Uninsured Motorist Claims
Nobody ever expects that they will get into an accident. Car accidents often seemingly come out of nowhere, and they usually strike their victims off guard. While car accidents are scary and stressful experiences for everyone involved, being hit by an uninsured motorist can be even worse. This is because, under normal circumstances, the insurance company of the driver who is at fault for the accident pays for the damages to the driver who was not at fault. But what happens if the at-fault driver does not have insurance? Who pays then?
The attorneys at Slappey & Sadd have represented many clients who have suffered injuries as a result of being hit by an uninsured driver. If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, you should know that the process of receiving compensation for your injuries could be much more difficult than it would have been if you were hit by an insured driver. That's why it is a good idea to have a personal injury attorney look into your situation and figure out the best option for you.Uninsured Motorists are Everywhere
Maintaining auto insurance is required by law for all drivers. Unfortunately, not everyone is a prudent and responsible driver. The Insurance Information Institute (III) found that 13% of motorists, or about one in eight drivers, were uninsured in the US in 2015. Florida had the highest percentage of uninsured motorists, at 26.7%, while Maine had the lowest, at 4.5% Georgia's rate of uninsured motorists falls very near the national average at 12%.How Auto Insurance Works
Driving is an inherently dangerous activity, but the purpose of auto insurance is to protect drivers from financial burdens or injuries incurred as a result of getting into an accident. Most states, including Georgia, utilize a "fault" system of insurance, wherein the insurance company of the driver who is found to be at fault for the accident pays for the other driver's losses. The required insurance minimums in Georgia are:
- Bodily injury: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence, and
- Property damage liability: $25,000 per occurrence
Because this type of liability system is principally concerned with fault, these amounts are paid only to the driver who is not at fault for the accident. The at-fault driver's insurance company will pay for their damages if they have chosen certain add-ons to their policy that cover themselves, such as comprehensive and collision coverage. Typical add-on coverages include:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage
- Medical expense payments
So what happens if the at-fault driver does not have insurance? That's where uninsured motorist coverage comes into play. Although we have been using the term "uninsured motorist coverage," there are actually two types of uninsured motorist coverage: bodily injury and property damage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMBI) covers medical expenses, lost wages, and any bodily injury-related expenses for you and your passengers. This type of uninsured motorist coverage also protects you if you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD) covers damage to your car, but it does not protect against damage caused by hit-and-run accidents. Many states require all drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage in addition to the mandatory minimums set out above. However, Georgia does not.What's the Difference Between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you and your passengers if you were in an accident caused by a driver who had no insurance at all. Underinsured coverage protects you and your passengers if you were in an accident with a driver who did have insurance, but whose policy limits were too low to cover all of your damages. In that situation, the at-fault driver's insurance would pay for all damages up to his or her policy limits, and then your underinsured motorist coverage would kick in to cover the rest.Your Options if You Were Hit by an Uninsured Motorist
If you have uninsured motorist coverage...
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, this makes the process of receiving compensation for your injuries fairly simple. When you are hit by a driver who does not have insurance, you will file an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company for the amount of the damage you sustained. After that, your insurance company will process your claim in much the same way as if you had been hit by a driver who had insurance. The main difference is that your claim is against your own insurance company, rather than the at-fault party's insurance company. Keep in mind, however, that your uninsured motorist coverage will only cover losses up to your policy limits, so you are responsible for any damage that exceeds those limits.
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage...
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, your situation will be more difficult. One option is to sue the at-fault driver personally for your losses. However, in most cases, drivers who do not have insurance also don't have the assets to pay you directly for your damages. In the event that you are able to obtain a judgment against the driver, the court may also set up a payment plan for the defendant, which means that you will have to wait a long time to be paid in full (if at all). Another option that is available to you is to file a lien against the at-fault driver's property to secure it during the course of litigation, provided that they own property to file a lien on. Thus, it is always in your best interest to carry uninsured motorist coverage.Contact an Atlanta Uninsured Motorist Attorney
If you have been hit and injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you may need to come up with creative solutions to ensure that you are compensated in full for your injuries. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Marietta, Lithonia, and Norcross.