Auto accidents - what to consider when the other driver does not have insurance
I was injured in an automobile accident, but the at-fault driver does not have insurance – am I stuck?
With most legal topics, I would say that you should seek legal advice from an attorney familiar with the laws of your state. This post is intended to address general questions as opposed to specific situation.
If the driver that caused the collision was uninsured, there still may be something that you can do to collect compensation for your bodily injuries.
Every state has its own laws regarding auto accidents. My office handles auto accident liability claims in Michigan and Ohio. The laws in these two neighboring states differ significantly. Michigan is a No-Fault state, but Ohio remains a fault based state. The underlying laws for any given state still apply.
When the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance or when that driver leaves the scene of an accident, you cannot exactly pursue his or her insurance in order to recover (unless someone can determine the identity of the driver through a license plate or some other means). This post will assume that you cannot identify the other driver or that the other driver does not have insurance coverage.
Many people call my office when an uninsured driver causes an accident. Their first thought is that they have no options.
The reality is that most insurance policies have a provision that addresses situations where there is an uninsured or underinsured motorist. The uninsured driver is one that simply has no insurance or leaves the scene. The underinsured driver has some insurance, but not enough to cover the injuries that he or she caused.
So you need to start by reviewing both the declarations page of your insurance coverage as well as the actual policy. The declarations page is a summary of the different coverages you have, including the policy limits for each type of coverage. Look to the declarations page to see if you have uninsured motorist coverage and exactly how much coverage you have.
Once you confirm that you have coverage, you turn to the policy which explains in detail what your insurer covers. There is a lot of information in the policy and here is when you will be glad that you actually saved it.
You have to be very careful to read the specific policy information and to consult with an attorney as the language can be quite specific and quite tricky. For example, most policies require that there be actual contact between the vehicles. Contact can be easy to prove, but it can also be very difficult. So if the at-fault driver forced you to swerve, but the two vehicles never actually came into contact, you may have a problem. A lot of lot goes into this part when reviewing the situation.
Another requirement that most policies include is that a police report be filed, usually within 24 hours after the collision.
If you have the makings of an uninsured or underinsured claim, then you will be able to bring a claim against your own insurance carrier.
If you are covered and you have followed the basic rules, you now need to determine whether your injuries justify presenting a claim. The required extent of injuries necessary to bring a successful claim is beyond the scope of this post.
There is a lot to the requirements and I have tried to simplify it as much as possible. You definitely want proper representation when considering a claim.