I was Injured in a Car Accident by an Uninsured Driver. Now What?

by William Mattar | September 11th, 2020

The moments right after a car accident can be terrifying. You are shaken up, possibly injured, and may be worried about any passengers, or the damage to your vehicle. For most people, the next step after checking for personal injuries is to exchange insurance information with the other driver. But what happens if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

Most drivers assume if they are involved in a car accident their damages (whether property, physical or both) will be paid for by the at-fault driver’s car insurance. After all, car insurance is mandated in the state of New York. Driving without car insurance is against the law and could result in losing your driver’s license and paying hundreds of dollars in fines. However, there are people driving without car insurance. Whether it’s because they say they cannot afford insurance or don’t think they need it because they “never have accidents”.

A 2018 study conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that one in eight U.S. drivers regularly drive without insurance. Florida is home to the most uninsured drivers–26 percent– while Maine has the lowest number of uninsured drivers–about five percent. The IRC study also reports the average cost of uninsured drivers’ claim is $20,000. This average excludes the cost of repairing the vehicle!

REPORT THE ACCIDENT

Call the police. Even a ”small” fender bender can cause soft tissue injuries or whiplash. These injuries can occur even in collisions where vehicles aren’t traveling at high speeds. Documenting the scene of the accident is critical to ascertain who is at fault.

An uninsured driver may flee the scene of the accident. NYS auto insurance laws mandate drivers carry at least $25,000 per driver to cover bodily injury and at minimum of $50,000 for each accident. New York Vehicle and Traffic Code 315 also states that if a New York State resident’s car insurance is terminated or canceled, that person must surrender their license plates and registration to the DMV or face potential suspension of their driver’s license and registration, or they can face penalties including tickets, fines, and even possibly jail time. When you call the police, they can collect your statement, as well as any witnesses to the crash, which is especially important if the other driver leaves the scene.

SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION

One may want to seek medical attention after a car wreck if they suspect injury. Some injuries may not present themselves right away, especially when adrenaline is running high in your body. Other injuries need a medical professional to diagnose, including soft tissue injuries, mild concussions, and hairline fractures. Each of these can worsen in the days following the wreck and lead to life-long health complications if left untreated.

PAYING FOR YOUR MEDICAL BILLS AND DAMAGED VEHICLE

Since New York is a no-fault accident state. That means that each driver’s car insurance covers some medical bills and lost wages from injuries sustained from the crash.

As a no-fault state, however, paying your medical bills and replacing your vehicle can be a little tricky. No-fault insurance compensation is limited to lost wages and medical expenses – but not compensation for pain and suffering. In New York, you must show a “serious injury” to recover for pain and suffering.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is additional protection insurance companies must offer New York drivers. This covers you, the policyholder, and those in the vehicle with you in case you’re struck by an uninsured motorist. However, the coverage is limited to the minimum required by New York state law.

Your personal injury attorney can help you determine what your recourse is if the other driver does not carry insurance. You may be able to sue for damages against the at-fault driver, especially if they’re in violation of the law by not having insurance.

The state of New York requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of coverage, including:

  • $25,000 liability insurance for bodily injury and $50,000 for death
  • $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for the death of two or more people
  • $10,000 property damage

However, if an accident is severe, this coverage may not cover fully replacing or repairing your vehicle or medical bills for someone who is seriously injured or who requires ongoing aftercare, such as physical therapy or additional surgeries, to recover from the accident. This is why insurance companies are required by the state to offer drivers the option of adding underinsured motorist coverage to their policy.

Supplemental Underinsured Motorist Coverage

SUM insurance coverage offers added protection if an at-fault driver’s is not insured or his/her policy doesn’t cover an accident victim’s damages. For example, if an uninsured driver T-bones you at an intersection, totals your car and puts you in the hospital with serious injuries and your SUM coverage provides up to $100,000, then you can make a claim of up to $100,000. Essentially, SUM coverage allows you to make up the difference.

Making a SUM Claim

Before you can make a SUM claim, multiple requirements have to be met. Here are a few:

  • Submit written notice that you intend to make a claim as soon as possible. Failing to provide this written notice could result in your claim being denied
  • If a lawsuit is filed, you must forward copies of a summons/complaint and other associated papers, if applicable, to the auto insurance carrier
  • Obtain information of the at-fault driver’s policy limits. Before your SUM coverage becomes available, other insurance coverages, if they exist, must be exhausted. In addition, in most cases, you also need to receive permission from your SUM carrier before you can settle.

In general, SUM coverage applies to you, your spouse and any relatives living in your home. However, these relatives must prove they use your address as their home address and are not just visiting or living there on a temporary basis.

Should You Hire a Car Accident Attorney?

Getting hit and injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver presents a number of legal complexities that may cause your claim to be denied or significantly delayed. In addition, recovering from serious physical injuries in a hospital or at home doesn’t leave you much time, energy or resources to ensure your claim is handled properly and expeditiously.

SUM claims are meant to help victims of uninsured or underinsured drivers remain financially stable while they recuperate from physical injuries. Unfortunately, adhering to complicated rules and regulations governing SUM can leave accident victims feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Having an attorney managing your claim eliminates the burden of worrying about receiving monies you are rightfully owed.

Hurt in a Car? Call William Mattar.

If you have suffered serious physical injuries in a car accident involving an uninsured, driver, call William Mattar today to schedule a free, initial consultation appointment. William Mattar law offices has years of experience fighting big insurance companies on behalf of their clients. We walk with you every step of the way, from the initial filing of your claim all the way to a mediation table or court of law, if necessary. Give our car accident attorneys a call today to see how William Mattar law offices can help you.