Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Claims

An accident with an uninsured driver can have catastrophic results, especially if you or your passengers have serious injuries. According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), uninsured motorist bodily injury claims are rising steadily. The IRC now estimates one out of every six drivers on the road today is uninsured.

In April 2012, the IRC published its demographics for uninsured motorists. They showed who is most likely to drive uninsured.

  • 62 percent are men
  • 45 percent are of high school age or younger
  • 22 percent are between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 35 percent are Hispanic or Black
  • 48 percent rent their homes or apartments
  • 32 percent have an income of less than $20,000 annually

The most frequently cited reasons for not carrying insurance were:

  • The motorist’s vehicle wasn’t in operating condition
  • The motorist’s vehicle was in running condition but was not being driven
  • The motorist couldn’t afford the cost of insurance
  • The monthly or quarterly premiums were too high

What happens when an uninsured driver causes an accident?

If an uninsured motorist injures you or you were the victim of a “hit and run,” someone will have to pay for your losses and those of your passengers. Unless you purchased uninsured motorist (UIM) bodily injury insurance, you may face a dilemma. If you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, it will normally pay for up to 80 percent of your medical bills.

PIP limits are usually low and may not cover enough of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Uninsured motorist coverage will do that and more.

Carrying uninsured motorist coverage is an excellent way to supplement PIP. Depending on the limits you purchase, you can recover the same amount as if the uninsured driver had insurance. The insurance industry recommends motorists carry UIM coverage for a minimum amount of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

Uninsured motorist coverage is similar to other liability insurance. In case of an accident with injuries, uninsured motorist coverage will pick up the bill for your:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering (and emotional distress)
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Funeral expenses

Like other liability policies, the limits may vary from state to state and policy to policy. Some state laws require motorists to purchase UIM liability insurance. Some others, which don’t require motorists to purchase uninsured coverage, instead force those who decline it to do so in writing (often with a form the insurance company provides).

What if you’re the victim of an uninsured motorist?

Call the police immediately. If someone is injured, request an ambulance. If not, ask the police to come to the scene right away. These days, police officers don’t normally go to accident scenes when no one reports injuries and there’s no delay in traffic. That’s not the case when an uninsured motorist causes an accident – driving without insurance is a crime.

The problem is many uninsured motorists don’t hang around very long after an accident. In many states, they know they’re only minutes away from having their cars impounded and the police handcuffing them and taking them to jail. Worse, if the uninsured motorist is not a citizen, he knows he may face a deportation hearing.

Here are some more tips if you’re in an uninsured motorist accident:

    • If the accident was a hit and run, do all you can to get a description of the driver, passengers, the license plate number, and an accurate description of the make, model, and year of his car.

 

    • If the motorist stops, make sure to get his name and contact information. Ask the motorist’s passengers for their names and addresses. Write down the car’s license plate number and a description of the car.

 

    • Take photographs of the uninsured motorist’s car, the car’s make and model, and his passengers. Take photographs of the scene, weather conditions, skid marks, damaged poles or guardrails, etc.

 

    • Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses. Ask the police officer for the “service number” for any arrest report he makes along with the separate police report about the accident.

 

  • If you or your passengers are hurt, ask that someone take you to the local emergency room. When it comes to injury accidents, symptoms may not show up for days and sometimes weeks after the accident.

Handling Your Own Bodily Injury Claim

If an uninsured motorist injures you or the accident was a hit and run, you can file your own claim against your insurance company. Unlike personal injury protection insurance where proof of fault isn’t required, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you have to prove to your insurance company the uninsured driver was at fault.

In UIM insurance claims, your insurance company takes the place, so to speak, of the uninsured driver’s insurance company, if he had one. It sounds a bit convoluted, but it’s really not. Basically, you’re filing your personal injury claim against your own insurance company. The process can sometimes seem adversarial since your insurance company, like all others, doesn’t want to pay any money it doesn’t have to.

Gathering Evidence

It’s important to collect evidence just as if you were going to file a claim against the uninsured driver’s insurance company, if he had one. This will include evidence you gathered at the scene we talked about above. You also need:

  • Your medical bills and treatment records
  • Receipts for your out-of-pocket expenses
  • Verification of your lost income
  • An amount you believe covers your pain and suffering

Do you need an attorney?

If you’re confident in your abilities to coordinate the evidence, draft a notification letter, and formalize a demand letter, you may try to negotiate your own settlement. If you need help, you can always see a personal injury attorney. Most won’t charge any fee for an initial office visit. If you’ve suffered serious or permanent injuries, you must speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Bad Faith

Your insurance company must negotiate your claim in good faith. If they place unrealistic or unfair barriers in front of you, they’re flirting with bad faith. The law says insurance companies must negotiate the claims of their insured and of third party claimants fairly. Their abuse of good faith insurance laws can make them pay actual damages and punitive damages.

In uninsured motorist bad faith claims, punitive damages can reach thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars more than a claim was initially worth. If you think the insurance company is dealing with you in bad faith, go to an experienced personal injury attorney.

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