Unfortunately, here in Columbia and all over South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia uninsured drivers are out there causing motor vehicle accidents. While the law in each state requires that drivers carry minimum levels of bodily injury and property damage coverage, there are a lot of folks who are driving without insurance. So what do you do if the driver who hit you was uninsured?
If you read our Insurance Primer, you may be familiar with Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). We DO recommend you carry UM and UIM coverage on your policy for the best protection. UM coverage protects you in the event the at-fault party does not have insurance. Essentially, once you found out the other driver was uninsured, you would file the claim against your own UM policy and your insurance company would pay your claim based on the policy provisions and limits. There is often a deductible. Uninsured Motorist policies pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage up to the limits purchased. Other optional coverage you carry like MedPay, car rental coverage, etc. could also come into play, depending on the circumstances. UIM pays when your UM coverage (or in cases where the defendant had insurance, his/her liability insurance) is not sufficient to cover your damages. This is extremely important in any case where you are severely injured.
What if you didn’t purchase Uninsured Motorist coverage?
If the state you live in does not require UM coverage and you chose not to add this coverage to your policy, you have a few options. Initially, you may use your medical insurance to pay for your injuries. And if you have short-term and/or long-term disability insurance through your employer, you may be eligible for reimbursement of lost wages through these policies.
Depending upon the laws in your state and the specific circumstances of the auto accident that resulted in your injury, you may also have the right to pursue the at-fault party through the court system to try and recover damages. Unfortunately, even if you are awarded a judgment by the courts, whether or not you can collect on that judgment depends on the assets owned by the defendant and whether or not your state permits wage garnishment and levies on personal property. In many cases, the uninsured driver doesn’t have coverage because he or she couldn’t afford it. If a third party was partially at-fault, you may also have cause to pursue that party in your claim. In any case, if you do win a lawsuit against the at-fault uninsured driver or a third-party, your medical insurance company and short-or-long-term disability provider(s) may be entitled to reimbursement for expenses they paid up front (this is called subrogation).
In short, if your motor vehicle crash was caused by an uninsured driver, you may wish to schedule a free consultation with a Columbia accident lawyer to learn your rights.