Table of Contents
- 1 Overview
- 2 What happens when an uninsured motorist is at fault for an accident?
- 3 Does uninsured motorist cover hit and run?
- 4 Penalties for uninsured motorists
- 5 Penalties for accidents caused by uninsured motorists
- 6 Steps taken by the government to control the number of uninsured motorists
- 7 Alternatives to Uninsured Driving
- 8 Conclusion
Accidents are always unwelcomed surprises. Physical injuries, mental trauma, loss of earnings, and a heap of medical bills would be strong enough to make your life turbulent. Your only hope would be compensating your damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Adding fuel to the fire, what if the other party is an uninsured motorist?
For your better understanding, uninsured motorists are drivers who does not carry any liability car insurance to protect others on the road if they cause an accident. Are you mystified how an uninsured motorist can determine the fate of an accident claim? Certainly, they can, in claims where uninsured motorists are the defendants.
To make it clear, let us check some facts and figures. According to a survey published by the Insurance Research Council in 2021, one out of every eight drivers in the U.S. does not have auto insurance in 2019. In Texas, one out of every five vehicles are uninsured. This indicates that the problem of uninsured motorists is widespread all over the U.S. Elaborating that, let’s now take a dekko at some figures from the table given below. The Source of this data is the survey done by Insurance Research Council in 2019.
What happens when an uninsured motorist is at fault for an accident?
In collisions involving uninsured motorists, uninsured motorist coverage of the victim/plaintiff reimburses him. It helps protect the finances of the victim in such accidents. Coverage for uninsured motorists is mandatorily required in twenty states and the District of Columbia.
Having understood the gravity of the issue of uninsured motorists in the United States, let us find out how they affect the auto insurance rates. Uninsured motorists increase the cost of insurance for those who possess liability car insurance.
Claims involving uninsured motorists have totaled $2.6 billion in 2012, a 75 percent rise from the preceding decade. In 2016, insured motorists had paid more than $13 billion towards uninsured motorist coverage- says the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Insurance companies bear most of these costs, which are passed on to insured drivers in the form of higher insurance premium rates. Now you would have got a better view of the scenario.
To know further on uninsured motorists, it is essential to have an idea on two add on services in auto insurance policies. They are
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
- Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
These two coverage types are related and may be found to overlap with each other.
- Uninsured Motorist (UM)Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is a part of a vehicle insurance policy that protects the policyholders in a collision with uninsured drivers. In simple terms, it is an add-on to your auto insurance, covering you from accidents caused by a driver who is not insured. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is required in nineteen states and Washington, D.C.
The truth about uninsured motorist coverage is that, if the at-fault driver involved in your accident is uninsured, lacking of an Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage may end up in meeting all your medical expenses and bills from your pocket. Having this feature in your auto insurance policy would help you manage the financial burden of an accident.
Uninsured motorist coverage would cover the following damages due to an accident.
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Funeral expenses
There are four types of coverage under uninsured motorist coverage. They are
- Uninsured motorists bodily injury (UM or UMBI) — applies when an uninsured driver is at fault in a car accident, causing an injury in you.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) — covers when your car is damaged by a crash caused by someone who doesn’t have insurance.
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIM or UIMBI) — applies if another driver causes a car accident and does not have adequate liability insurance to cover all your expenses related to the crash.
- Underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD) — covers damages to your car if it’s hit by someone who does not carry enough liability insurance.
- Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
When you are involved in an accident caused by an at-fault driver whose liability limits are insufficient to cover your medical expenses, underinsured motorist coverage kicks in. The at-fault driver’s insurance will typically cover all damages up to his auto insurance policy limits. If the at-fault party’s policy has a limit that is less than the value of the damages, the injured party’s underinsured motorist coverage will cover the difference.
Does uninsured motorist cover hit and run?
A hit-and-run is an accident in which the at-fault motorist purposely flees the crash scene without leaving contact information or stopping to assist the victim who has been hurt in the collision. The relationship between a hit-and-run and our matter of discussion is that it is covered under uninsured motorists.
The intricacy of a hit-and-run is that it is impossible to spot out the at-fault driver most of the time. In that case, you will file a claim against your own insurance company through the possibility of uninsured motorist coverage. Keep in mind that the insurance company’s liability will be restricted by the amount of uninsured motorist policy you have acquired. If you cannot settle your claim, you may have to file a lawsuit against them.
A hit-and-run accident is covered under Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) Coverage or Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) Coverage. Medical bills and lost wages are often covered by UMBI. In some cases, damages to the car during a hit-and-run is covered by Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) Coverage.
