After an accident, you’ll likely focus on healing your body and getting your car repaired. However, if you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, getting the money you’ll need for your medical bills and mechanic’s fees may be more difficult. This post lists seven things to do after being hit by an uninsured driver.
The problem of uninsured drivers
An uninsured driver is one who gets behind the wheel without insurance. Despite the fact that Alabama law requires all drivers to have auto insurance, in Alabama, 18.4% of all drivers are uninsured. In fact, Alabama ranks among the top ten states in the nation for uninsured drivers.
But drivers without insurance aren’t the only problem. Underinsured drivers cause issues as well. Underinsured drivers are drivers who have insurance policies. However, their policies carry only the minimum coverage. (In Alabama, the car insurance coverage minimums are $25,000 for property damage, $25,000 for bodily injury per person, and $50,000 for bodily injury per accident.) If your medical bills exceed $25,000, you’ll have to find the money in other ways.
Clearly, Alabama’s uninsured drivers cause problems for the people they injure. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself from uninsured drivers both before and after an accident.
Before an accident, get uninsured motorist insurance
Your best protection against uninsured or underinsured drivers comes before an accident. You must add uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to your existing car insurance coverage.
Alabama does not require this coverage. Your insurance broker may even advise you that you have the right to decline this coverage. While Alabama law does give you the right to refuse uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage, any Birmingham personal injury lawyer will tell you that UM/UIM can be a great help if you are hit by an uninsured driver.
If you get into an accident with an Alabama uninsured driver, they have no car insurance coverage to file against. If you are in an accident with an underinsured driver, their policy is too low to pay your damages. A UM/UIM policy will help fill the gap between what the uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist can’t pay and your financial needs. A UM/UIM policy can help with medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even funeral expenses. So, call your car insurance agent and ask them to include UM/UIM in your auto insurance policy.
Tip #1: Call the police
If you are injured by any driver, you should call the police immediately. First, Alabama law says that drivers must contact the police after accidents that cause death, injury, or serious property damage. Second, it helps to provide a record of the accident from an objective perspective. The report will help you with your UM/UIM insurance claim or in court.
Tip #2: Do NOT accept any money.
Many of the things drivers should do after a car accident are the same regardless of the other driver’s insurance status. But one unique thing about a crash with an uninsured driver is that they know that they don’t have insurance. Therefore, they know that they are breaking the law. To avoid legal consequences, uninsured drivers will often offer their victims cash at the scene of the accident in hopes that the injured person won’t take legal action. But there are several reasons why you should reject such an offer.
First, few people rarely know the extent of their body or property damage until days or weeks after an accident. The money you accept may not fully compensate you for all of your injuries and property damage. Second, even if you have obvious injuries at the scene of the accident, a Birmingham personal injury lawyer may tell you that you are entitled to additional damages such as lost wages or pain and suffering. Finally, if you do develop more serious injuries, the insurance company will likely use the fact that you accepted the money to deny your claim. (Remember, the insurance company’s primary goal is to deny your insurance claim.)
If the other driver offers you money after a car crash, reject the offer outright.
Tip #3 – Get the other driver’s contact information
If you are physically able, get the other driver’s contact information. At a minimum, you should collect the driver’s
– phone number,
– license plate numbers,
– insurance information (if they have it), and
– vehicle information.
Tip #4 – Don’t accept blame or fault.
While this is crucial after any accident, when you’re hit by an uninsured driver, it’s even more important. Alabama is a contributory negligence state. The contributory negligence rule means that if you are even slightly at fault for the accident – even just 1% at fault – the insurance companies or the court will deny your claim.
Because of the heavy fines and possible criminal consequences that uninsured drivers face, they’ll probably be listening to everything you say after the accident. They’re hoping that you’ll say something that can prove you were at fault as it will shift the blame from them. Don’t say anything that could even remotely be considered an admission. While statements like, “My fault,” or “My bad,” clearly meet that standard, you should also be careful of innocent-sounding statements like, “I’m sorry.” Say nothing about fault until you review the police report and speak to an Alabama personal injury lawyer.
Tip #5 – See a doctor immediately
Car accidents cause serious injuries. Some of these injuries – like broken bones – will be obvious at the scene of the accident. Others, like whiplash, will take hours, days, or weeks to be diagnosed. If you don’t see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident, your UI/UIM claim or your eventual legal case will suffer. The other driver will likely argue that your injuries were caused by something other than the accident. But if you see a doctor right after the car accident, you’ll weaken that argument.
Tip #6 – Gather as much information as possible
In addition to getting the uninsured driver’s information as noted above, you should be sure to get as much information about the scene of the accident as possible. Make note of the road conditions (potholes, construction, etc.), the time of day, the weather, and other factors that might have affected the accident. Write down as much as you can remember as soon as you are able. Take pictures of everything that you think might be relevant. Your Birmingham accident lawyer will appreciate it!
Tip#7 – Call an Alabama personal injury lawyer
As you can see, being hit by an uninsured driver creates many complex legal issues. If you wait too long to call a Birmingham personal injury lawyer, you may make a serious mistake that can hurt your personal injury claim. Having an experienced Alabama personal injury lawyer on your side will help you avoid serious missteps. Consult with a personal injury lawyer before you make statements about the accident to anyone – especially the insurance adjuster.
If you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, Collins Law, LLC can help. Our founder, April H. Collins, has been recognized as one of Birmingham’s best personal injury lawyers. The Collins Law team will treat you with compassion while we fight to get you the compensation you deserve. If you have more questions about uninsured drivers, trucking accidents, or other personal injury matters contact Collins Law online or call 205-588-1411.