Hit by an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver? Answers to Your Questions
Have you been in a vehicle or pedestrian accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver? If so, you face not only the normal challenges of anyone who is injured in an accident but also some added difficulties. What are these and how should you proceed? Here are some valuable answers.
What is an Uninsured Driver?
Uninsured drivers are those who carry no auto insurance covering their liability in the event of an accident. Washington state law mandates that all drivers carry mandatory minimum liability insurance to cover accidents — $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident.
If a driver fails to carry the mandatory minimum limits of liability insurance coverage, they are considered uninsured. Unfortunately, despite these laws, many uninsured drivers do take to the roads on a daily basis, with some estimates putting this number as high as 20% in some areas.
What Is an Underinsured Driver?
An underinsured driver is one who does carry liability insurance, but when the limits of their coverage is not sufficient to cover all of the damages stemming from a given accident, they are considered underinsured. For instance, Washington State requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance coverage. However, a serious accident can quickly cause the injured party’s damages to exceed this amount. This is why it is important for you to always purchase your own underinsured (“UIM”) coverage to protect yourself in the event you are hit and injured by an underinsured motorist.
Accidnts caused by underinsured drivers pose unique challenges that you should discuss with an experienced lawyer. This is because the negligent driver’s insurance may pay for some (but not all) of your expenses and then you must take steps to also obtain additional coverage via your own UIM insurance carrier, who “steps into the shoes” of the negligent driver once that driver’s liability has been exhausted. There are certain steps you must take before settling with the responsible underinsured driver before you can proceed with a UIM claim via your own insurer. Consultation with an experienced lawyer is critical before you do so.
Who Pays for Your Injuries and Damage?
If the defendant’s insurance won’t fully cover your damages from a given accident, where should you turn? First, most insured drivers carry uninsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage within their insurance policy – or certainly should do so. Unfortunately, if you have waived this coverage (note: a written waiver of UIM coverage is mandatory in Washington) or if your UIM policy limits are insufficient, you may not be able to fully recover all of your damages, as recovering damages over and above the negligent driver’s policy limits is often exceedingly difficult or impossible if the responsible driver simply has no recoverable assets beyond their insurance limits.
Can You Sue the Uninsured Driver?
The good news is that you generally have the option of suing for damages regardless of whether or not someone has insurance or sufficient insurance. You may sue for general (pain and suffering) and special (medical bills, wage loss, etc.) damages, which can include both reimbursement of actual costs and estimates of future needs or nonfinancial effects on your life. But, again, collecting damages from the uninsured or underinsured driver is often very difficult, if not impossible, which is why it is so important for you to protect yourself by purchasing underinsured motorist coverage.
Why Shouldn’t You Go It Alone?
As the above discussion makes clear, even the most straightforward auto or pedestrian accident case should be pursued with the help of a legal professional. Why?
First, you need to fully understand your rights and how all applicable insurance will apply to your claim. Next, an experienced attorney will help you avoid the mistakes so many unrepresented people make when they do not have a lawyer on their side. An experienced lawyer can also explain liability, provide you with information about your chances of success, discuss the ability of the other party to pay, and assess whether there are others who may also be at fault. All these tasks call for the help of someone who knows the law thoroughly.
If you are a Washington resident, and have the misfortune to be hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, turn to the uninsured and underinsured accident pros at Carter & Fulton, P.S. We can help you learn about your options, assess and ensure you case is prepared properly, and ensure that recovery is sought from all appropriate sources. Call today to make an appointment and get started.