Penalties for uninsured motorists
Penalties for uninsured motorists may vary from state to state. Fines, imprisonment, suspension of registration, and suspension of license are the typical penalties. Three chances are given for the uninsured drivers, and the penalties may vary accordingly.
Fines for uninsured motorists range from $30 like in Florida and may extent up to $5,000 like that in West Virginia. Jail time given is 10 days in some states like Montana which may extent up to one year like that in Georgia. Suspension of registration and license is common for all the states.
An uninsured motorist would be identified as a high-risk driver, and he would have to pay a higher premium once he gets auto insurance the next time. In California, uninsured motorists would have to pay a 36 percent higher premium in their auto insurance.
Having discussed the details of penalties and legal consequences of being uninsured motorists in the U.S, let us get to learn about some exceptions. If you can show proof of financial responsibility, you may be able to avoid having to get auto insurance in Virginia and New Hampshire. It means that uninsured motorists from low-income households are not considered illegal under the law. In Virginia, car insurance is not mandatory, and a penalty of $500 is charged as an uninsured motorist fee in the state.
Penalties for accidents caused by uninsured motorists
The expense of an accident while driving uninsured can be substantially higher. Uninsured motorists who harm or kill other drivers may face hefty penalties, SR-22 requirements, and prison time. The penalty is different for each state in the United States.
If the victim does not have uninsured motorists insurance, personal injury protection, or collision coverage, an accident could quickly cost tens of thousands of dollars in terms of vehicle repair and medical expenses. If the uninsured driver is at fault, he would be liable for all those expenses. The other driver may file a personal injury lawsuit against him which would cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In California, a fine amount of $360- $720 would be charged for the uninsured motorist involved in accidents. The license would be suspended for one year, after which it needs to be reinstated, maintaining an SR-22 for three years. The court may also order impoundment of vehicle, and the uninsured driver would be imposed 100% liability for other the plaintiff’s medical and vehicle expenses.
In New York, a fine of $150–1500 and an additional civil penalty fee of $750 is charged for uninsured motorists causing accidents. License and registration will be revoked, which may be for 1-3 years. Imprisonment of a minimum of 15 days would be given. Under certain circumstances, the court may also order impoundment of the vehicle.
Consulting an attorney for uninsured motorists would be the wise decision if you are uninsured and at fault for an accident.
Steps taken by the government to control the number of uninsured motorists
Apart from the enormous fines and license suspension, different states have tried various approaches to prevent the alarming increase in the number of uninsured motorists. These steps are intended to encourage and make all drivers purchase automobile insurance. Some states require drivers to provide proof of insurance when registering their vehicles.
Ten states, including California, Michigan, and Alaska, have enforced “no pay, no play” statutes that limit uninsured motorists from pursuing lawsuits if they are involved in accidents with insured drivers. However, this had only a minor impact on uninsured motorists and insurance rates.
More than half of the states have approved laws and begun designing and implementing online car insurance verification systems to identify uninsured drivers. For instance, in Texas, the Texas Legislature had directed the Texas Department of Insurance to create TexasSure. It maintains a database that links every registered car in the state by license plate, VIN, and liability insurance policy. This permits law enforcement officers to identify and spot out uninsured motorists.
Other states had demanded the insurance companies provide data on all insured drivers. This is implemented to find out the uninsured motorists by creating a database of the number of registered vehicles with insurance coverage. However, in some circumstances, states lack the resources necessary to carry out the mandates. They had not given the expected results in reducing the number of uninsured motorists in the country.
Alternatives to Uninsured Driving
To encourage everyone to have insurance and to reduce the population of uninsured motorists, insurance companies also offer user-friendly policies and premium rates. Military members, students with positive grades, Individuals with positive payment history and satisfactory driving history may receive a discount in insurance premiums. Some insurance companies are also offering low-mileage use discounts.
Negotiating with your insurance provider may also help you get better car insurance schemes with a less financial burden. Another strategy is to reduce the coverage of your auto insurance policy. This would increase the financial risk if you ever meet with an accident. However, many people opt to reduce the policy coverage than being uninsured motorists and facing the legal consequences.
I hope this blog has helped you understand how critical it is a car insurance and the legal aftermath uninsured motorists could face. Purchasing car insurance is essential for your personal safety to keep you, your family, and anybody else in your vehicle safe.
If you don’t have insurance and get into an accident, you will almost certainly end up in court. Even if you have insurance, you may still have to go to court if the accident is severe and causes significant damage. However, if you lose the lawsuit, the damage will be covered by your car insurance if you have one. If you are at fault for the collision and do not have insurance, the other driver will be covered by his uninsured motorist coverage if he has it.