premium to cover these growing exposures.

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