If you’ve been driving for a while, then chances are good you’ve had one kind of accident or another at some point in time. Maybe it was just a fender bender that you got your friend to pound out for you, and you never really gave it much thought. Maybe it was a little more serious, and you needed to exchange information with the other driver so you could get it taken care of. Some folks out there have had the unfortunate circumstance of trying to exchange insurance information, only to find that the other driver was behind the wheel without coverage.
That is not an ideal situation to be in, and it can be extremely stressful for those who find themselves dealing with it. However, it’s best to know what to expect before you find yourself trying to cope with those circumstances, so that you’re ready in case it happens to you.
So What Happens Next?
The first thing you need to do when you get into an accident with an uninsured driver (after reporting the incident to police, getting your injuries seen to, etc.) is examine your insurance policy, and report a claim to your insurance company. If you have uninsured or underinsured coverage on your policy, then that kicks in when you’re in an accident and the other driver simply has no policy, or their policy isn’t large enough to cover the damages your vehicle (and in some cases you) sustained. Once that happens you’re in a situation that’s basically just like a regular accident; you’ll take your vehicle to someone to get it fixed, the insurance will pay the bill, and that will be that. You’ll be back on the road in no time, going on your merry way.
If you don’t have uninsured or underinsured coverage (as it’s not required in a majority of states, and so most drivers neglect that coverage), then you’ll need to discuss what to do with your insurance provider. Other options, like collision coverage, may come into play to help you negate the damage done to your vehicle. However, depending on a number of different factors (where you live, who your provider is, whether you were at-fault, etc.), you are likely looking at an increase in your rates, as well as a lot of paperwork.
Can I Recover Damages?
Recovering the damages from an accident where the other driver has no insurance is something of a tricky proposal, but it can be done in some situations.
First of all, it’s important to be sure that you can identify the other driver. If you find yourself in a hit-and-run style situation, then you’re pretty much left to your own devices unless the police find the individual responsible for hitting you in the first place. If you know the other person’s information, though, then you need to check to see if the accident occurred in a no-fault state. In these areas each driver’s insurance is responsible for their own damages, and you cannot file a lawsuit unless the damages or bills are over a certain amount. If you live in a more traditional negligence state, though, then you can certainly file a suit against the other driver if they were at-fault in your accident.
Just because you can do something, though, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a fruitful endeavor. Chances are good that if a driver doesn’t have insurance, then they probably don’t have a lot of assets for you to sue them for. So while you might be able to win a case in court, it might end up being far more symbolic than practical. And with the cost of legal suits, it’s important to look at the end goal before you get started to ask if it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
While it is the law that, for a vehicle to be on the road in the United States it needs to be covered by insurance, that doesn’t stop a lot of drivers from getting behind the wheel without any sort of coverage. And even if you are a safe and careful driver yourself, sometimes accidents just happen.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve considered what you’re going to do if you get into an accident with a driver who just doesn’t have insurance. Not just in terms of making sure you obey the speed limit, always use your turn signal, and drive defensively, but also when it comes to what your policy does and doesn’t cover. Because while your state may not require you to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, it’s always a good thing to have on your policy just in case you need it.
Additionally, don’t just wait until something happens before asking your insurance company what it’s going to do to help get you back on your feet. Be proactive about it! Review your policy, call your agent, and ask them what the company’s policies are when it comes to dealing with uninsured drivers. If you approve of how your insurance company would handle that situation (for instance, if the other driver was at-fault then the company would handle the damages without increasing your rates because you did nothing wrong), then at least you know what will happen in the event you’re caught in this situation with your insurance, in your area.
If you don’t approve of your insurance company’s policy, though, then you should call around to see if there is someone whose policies you’re more comfortable with, and who can offer you better protection for the money you’re spending to keep yourself and your family covered when you’re on the road, and behind the wheel.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have insurance, and you need help, please contact us today. We’ll help you explore your options, and find the path that will get you moving forward again.