Most states require drivers to hold at least a minimal amount of liability insurance. Yet, the reality is that people still get behind the wheel without any type of coverage. In fact, one report shows that there are 28 million uninsured drivers in the U.S. alone.
If you’ve been in a car accident with an uninsured driver, it’s important to know how to act. Today, we’re sharing the steps you should take to protect yourself and your passengers.
1. Call the Police
Any time you’re in a motor vehicle accident, your first step should be to call the police. This is the case whether the other driver has insurance or not.
If anyone was injured in the collision, law enforcement personnel can help arrange emergency medical services. Then, once they arrive on the scene, they can compile an official police report.
This report will contain details about the incident, including the time, date, and location where it occurred. It will also include other pertinent details such as eyewitness information, traffic/weather conditions, and sometimes, the officer’s opinion on who was at fault.
This information will be critical in completing your car accident claim down the road, so calling the police is necessary.
2. Exchange Information with the Driver
There are a few scenarios that could occur if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
First, the driver could flee the scene without leaving any contact information, turning the collision into a hit-and-run. If they are unable to leave or choose not to, they may try to offer you money.
Their motive is often two-fold. Not only do they want to help cover the cost of your injuries and property damage, but they might also be trying to avoid legal repercussions. Driving without insurance can lead to hefty fines and expensive penalties, so drivers will often use payment as a bribe to persuade you against calling the police.
Even if the deal seems like a good one at the time, it’s never wise to accept this money. You don’t know the full extent of your damages or injuries, and you could wind up accepting a payout that’s far less than what you need.
Instead, simply exchange information with the other driver. Even if they don’t have any insurance, you still need their contact details, as well as the make, model, and VIN number of their vehicle. If any witnesses are around and willing to speak with you, remember to get their contact information as well.
3. Capture the Accident Scene
As soon as you are safe and physically able to do so, try to take pictures and videos of the accident scene. You can also write down key details, including anything you remember about the events that occurred before the collision. Important points to capture at this time include:
Traffic signs and controls
The direction each vehicle was traveling
Marks on the road
Weather, lighting, or traffic conditions
The name and badge number of the responding officer
Your insurance company and attorney can use this information, along with the police report, to understand exactly what happened before, during, and after the accident.
4. Visit the Physician
Even if you feel physically fine, we still recommend visiting a physician any time you’re involved in a collision. Many auto accident injuries aren’t immediately apparent, including soft-tissue injuries like whiplash.
Remember to keep all notes and documents related to your doctor’s visits, including X-rays, reports, prescriptions, and related data. This documentation should be time-stamped to create a record of your injury, treatment, and healing process.
5. File an Insurance Claim
Once you have all of the information you need, it’s time to contact your insurance company and let them know what happened. Make sure they know that the other driver was uninsured.
The insurance company will need a few key pieces of information, including:
Your insurance policy number
Your notes from the accident scene
Information on the other driver (contact and vehicle details)
Police information (the name of the police department, police officer, and police report number)
After reviewing all of this information, your insurance company will determine the amount of compensation that it believes you are due. Under California law, all drivers are required to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you choose not to purchase this coverage, you have to sign a waiver.
Depending on the events that occurred, your claim could include any of these three elements:
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): Pays for physical injuries that occur to you and any passengers in your car. The limit matches your liability coverage limit.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): Pays for property damage to your car. The limit is $3,500, and the uninsured driver must be identified.
Underinsured motorist (UIM): Covers limited costs for physical injuries if the other driver has insurance, but it isn’t enough to cover your damages.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer?
Pursuing a UM claim can be a tricky process. Insurance companies are out to maximize their profits, not pay out sizable claims. This is even the case when you’re working with your own insurer.
An experienced auto accident attorney can help you pursue and maximize the UM coverage that you pay for. The steps they’ll take to do so include:
Investigating the accident
Analyzing the terms of your insurance policy
Assisting with the UM claims filing process
Documenting all of your damages and associated expenses (physical injury and property)
They will work tirelessly to make sure you receive the settlement you deserve. If the claim is not sufficient, they can also represent you in court if you decide to pursue litigation.
Were You Involved in an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?
After a car accident, you need clarity and answers. Unfortunately, they can be hard to come by when the driver doesn’t carry any type of auto insurance.
Leveraging your UM coverage can help you recoup some of the costs associated with the accident, but the offer isn’t always satisfactory. By hiring a lawyer, you don’t have to worry about accepting a settlement that’s less than what you deserve.
At Coast Car Accident Lawyers, we’re here to help you navigate these important next steps. If you’ve been involved in a Huntington Beach accident with an uninsured driver, contact us for a free consultation.