UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Getting into an accident can be stressful. Getting into an accident with an uninsured driver can be even more stressful. Today, we’re explaining exactly what happens if you hit an uninsured or underinsured driver.
What should you do if you hit an uninsured driver? What happens when you get into an accident with a driver without insurance? Should I buy uninsured motorists coverage? Keep reading to discover the answers to these questions.
1 in 8 Drivers in America Has No Insurance
First, let’s make something clear: uninsured drivers are a huge problem in America. 1 out of every 8 drivers across the country does not have insurance. If you get into a collision with one or more other vehicles, then there’s a decent chance at least one driver involved in the collision will not have insurance.
Some states have significantly higher rates of uninsured drivers. A recent study from Florida, for example, indicated that 27% of drivers in the Sunshine State do not have insurance. That means more than 1 out of every 4 drivers is driving illegally without insurance – nearly double the national average.
Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Oklahoma all have particularly high rates of uninsured drivers. The states with the lowest percentage of uninsured drivers, meanwhile, are Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Every year, thousands of uninsured drivers get into accidents across the United States. But what happens when a driver without car insurance gets into an accident? Let’s find out.
No-Fault States Versus Tort States
Most states in America are tort states. That means the car insurance of the at-fault driver will pay for the damages and medical expenses of the collision.
About 10 states are no-fault states, which means the driver’s own insurance company pays for the collision regardless of who is at-fault. You can still sue the other driver in the event of a severe collision, but your car insurance will cover you up to the limits of your policy regardless of who is at-fault.
If you’re in a tort state like most Americans, then your insurance policy will pay for damages if you were at-fault. If you caused the collision and you have insurance, then your insurance company will cover the damages of others involved in the collision.
If the other driver was at-fault and does not have insurance, however, then you’re out of luck. The other driver caused the accident, which typically means their car insurance would pay for it. Because they don’t have car insurance, however, your damages will not be covered.
You Can Sue the Uninsured Driver, But You Might Not Recover Damages
If you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, and the uninsured driver was at-fault, then the uninsured driver is liable for any damages he or she caused. Typically, the other driver’s car insurance would cover this liability. If the driver does not have insurance, however, then he or she will need to cover this liability out of pocket.
This is where problems start: typically, the drivers who go without insurance do not have a lot of assets. They’re driving without car insurance because they cannot afford car insurance. If they cause an accident, then they certainly can’t afford the medical expenses and damages from that accident.
Sure, you can sue the uninsured driver that caused the accident in an attempt to recover damages. However, since the uninsured driver doesn’t have a lot of assets, it’s unlikely that you will ever recover damages even if you win the lawsuit.
How Does Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work?
All major car insurance companies offer something called uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. With this car insurance coverage, you pay a little more for car insurance today in exchange for added protection against uninsured or underinsured motorists
If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, then your car insurance company will cover damages and medical expenses up to the limits of your policy if you get into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Some states require you to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage – just like they require you to have property damage liability coverage. In other states, this coverage is optional.
Ultimately, it’s illegal to drive without car insurance in most states in America. However, millions of Americans break this law every year. Approximately 1 in 8 drivers in America does not have insurance. In some states, the number is close to 1 in 4 or 1 in 3. That means if you’re involved in a collision, then there’s a good chance at least one driver does not have insurance.
If you live in a no-fault state, then getting into a collision with an uninsured driver doesn’t matter: you’re covered regardless of who is at-fault.
If you live in a tort state, however, then you will only be covered if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Most states in America are tort states. You can sue the other driver for damages. In many cases, unfortunately, a lawsuit is pointless because the other driver has minimal assets. Even if you win the lawsuit, you’re unlikely to recover your damages.
For all of these reasons and more, many insurance experts recommend adding uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to your car insurance policy.