Is It Worth Suing an Uninsured Driver?

Is It Worth Suing an Uninsured Driver?

One out of every eight drivers lacks insurance. While the most common reason for driving without insurance is that the vehicle’s owner can’t afford it, many drivers don’t agree with the automobile liability insurance system, or they think they are such a good driver that they will never need liability insurance.

Unfortunately, if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver and want compensation for your injuries, an uninsured liable party can make your claim far more complex.

In fact, in some cases, it isn’t worth attempting to sue the uninsured driver, as you will never see compensation from them, even if you prevail in court.

An experienced car accident attorney can help you determine all of your options and file and work to prove your claim.

Why Insurance Is Important to Your Ability to Seek Compensation

Nearly every state in the nation requires owners who register their vehicles to show proof of an automobile liability insurance policy. The only exception is New Hampshire, which while not mandating automobile liability insurance strongly encourages its drivers to obtain a liability policy.

This is because the cost of paying for the medical treatment of the injury, lost wages, and other expenses and impacts are more than most individuals can afford to pay out-of-pocket.

A driver can expect to pay more than $1,000 a year for liability insurance, and many drivers determine that they can't afford it. Mississippi tops the nation in uninsured drivers, with nearly one out of every three drivers on the roadway being uninsured.

The state with the lowest number of uninsured drivers is New Jersey, where nearly 97 percent of drivers are insured.

When a car accident injures an individual because of someone else’s negligence, they generally seek compensation either through their automobile insurance policies or through the liability insurance policy of the at-fault party. If the at-fault party does not have insurance, they are still legally considered responsible for the expenses and impacts that someone else incurred in the accident. Yes, you can sue an uninsured driver. But should you?

It depends.

When It Is Beneficial to Sue an Uninsured Driver

Most of the time, even if you sue an uninsured driver and obtain a judgment in your favor, the driver can't afford to pay you for your expenses. You might use wage garnishment to collect your award.

However, the fact remains: You can’t get money from someone who doesn’t have it. Further, many uninsured drivers who have been found liable for the expenses and impacts of someone else’s injuries will go on to file for bankruptcy, which can release them from their liability.

Despite this, there are times when it is beneficial to sue an uninsured driver, such as:

  • If the uninsured driver is independently wealthy. Remember: While most uninsured drivers failed to purchase insurance because they couldn’t afford it, some drivers simply refuse to maintain their insurance or let their insurance lapse because they forgot to make a payment. An experienced car accident attorney, while investigating your case, will look into the financial status of the driver to determine if they can compensate you out-of-pocket.
  • Other sources of liability in addition to the driver are insured. Not all car accidents feature one victim and one at-fault party. Instead, accidents can feature liability on the part of both drivers, other roadway users, or even third parties such as employers. If there is another source of liability in your accident, you can file a claim against that source as well as the uninsured driver, which will enable all liability parties to pay a share of your compensation and ensures that you can get money while also holding the uninsured driver accountable for their negligence.

Other Options When an Uninsured Driver Injures You

If, after talking to an experienced car accident attorney, you discover that it would likely not be beneficial to attempt to sue the uninsured driver who caused the accident that resulted in your injury, do not despair.

You might have many types of insurance coverage that can help you obtain the money needed to pay for your expenses, and your attorney will also look carefully at your claim for other sources of liability.

