When you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may sustain a variety of damages. In most cases, the insurance company for the driver responsible for causing the car accident compensates you for these damages. However, what happens when the other driver does not have insurance coverage?
Contact the Mobile car accident lawyers at Lattof & Lattof, P.C. for help. Our attorneys can help you sort through the issues and questions related to an uninsured driver accident. We offer a free consultation, so give us a call today at (251) 432-6691 to schedule a time to discuss your case with an attorney.
Are Accidents Involving Uninsured Drivers Common In Alabama?
It is estimated that about one in eight drivers is uninsured. Based on 2015 data from the Insurance Information Institute, Alabama ranked number six in the nation for the highest number of uninsured motorists. Sadly, many drivers in Alabama fail to purchase the required car liability insurance.
Under Alabama laws, drivers must maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance. The current automobile insurance requirements in Alabama are:
- $25,000 in liability insurance for injury to one person in the accident;
- $50,000 in liability insurance for injuries per accident; and,
- $25,000 in liability insurance for property damage per accident.
Drivers who fail to maintain liability insurance face various penalties, including fines and driver’s license suspension. They may also be held personally liable for damages in a civil lawsuit.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Help in Accidents Involving Uninsured Drivers?
Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) protects you if you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. Your insurance company stands in the “shoes” of the at-fault driver. It compensates you for your damages and losses as if it insured the driver who caused the accident.
You are not required to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in Alabama. However, all insurance companies must offer UM coverage. You may opt-out of the coverage in writing.
Why Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If an uninsured driver causes an accident, you could sustain traumatic injuries. The financial costs could be substantial. Without uninsured motorist coverage, you could be personally liable for your financial damages after an accident caused by an uninsured driver.
However, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance provider. Your insurance provider pays covered damages up to your policy limits. The policy limits and deductibles are chosen when you purchase the UM policy.
UM coverage also protects you if you are involved in a hit and run accident that is not your fault. Your insurance company would treat the hit and run accident as an uninsured driver claim.
Uninsured motorist coverage is generally inexpensive compared to the coverage you receive. Because of the potential damages you could face because of an uninsured driver, it is wise to carry UM coverage in an amount that you can afford based on your personal budget.
What Damages Can I Include in an Uninsured Accident Claim?
The damages you can include in an uninsured motorist claim are the same damages you can include in a claim filed against an at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage. Damages in an uninsured motorist insurance claim include, but are not limited to:
- Cost of medical care
- Loss of income
- Cost of personal care
- Physical suffering and pain
- Emotional distress and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability and permanent impairment
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Other financial losses or out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident
The amount of your claim depends on the severity of your injuries, your financial losses, and other factors. However, the claim is subject to your policy limits and conditions.
What About Med-Pay or PIP Coverage After an Uninsured Driving Accident?
Med-Pay and PIP coverage are no-fault insurance policies that are optional in Alabama. These policies compensate you regardless of who is at-fault for a car accident. The policies typically cover medical expenses and loss of income claims.
Because the policies are no-fault insurance policies, you do not need to prove that the other driver caused the accident to receive benefits. Benefits are paid quickly, so they can help pay for necessary medical care and reimburse you for loss of income while you work on filing an uninsured motorist claim.
Who Pays for the Property Damage to My Vehicle?
Your uninsured motorist coverage should pay for the property damage to your vehicle once you prove that the uninsured driver caused the car accident. However, if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, you may need to file a claim under your collision coverage.
Collision coverage pays for repairs or the loss of a vehicle in an accident that was your fault. Your insurance company may pay to repair or replace your car under your collision policy while you fight to recover compensation from the uninsured driver. If you do receive compensation from the uninsured driver, your insurance company will likely file a subrogation claim.
A subrogation claim seeks reimbursement from the proceeds you receive from the other driver or an insurance company that reimburses you for property damages covered by your collision insurance.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against the Uninsured Driver?
Yes, you can file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver in Alabama for losses and damages caused by a car accident. However, whether you can collect on a judgment is a different issue.
Once you obtain the judgment, you must try to collect on the judgment. If the uninsured driver does not have sufficient income or resources to pay the judgment, you may have a worthless piece of paper.
An Alabama car accident lawyer can help you decide if filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver is worthwhile. It may be more worthwhile to pursue other options for compensation, such as claims against your insurance coverage or other third-party claims, if applicable in your case.
You Have A Limited time to File Lawsuits Related to Uninsured Car Accident Claims
As in other car accident claims, you have just two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit related to uninsured car accident claims. If you do not file your lawsuit before the expiration of the Statute of Limitations, any subsequent lawsuit could be dismissed.
Because deadlines to file lawsuits can be different based on the unique facts of a case, it is best to contact an Alabama car accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. Waiting too long to contact an attorney could result in the loss of legal rights.
You May Not Be Eligible to Receive Compensation if You Contributed to the Accident
Yes, Alabama’s pure contributory negligence laws apply in uninsured motorist claims. Therefore, if your insurance company proves that you contributed to the cause of the uninsured accident in any way, it can deny your entire uninsured motorist accident claim.
Remember, your insurance provider stands in the “shoes” of the other driver. Therefore, it can use the same defenses the other driver could use against your claim, including contributory negligence. Therefore, you want to be very cautious when dealing with your insurance company.
It is best to avoid making statements or discussing the accident with an insurance claims adjuster until after you speak with a car accident attorney.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver
Most of the steps that you take after an accident with an uninsured driver are the same steps you would take after any traffic accident:
- Call 911 to report the accident and request police and EMS.
- Take photographs or make a video of the vehicles and the accident scene.
- Do not admit fault, say you are sorry or discuss the accident with the witnesses.
- Ask eyewitnesses for their names and contact information.
- Seek medical attention for your injuries. Delays in medical care could hurt your accident claim.
- Document your damages and physical injuries. Photograph physical injuries and keep copies of all documents related to the accident.
- Write down the details of the accident and statements made by the other driver and witnesses while they are fresh on your mind.
- Avoid using social media or discussing the accident with anyone, including providing statements to an insurance company.
- Contact an Alabama car accident lawyer immediately to discuss your options and legal rights.
Hire an Alabama Accident Lawyer for an Uninsured Driver Claim
Even though you may be filing a claim against your own insurance provider, it is wise to consult an attorney before proceeding with a claim. You are not dealing with your insurance agent. You are dealing with a claims adjuster whose job is to pay as little as possible to settle your claim.
Also, an attorney evaluates the case to determine if there may be other options for recovering compensation for your damages and losses. Because you could be personally liable for medical bills and other financial losses, it helps to have a legal team working on your behalf to secure maximum compensation from all parties who might be liable for your damages.
Contact Lattof & Lattof to schedule a free consultation with an Alabama injury attorney to discuss your car accident claim involving an uninsured driver.