Protecting Yourself With Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Under the law, drivers are required to carry auto insurance coverage to protect themselves, their passengers, and other motorists in case of a car accident. However, some drivers choose to forgo insurance altogether or have insufficient coverage. According to the Insurance Research Council, 6.8 percent of Nebraska drivers are uninsured. That equates to almost 100,000 uninsured drivers on Nebraska roadways today.
When an at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance, it can be difficult for a victim to recoup the cost of personal injuries or property damage following an accident. A victim is usually left with the options of filing a compensation claim with his or her own insurance company or bringing a lawsuit against the negligent party. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist, a personal injury attorney from Berry Law can help protect your rights and make navigating interactions with insurance companies easier.
What is UM/UIM Insurance, and Why Do I Need It?
The Insurance Research Council found that approximately 1 in 8 drivers in the United States don’t have any form of auto insurance. Since it’s impossible to know when an uninsured driver may be involved in an accident, all motorists should consider carrying Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage as part of their auto insurance package.
Some states require drivers to have UM/UIM insurance, including the state of Nebraska. These policies cover expenses incurred as a result of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver who is found to be at fault. UM/UIM policies cover the costs of bodily injuries to a driver and his or her passengers, such as medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages. This is similar to what liability insurance would normally cover if the at-fault driver had a policy.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) found that only 74 percent of insured drivers purchase collision coverage, with 78 percent carrying comprehensive coverage along with liability insurance. This means that roughly a quarter of drivers are underinsured when they get behind the wheel. A victim who is involved with an uninsured or underinsured driver should not assume they will receive full compensation if the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance. UM/UIM insurance will pick up what the at-fault driver’s policy will not.
How Much Auto Insurance Do I Need?
In the state of Nebraska, the minimum requirements for car insurance include:
- $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in Bodily Injury Liability coverage
- $25,000 per accident for Property Damage Liability coverage
- $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in UM/UIM insurance
Uninsured motorists who are found to be at fault for a motor vehicle collision are still financially liable for injuries and vehicle damages resulting from the crash. Even if the accident isn’t the fault of the uninsured driver, he or she can face penalties for driving without insurance, including large fines or fees. Additionally, in cases where the other driver is found to be at fault for the accident, not having insurance could limit the victim’s ability to receive full compensation.
Most importantly, an uninsured or underinsured driver should never leave the scene of an accident out of fear of legal consequences. The penalties for fleeing an accident scene are much steeper than those for not having auto insurance.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Involved in an Accident and the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Seek Medical Attention
If you’ve been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, first seek medical attention, even if you don’t feel like you’ve been seriously injured. It can take a few days or weeks to fully realize the impact a crash will have physically. Having a record of injuries and any medical treatments will be helpful later in recovering damages.
Call the Police
Involving law enforcement will allow a victim to file an accident report, which is critical in making the insurance claims process go smoothly. The details that an accident report contains can later be used as evidence against the at-fault driver.
Don’t Negotiate with the Uninsured Party
An uninsured driver who is fearful of the consequences of driving without insurance may attempt to negotiate a settlement without involving law enforcement or insurance companies. They may offer money in an attempt to settle out of pocket and avoid legal repercussions.
Without knowing the full extent and cost of the damages in an accident, it would be unwise to accept any offers of money up front. It’s important to have a full medical assessment and an assessment of the property damage to vehicles before agreeing to financial compensation.
Fair compensation in a motor vehicle collision is important, and it’s not the victim’s responsibility to cover for another driver’s negligence in failing to carry auto insurance.
Take photos of both vehicles involved in the wreck and personal injuries sustained, as well as the other driver’s license plate and VIN number if possible. Also document the scene of the accident, including any relevant traffic signs and the direction that each vehicle was traveling at the time of the collision. Other pertinent information may include the time and location of the accident and the name and badge number of the responding police officer.
If nearby surveillance video is available, it’s worth obtaining that as well for later use as evidence if a personal injury suit becomes necessary.
As with any car accident, exchange personal information with the other driver. While they may not have insurance information to share, be sure to record their name, driver’s license number, and contact information, as well as the make and model of their vehicle.
It’s also helpful to record personal contact information for any witnesses that may be able to speak to the events leading up to the crash.
Make an Insurance Report
When dealing with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it’s important not to delay. File a report immediately with your own auto insurance carrier. Inform them that an accident occurred and that an uninsured driver was involved.
Have your policy number, notes from the accident scene, and the other driver’s information handy. Also share the name of the responding police department, the responding officer’s name, and the accident report number.
The insurance company will want proof of injuries, medical treatments and vehicle damage. Hiring an experienced car accident attorney who acts as a go-between can make communicating with the insurance company an easier undertaking and less overwhelming for you while you focus on your recovery.
Following their own independent investigation of the accident, an insurance company will tell you what they plan to offer you in a situation where the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured.
What Role Does Fault Flay in Accidents Involving an Uninsured Driver?
Fault plays a significant role when an uninsured or underinsured driver is involved. Nebraska is an at-fault or torte state, meaning individuals who sustain injuries and other damages in a motor vehicle accident can seek compensation from the at-fault party.
Victims are first required to exhaust all means of compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy if one exists at all. If there are damages that remain uncompensated, or if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, the victim can file a claim under his or her own UM/UIM insurance policy.
Nebraska’s modified comparative fault rules say that an individual can’t collect any compensation if he or she is found to be more at fault than all other parties involved in the accident. In those cases, compensation is reduced by percentages according to the amount of fault attributed to the victim.
How Can Hiring an Attorney Benefit Me if I’ve Been Involved in an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?
Since it’s in an insurance company’s best interest to pay out as little as possible, they often try to deny claims or pay out an amount less than the actual cost of damages. There are several strategies that insurance companies may employ to avoid awarding a victim the full compensation they are owed. An experienced attorney can navigate these ploys, which include:
- Requiring a victim to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident before they will approve a claim.
- Offering a victim a lowball settlement by having the insurance adjuster tell them it’s the best the company can do. This is an attempt to pressure a victim into accepting a settlement.
- Having an adjuster ask a victim to sign a release authorizing the insurance company to access his or her personal medical records.
If an insurance company attempts to devalue a claim, involving an attorney can help ensure that a victim receives the compensation they deserve. An attorney who is already familiar with negotiating with insurance companies can represent his or her client in the negotiations process, and they can also litigate in instances where the insurance company is uncooperative.
Even with UM/UIM insurance coverage, damages can still exceed the amount of compensation available through those policies. In such cases, a personal injury attorney may advise a victim to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. For motorists from states that don’t require UM/UIM motorist coverage, filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver may be their only recourse to recover damages, and an attorney can help them through that process.