When a car accident occurs, we often take for granted that the driver who hit us has adequate insurance. After a collision, assuming it was a minor fender-bender, you wait for the insurance carriers to work it out. In the meantime, you seek medical attention and bring your car to an auto body repair shop. Eventually, your insurance company decides how much they will pay for the damages.

Unfortunately, especially during uncertain economic times, not all drivers have car insurance. In fact, about one in every seven doesn’t have a policy. This statistic doesn’t include those with bare minimum coverage or, worse, a policy that doesn’t meet the state standard. The percentage of uninsured drivers varies by state; in certain locations, as many as 28 percent of motorists might not be covered at all.

So, what happens when you’re hit by one of these individuals or get into a hit-and-run where you can’t identify the driver? This is where your uninsured motor coverage (UIM) comes into play. Not all states require this type, but under these circumstances, UIM is absolutely crucial. If you don’t have it, collision coverage may pay for part of the damage, but UIM further assists with any bodily injuries.

In the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist, how do you use this type of coverage?

At the Scene

car-accident-blogWhen the accident happens, approach it like any other. Make sure to:

  • Call the police to have them write up an accident report.
  • Get the other driver’s information, including name and contact number. This is when you’ll find out if he or she doesn’t have car insurance.
  • Contact your insurance carrier to report the accident and alert them that an uninsured driver hit your vehicle.
  • Promptly get medical treatment.

Using UIM Coverage

If the accident is the other driver’s fault, UIM can assist with paying for the damaged vehicle and your injuries. How does this work? Once you confirm the driver is uninsured, start a claim with your carrier for the limit of your UIM coverage. However, when dealing with an under-insured motorist, only make a UIM claim if your coverage is greater than the other driver’s policy limits.

From here, the claim proceeds like any other, but there are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • If the claim is greater than your UIM coverage and you’re dealing with someone under-insured, you’ll need to first settle with the other driver’s insurance company for their coverage limit and with your insurance company for what exceeds that driver’s policy.
  • With your own policy, UIM cannot exceed primary coverage.
  • For such claims, your insurance carrier may have a 30-day limit. Once you know you’re dealing with an uninsured or under-insured driver, alert them right away and proceed with your claim.

However, even after the claim has been started, understand that it’ll take longer to process. Further, in establishing a value, you’ll need to get medical treatment and have your car assessed. With all of the variables involved, disagreements may arise but, unlike filing a typical accident claim, you can’t sue your carrier if you can’t agree on a settlement when you’re using UIM coverage.

At this point, you’ll instead need to submit a claim to binding arbitration. Although it’s similar to a court case and you can have a lawyer assist you, it’s less formal. Instead, a hearing is held in front of an arbitrator or a panel and they decide who “wins” the claim. Although this establishes a settlement with your insurance carrier, the losing side has few options for an appeal.

Filing a Lawsuit

While you can’t sue your carrier when using UIM coverage, you do have the option of going after the driver who hit you. Keep in mind that, while not always the case, the uninsured or under-insured driver has few assets and won’t be able to sufficiently compensate you for the damage and injuries that occurred.

However, if you do decide to pursue a claim, first determine if you live in a no-fault or traditional car insurance state. The former allows you few choices for recourse and determines that each driver is responsible for his or her own injuries and damages, regardless of fault. Additionally, unless you suffered serious injuries or incurred high medical bills, you can’t sue the other driver.

In a traditional state, you do have the option of filing a lawsuit against the uninsured driver. Although the driver likely has few assets, the court might issue a judgment against the defendant and an order for payment. Thus, while the uninsured driver might not be able to compensate you right away, the court may set up a payment plan so you’ll gradually receive what you’re owed.

Have you found yourself in this situation? Whether you’re dealing with an insurance company that won’t reach a fair settlement for a UIM claim or are going after the motorist who hit you, Trantolo & Trantolo’s lawyers are here to help with your car accident case. To learn more about what we can do, give us a call today.