Car insurance is mandatory in every single state. Do you want the privilege of driving? You need to make sure you and other drivers have financial protection.
But we all know the realities: there are vast swaths of people who don’t buy car insurance. Or, if they do, they don’t purchase enough coverage to protect them. Florida, Mississippi, and New Mexico are home to some of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation, with 26.7, 23.7, and 20.8 percent of drivers on the road sans insurance, respectively.
But what happens if you collide with one of these drivers? You rely on your uninsured motorist coverage.
Here’s what an uninsured motorist policy does (and why you need it).
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of liability insurance that protects you if a driver without insurance causes a collision.
It’s not a mandatory policy in every state, but it is good coverage to buy if you don’t live in a no-fault state.
If you get into an accident where the other driver is at-fault, their insurance pays. When the other driver doesn’t have insurance, then your insurance should pay. However, not all policies allow this. Some won’t cover you if you experience a hit and run or get hit by someone without insurance (or with inadequate coverage).
All of a sudden, you’re left high and dry.
What Happens If You Don’t Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage and your insurance won’t cover the damage, then you may have two options.
The first depends on where you live. Some states (and major metropolitan areas) have funds set up to compensate insured drivers whose insurance won’t pay after an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver. However, some programs, like the Washington, D.C. fund, only exist to compensate pedestrians struck but uninsured motorists.
If your state doesn’t offer this program, then your uninsured motorist claims go through the courts. In this case, you have two options. Minimal demands – usually under $5,000 – can go through small claims court. These are best for property damage.
When an accident results in an injury, however, and it’s the result of negligence on behalf of the other driver, you might want to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
Keep in mind that the question of who can who sue who depends on the rules in your state. You need to prove negligence in no-fault states, particularly if you are suing over a less severe injury.
A civil court is usually the better option if the accident wrecked your finances. An uninsured driver may not have the money to give you, which means small claims court can be a waste of time. But a civil court judgment can use additional methods to ensure you get paid.
Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Worth It?
If you live in an at-fault state, paying extra for uninsured motorist coverage can be worthwhile. Your insurance company has the right to decline payment for an accident caused by an uninsured driver, which leaves you woefully out of pocket.
Without that coverage, you may need to rely on public funds or even sue the driver – assuming you can find them.
Did you find this short guide helpful? Read our piece on dealing with car accidents next.