There are many challenges and expenses when you are in a car accident. Even a relatively minor accident may involve costly repairs. Serious accidents can easily result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in both car repairs and medical expenses. Few people have the cash on hand to deal with those kinds of costs and rely on insurance to pay the bills. But when the driver who is at fault for the accident doesn’t have insurance, you may be left with difficult choices. There are still steps you can take to cover yourself in these situations.
Using Your Own Insurance
If the other driver does not have insurance or you were involved in a hit-and-run, then you must look to your own insurance to cover the costs. How much you are covered in these situations depends largely on the particulars of your insurance policy. While it is best to discuss the specifics with your insurance agent, there are some general rules that apply to most policies.
All car insurance policies include liability coverage because it is mandated by law. Liability coverage, however, only extends to damage caused to other people not to your own car or person. In order to make a claim with your own insurance, you would need to have either collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage. These are typically optional additions to insurance policies that will pay you when the other person does not have insurance or does not have enough coverage for all your damages. You would not file a lawsuit in this case because you are filing a claim only with your own insurance company.
It is also important to keep in mind that getting money out of your own insurance company may be more difficult than it would seem. Insurance companies do not want to pay you because they make money out of collecting premiums and paying out as little as possible. If your insurance company is giving you trouble, then you may need to file a lawsuit against your own insurance company to collect the amount owed to you. This becomes more likely if your accident is complex or involves very high damages.
Filing a Lawsuit Anyway
If you can identify the at-fault driver, you still have the option of taking them to court directly and suing for damages. While this may seem like the best thing to do, it is not always a simple choice. You can only collect what the person you are suing can reasonably pay. If the person is not wealthy and does not have a lot of cash on hand, then even if you win a judgment against them, you may end up with very little actual award.
If the person does not have a lot of cash but does have other assets, then those could be considered for payment in your lawsuit. This is still challenging, however. You cannot, for example, be awarded a person’s property in a settlement. You can only be awarded a dollar amount for your damages. If the defendant cannot pay that amount with the cash they have on hand, then they become a judgment debtor and will likely be put on some kind of payment plan for that debt as if it was any other debt. It can prove very difficult to actually collect on the full amount of such a debt. Often, the defendant is forced into bankruptcy, which opens up many of their assets for liquidation that could be used to pay the debt. You may get paid, but it could take months over even years to fully resolve a bankruptcy proceeding. It may come down to how long you are willing to wait to recover your full award.
Finally, there is the question of how much legal expense you are willing to take on to recover some amount of settlement from an uninsured driver. A defendant in this position may be more likely to go to court, and this can quickly drive up your legal expenses and reduce the amount you get.
Car accidents involving uninsured drivers can be even more difficult than regular accidents. It is important to consult a personal injury attorney who may help you understand your options in a lawsuit and answer other important questions pertaining to your case. Every car accident lawsuit is unique, and there may be other circumstances that apply to you that have not been discussed here.