Your Insurance Policies

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance: Uninsured motorist policies provide compensation for expenses you incur as a result of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, while underinsured motorist policies provide compensation in situations where the driver who caused the accident WAS insured but the amount of liability insurance they had wasn’t enough to pay for your injuries. These two policies are generally bundled together and provide compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. If you are injured in an accident as a pedestrian or while riding your bicycle, your UM/UIM policy will also likely provide coverage.
  • Personal Injury Protection: A Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy is a form of no-fault insurance in which you can seek to recover benefits such as a portion of your medical expenses or wage loss after an accident, regardless of who caused the accident. This form of insurance is required in many states and an optional add-on in several more.
  • Medical Payments Policies: Another optional add-on insurance policy that can be accessed after an accident with an uninsured driver is Medical Payments, or Med-Pay. This policy is not available in all states. However, in those states where Med-Pay is an option, you can obtain coverage of expenses such as health insurance deductibles and copays, physician services, hospitalization, ambulance transport fees, and even long or short-term nursing care if your injuries result in disabilities that require round-the-clock nursing care or leave you unable to accomplish personal care tasks independently.
  • Comprehensive/ Collision Policies: Also known as “full-coverage insurance,” a collision policy will provide compensation for damage to your vehicle caused by a car accident. Collision policies are often packaged with comprehensive policies, which repair damages to your vehicle caused by situations other than a car accident, such as hail, flooding, or fire.
  • Personal or Employer-Provided Insurance Policies: Your health insurance policy that you obtained on your own or through your employer can provide compensation for medical expenses associated with your accident.
  • Worker’s Compensation (if applicable): If your accident occurred while you were performing job-related tasks, such as making deliveries as a hired delivery driver, there could be the opportunity to seek medical coverage and wage replacement through your employer’s worker’s compensation policy. This is a no-fault insurance policy that most employers in most states are required to provide on behalf of their employees to cover the expenses associated with workplace injuries or illnesses.

How Does Your Insurance Company Deal With Uninsured Driver Claims?

If you and your attorney determine that you have a personal insurance policy that will provide compensation for your injury, your attorney can help you file a claim against that policy. Generally, this will be initially submitted to the insurance carrier as a demand, which details the facts of the claim and provides documentation of expenses.

Just as with a third-party insurance claim, your insurance provider has the option to either pay the claim as submitted, deny the claim and notify you of the reason for the denial, or offer a settlement. Your attorney can then negotiate with the insurance adjuster in an attempt to obtain a settlement offer that provides fair compensation for the expenses you have incurred.

For uninsured motorist claims, your insurance provider will also investigate the claim and can even decide on their own to sue an uninsured driver in an attempt to recover the expenses they incurred through the payout of your claim. This process is called subrogation.

Additional Sources of Liability

Liability is a fancy term for legal responsibility. One of the primary responsibilities of your car accident attorney is to help you determine ALL sources of liability in your accident. The more liable parties, the better the chances of having access to insurance policies that can provide your compensation.

For an individual or entity to be considered at least partly liable for the accident that caused your injuries, you must be able to show that they:

  • Owed you a duty of care. When it comes to car accidents, the duty of care refers to the actions that all reasonable roadway users take to protect the safety of other people and their property. Generally, that duty of care consists of driving a vehicle safely and obeying traffic laws. However, not all liable parties in car accident claims are in a car when the accident occurs. Governmental agencies have a duty of care to prevent accidents by keeping roadways maintained and free of obstructed views or dangerous defects. Automobile manufacturers must ensure that the products they sell are safe when used according to labeled instructions. Employers must ensure that the drivers they hire to represent their business do not have a background driver or criminal history that would preclude them from being considered safe on the roadway.
  • Breached the duty of care. If a person or entity had a duty of care toward you in the specific circumstance that led to your accident and they did something contrary to that duty, then they have legally breached the duty of care that was owed to you.
  • Caused an accident as a result of the breach in care that led to your injuries and related expenses.

An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help You Explore Your Options

As noted, not every car accident is a simple, open-and-shut case of one liable party. Seeing how one out of every eight drivers in the nation is uninsured, this is a good thing! It is often believed that suing a driver (or, more accurately, suing their insurance carrier) is the only way to obtain compensation after being injured in an accident. Fortunately, most accident victims have other insurance policies that can be provided as options.

Learn About Your Options For Free

After being injured in an accident, many people are hesitant to talk to seek legal assistance because they don’t think they can afford to pay for an attorney. It is important to understand that most personal injury attorneys realize that having access to competent legal counsel after suffering an accident is such an important factor in the success of a claim, that they will provide free consultations to ensure that everyone gets answers to their questions, regardless of their ability to pay.