Everyone knows the drill: if you get into an accident, you need to exchange information with the other driver. One of the most important things to collect is the other driver’s auto insurance information. But what happens if the other driver isn’t insured?
Any accident can be emotionally draining, but getting hit by an uninsured driver adds an additional level of stress. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect your rights after an accident with an uninsured driver. Read on to get the answers to common questions about being hit by an uninsured driver.
What are Alabama’s Car Insurance Requirements?
Alabama law requires all drivers to have car insurance. Currently, Alabama’s minimum auto insurance liability limits are “25/50/25.” These numbers mean that every driver must have an auto insurance policy that provides: 1) $25,000 worth of bodily injury coverage per person; 2) $50,000 coverage for all bodily injuries from any one accident; and 3) $25,000 coverage for property damage per accident.
Here’s how this works: Let’s say that Jimmy has an auto policy that provides the minimum coverage required by Alabama law. He causes an accident that creates a total of $45,000 worth of bodily injury for all passengers. Jimmy’s policy should cover all injuries.
What Is an Uninsured Motorist?
Simply put, an uninsured motorist is any driver who doesn’t have an auto insurance policy that covers the minimum amounts specified by state law. In the example above, if Jimmy caused $45,000 of bodily injuries but didn’t have insurance, he’d be an uninsured motorist.
Nationally, about 12.5% of drivers lack proper insurance coverage. Unfortunately, the situation is worse here in Alabama. As of 2019, 19.5% of Alabamians were driving without insurance. This number places Alabama 7th in the nation for uninsured motorists. So, in Alabama, there is a higher-than-average chance that a driver is uninsured.
What Is an Underinsured Motorist?
Underinsured drivers can also be a problem. An underinsured driver has insurance, but the policy limits aren’t enough to cover all of the injuries from the auto accident. So, going back to Jimmy, if Jimmy caused $60,000 worth of bodily injuries, but his policy has a $50,000 maximum for all bodily injuries, he’d be considered underinsured.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, your best bet is an uninsured motorist policy, also known as “UM” coverage. There is also underinsured motorist coverage, also called “UIM” coverage.
Similar to normal auto insurance, UM/UIM policies work based on limits. Insurance experts recommend that your UM/UIM coverage mirror your regular coverage. So, if your car insurance covers injury costs up to $50,000 per person, a total of $100,000 per accident, your UM/UIM policy should cover the same amounts or more.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?
Here’s how UM/UIM works: After being hit by an uninsured driver, you’ll contact your insurance company to report the accident. The company will also investigate the accident and review your medical records. If the investigation proves the other driver is uninsured, you’ll file a claim against your UM policy. If your injuries or property damage exceed the driver’s policy limits, you’ll file a claim against your UIM coverage.
Let’s go back to Jimmy one last time. Let’s say Jimmy hit you and caused medical bills of $60,000, but he didn’t have insurance. If you had the $50,000/$100,000 UM policy described above, your UM policy would cover $50,000 of your medical bills. If Jimmy had only the minimum coverage required by Alabama law, your UIM coverage would chip in to cover the remaining $10,000.
How Do I Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Getting UM/UIM coverage is easy. Alabama does not require UM/UIM policies, but Alabama does mandate that all insurance companies offer UM/UIM coverage to a potential insured. If this coverage is rejected, the insurance company must have that rejection in writing.
UM/UIM coverage is affordable. In most cases, it costs about five percent of your auto policy premium. So, if your annual policy premium is $1000, UM/UIM coverage will only cost you an additional $5o per year. This adds up to less than five dollars per month.
If your insurance agent offers you UM/UIM coverage, please accept it. It’s inexpensive, and it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?
You can, but there may be issues. Sometimes, uninsured drivers can’t be identified. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be unable to sue simply because the driver can’t be found. (Your UM/UIM coverage will still apply, though.)
Also, whether you’re dealing with an insured driver or an uninsured driver, the whole point of a personal injury lawsuit is to compensate you for your injuries. But most people who drive without insurance coverage do so because they can’t afford it. So, it’s not likely that you’ll recover much in a lawsuit against an uninsured driver. However, if the person has valuable assets (a luxury car, a boat, etc.), a lawsuit could be a good option. Your Alabama accident attorney can help you decide if a lawsuit is in your best interests.
Do I Need An Attorney If I Get Hit by an Uninsured Driver?
Yes. After an accident with an uninsured driver, you should reach out to a Birmingham accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can help you deal with an uninsured driver in several ways.
First, an Alabama accident lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company. Your insurance company will probably ask you for a recorded statement after the accident. You might feel safe dealing with your own insurance company, but every insurance company wants to avoid paying money. An injury attorney can help you craft a statement that protects your right to compensation.
Second, your insurance company might undervalue your injuries. If this happens, the terms of your policy probably say that you can’t take them to court. However, you can take them to arbitration.
Arbitrations are led by neutral parties called arbitrators. In an arbitration, you and your accident attorney will explain why you think the insurance company’s determinations are wrong. The good news is that arbitration is usually less expensive and less involved than going to court. On the other hand, if you disagree with the arbitrator’s decision, you won’t have many options. However, an Alabama accident attorney can help you get a successful result at arbitration.
More Questions About Getting Hit by an Uninsured Driver?
If you’ve been in a car accident in Alabama, you probably have lots of questions about what happens next. If you have questions, please contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm’s founder, April H. Collins, has been recognized as one of Birmingham’s leading personal injury attorneys. Our clients give our team high marks for our compassion and customer service. If you need help after a car accident, trucking accident, or any other type of motor vehicle collision, we can help. Call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool to schedule a free consultation.