What Steps Should I Take After A Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver?
Fri 17 Feb, 2023 / by Parker and Parker / Car Accidents
When you have gotten into a car accident, your initial thoughts are: “Am I going to be okay? Is everyone else in the accident okay?” Unfortunately, one thought you may not have is, “Will I be able to pay for this?”
Everyone if you have great car insurance coverage, the people that you hit, or hit you, may not have good coverage. Worse yet, they may not have any coverage. Either of these situations can feel like it hurts more than the accident.
Here is what you should do if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of getting into a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Uninsured Motorists vs. Underinsured Motorists
First, let’s discuss the difference between an uninsured motorist and an underinsured motorist. An uninsured driver is a driver that does not have insurance. They may never have had insurance or had insurance and let the policy slip away by not paying the premiums. Either way, there is no coverage if they are in an accident.
Underinsured drivers are–just what they sound like–people with insurance but not enough. These drivers may be drivers who purchase the bare minimum insurance to be legally able to drive on Illinois roads. But be warned: many people who have good vehicle insurance coverage can be underinsured. If the accident causes enough damage, they can easily blow through their coverage limits and not have enough money to cover the incident.
Isn’t It Against the Law to Not Have Insurance?
In Illinois, all vehicles registered and operated must have liability insurance. This insurance protects your financial interests if you are responsible for someone else’s injuries or damage to their vehicle or property. It helps cover your legal fees and medical bills in the event you cause an accident.
Just because Illinois drivers must have some coverage does not mean it is enough, however. The requirements are low. You must have $25,000 coverage for the injury or death of one person and $50,000 for more than one person. Additionally, you must have $20,000 for damage to property. While those numbers sound like a good chunk of change, they are a drop in the ocean for many claims, especially when you consider that someone in an accident may develop a chronic condition with medical bills for the rest of their life.
Also, just because someone is supposed to have insurance does not mean that they will have it. The Insurance Research Council found that more than one in ten drivers on the road was uninsured. Those are not great odds.
At-Fault Car Insurance Law
Each state is either an at-fault state or a no-fault state. Illinois, like the majority of states, is an at-fault state. What this means is that whoever caused the accident will be responsible for compensating the victims of the car accident.
The wrinkle is that even if the party who caused the accident was uninsured or underinsured at the time, they still are responsible to compensate. Generally, insurance will cover those bills. Without insurance, the person is on the hook. However, they may not be able to pay out unless they have assets to cover the damages.
What Can I Do To Protect Myself Against an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist?
If you choose to drive, you are very likely to encounter an uninsured or underinsured motorist on the road. And, if you choose to drive, you are at risk of getting in an accident with one of these motorists.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to protect yourself, whether you are injured or cause injury.
Purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Liability insurance in Illinois includes uninsured motorist coverage. You are not required to purchase a separate policy. Liability coverage will cover those injuries. However, as noted above, it is possible to have coverage and still not be enough.
Simply because there is a minimum dollar amount does not mean that is all that you can do. Work with an insurance agent to decide on a higher dollar value for a price that you can afford.
Uninsured motorist insurance will pay out for damages related to bodily injuries, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, or lost wages. However, it will not pay out for damage to the insured vehicle. State law does not require you to have uninsured property damage coverage. You are able to purchase that separately.
Uninsured car accident insurance will fill in the gap as if the uninsured driver did have car insurance. If you can prove that the accident was the fault of someone other than yourself, who does not have the ability to pay for your damages, then you may be able to recover from your own uninsured motorist coverage.
Sue The Other Driver
Whether the driver has insurance that does not cover your injuries or no insurance at all, you have the ability to sue the other driver. Just because you sue the driver and are successful, however, does not mean that you will get all or any of the damages that you are entitled to. Typically, insurance will cover the damages. However, if the person who injures you is without funds, you will not get what you are owed.
File a Third-Party Claim
If the person is underinsured, you may still recover some of the money you are owed. This is by filing third-party claims. Third-party claims are claims filed by someone other than the policyholder or insurance company. If you are in an accident caused by someone else, you can file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company. They will then cover your accident-related expenses. Liability coverage, which is required in Illinois, will cover third-party claims filed by others when the policyholder is at fault.
Contact Us Following a Car Accident
Car accidents, even minor ones, can really send your world upside down. Having an attorney experienced with car accidents and insurance law can give you peace of mind. Contact our office right away.