Most drivers don’t think about what they’ll do if they get into an auto accident with someone who doesn’t have car insurance. In fact, you probably don’t think about getting into an accident at all. You expect to be able to make it from Point A to Point B safely, especially if you are a safe and responsible driver. Yet no matter how safely and carefully you drive, you are not immune to the irresponsible actions of other motorists. And until you get into an auto accident with an underinsured driver, it may never occur to you that you would have been wise to purchase underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy.
What Happens When an Uninsured Driver Causes an Auto Accident?
It may come as a surprise to you to learn that nearly 13% of US drivers don’t have any auto insurance at all. In both North Carolina and South Carolina, close to 10% of drivers are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Of course, that only accounts for those who have been caught without insurance. There are likely many others who have not been caught, but could cause an accident at any time to add to the statistic. Some reasons that drivers might not carry insurance include being an underage driver, not having enough money, having extremely high insurance rates due to past accidents, or accidentally letting their insurance policy lapse. In many cases, it is the least responsible and least safe drivers who fail to carry auto insurance, making them also the most likely to cause accidents.
So, what happens when they do cause accidents? Well, for starters, they get caught without insurance and face the legal and financial consequences. This doesn’t do much to help their victims, however. If you are the victim of an uninsured driver auto accident, you will have to file a claim against your own insurance policy, your uninsured motorist coverage, in order to recover anything for your injuries.
Even though it doesn’t benefit you financially, you will be happy to know that the uninsured driver isn’t going to get away with it when they cause an auto accident. They’ll have to pay fines and will likely end up having to pay even more when they do get coverage. They will also have to face the personal liability for your damages, which is damaging to their credit if they don’t pay. If the person gets caught more than once without insurance, then their fines will increase.
What Happens When an Underinsured Driver Causes an Auto Accident?
UIM coverage isn’t just for those situations where an uninsured driver causes an auto accident; it is also there for you when someone simply doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all of your damages. This is extremely common because the law only requires drivers to carry a certain minimum of liability insurance for bodily harm and property damage. This minimum requirement is often nowhere near enough to compensate your damages.
Medical expenses can be tremendously high, especially if your injuries are severe or require ongoing treatment, rehabilitation, and/or future surgeries. The expense is further exacerbated by the lost wages that you face from taking time off work to recover from your injuries. Then, you have the property damage of your vehicle to think about. If you have UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy, this will help you make up the difference between what an underinsured driver’s policy covers and what your actual expenses are.
It is important to note that your UIM coverage also has a coverage limit, and you are not allowed to purchase more UIM coverage than you have in liability coverage. If you wish to increase your UIM coverage beyond what you currently have in liability coverage, you must increase your liability coverage as well. Even so, when you find yourself facing the expenses of an auto accident, you’ll be grateful for all of the insurance you can get to cover your damages.
You Can Also Choose to Purchase Other Forms of Auto Insurance Coverage
If you want to be completely prepared for any eventuality, you have plenty of options for additional auto insurance coverage, besides UIM coverage. For example, you can purchase collision coverage to cover damages to your vehicle, no matter what kind of collision causes it. This comes in handy if you happen to hit an animal or run into a mailbox. Then, there’s comprehensive coverage to address damage that might be caused by vandalism or the weather, for example. Many people have to carry comprehensive coverage because it’s required, not by law, but by the bank that financed the vehicle purchase.
You can also consider purchasing medical payments coverage to address medical expenses associated with an auto accident or death and disability coverage to address the expenses associated with becoming disabled from auto accident injuries or with fatal accidents. There are even options like custom equipment coverage to address any damage to custom equipment in your vehicle that might occur from an auto accident.
Contact an Attorney to Learn More About Your Options After an Accident
After an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you’ll have a lot of questions and concerns about how you’re going to recover compensation for your injuries and damages. Call the Elrod Pope Law Firm to talk to our experienced auto accident attorneys and get those questions answered. We’ll provide a free consultation to get you started on the right path.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.