Immediately after you’ve been involved in a car accident, it is important to try to stay as calm as possible. Accident scenes can be frightening and confusing places. It’s normal to feel confused or scared, but you need to be able to properly evaluate the situation and take appropriate steps to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. But what do you do when you find out the person who ran into you doesn’t have car insurance? Does that mean you will have to pay for the damage to your car yourself? And what about any injuries you might have? How should you proceed?
What to Do after a Car Accident with a Driver Who Isn’t Insured
Even for minor car accidents, but especially when an uninsured driver is involved, the first thing you should do is call the police to come to the scene of the crash so they can file a police report and take notes about what happened and who was involved. If anyone is injured, they should seek medical attention. If you are not injured, spend the time while you are waiting for the police taking photographs and notes about what happened: the time of day, road and weather conditions, any contributing factors to the accident.
You can give them your name and insurance information, but you aren’t required to disclose anything else. You should also obtain their insurance information—if they have any.
Even though, at a minimum, liability coverage is required in every state, some people are out there driving around without insurance.
Contact Your Insurance Company
As soon as you are able, you should contact your auto insurance company to let them know you have been in a car accident. They will ask you a few questions to determine the circumstances and will schedule an appointment with an adjuster to come out and look at your car to evaluate it for repair. They will want to know whether the other party has insurance and will obtain that info from you. If the other party doesn’t have insurance, that’s where uninsured motorist coverage becomes important.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Automobile insurance companies offer coverage that will pay for damages if another person hits you and they don’t have insurance; this is called uninsured motorist coverage. But it isn’t automatically a part of your policy. It’s part of mandatory coverage in some states, but certainly not all (though it is available to add to your policy in every state), and the costs can vary from state to state. It is important to know before an accident whether you have uninsured motorist coverage, because you can’t add it after an accident has occurred. If you don’t have that coverage, and the other party is uninsured, you may be on the hook to pay for your expenses out of your own pocket.
This type of coverage also can help cover expenses that aren’t covered when the other party does have insurance. If their coverage is minimal and pays only for the cost of repairing their own vehicle but not any of your costs related to vehicle repair, medical care, and so forth, that’s where underinsured motorist coverage can help. This type of coverage will pay for expenses where the other party’s insurance falls short.
If you have collision coverage as part of your insurance policy, your car repairs will be paid for even if the other party doesn’t have insurance. The difference between this and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is that this pays only for damage to your vehicle; if you were injured in the accident, it won’t pay for any of your medical expenses.
Going to Court after an Accident with an Uninsured Driver
If there are no other options available to you through insurance, you may be able to file a car accident lawsuit against the other person in an attempt to get payment or reimbursement for all of your expenses related to the car accident. There are restrictions on how and when you can file such a claim. For example, if you are in a “no-fault” state, each person is responsible for their own expenses, no matter who was at fault in the accident. There can be exceptions for extremely high medical bills and serious injury, but for things like a minor fender-bender, the court system may not be a good option.
Can You Win Your Lawsuit?
In negligence states (ones that aren’t “no fault”), you may have a good chance of winning a lawsuit against the other driver, if you can prove they are at fault. However, winning a judgment in court doesn’t always mean getting the money you deserve. Some people who are uninsured have a very low income and don’t have insurance because of the expense. Their ability to pay you, even if you win, may be extremely limited or may result in your not getting any money at all.
If you feel you have a clear-cut case and decide you want to proceed with a lawsuit, it is important to get help from an experienced car accident attorney who understands what your chances are of recovering your expenses and who is familiar with the court system and different ways to collect on a judgment.