Letter to the Editors: I Was Hit By an Uninsured Driver – Now What?

In the downtown area of my college’s town, people are known to drive recklessly and sometimes even while drunk. It’s not unheard of for fender-benders to happen. For the past three years, I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to avoid getting in one myself. Unfortunately, a stroke of bad luck hit me recently and I was in a collision that left my car pretty much totaled.

I’m grateful to be alive and (mostly) unharmed, but when I learned that the other driver, another student, wasn’t insured, it shocked me. Our state requires all drivers to have car insurance by law. I guess I’m a bit naive since I didn’t realize how many people manage to find loopholes.

I’m in a bit of a bind, to say the least. The other driver has no liability insurance and I have no way to pay for the damage to the vehicle which I rely on to get to class, to work, and back home for holidays. I don’t know what to do. Help!

In 2011, a study by the Insurance Research Council indicated that this is not atypical. Statistics show that during times of economic disparity, the rates of drivers who attempt to get by without automobile liability insurance skyrocket. In 2009, a year after the Great Recession, one in every seven drivers was taking their chances without insurance. Seemingly, when times are tough, people don’t simply sell their cars or downgrade; they try to cut corners and hope for the best.

An uninsured driver who cruises along without causing any accidents may be able to escape the notice of authorities and other people on the road. It is only when they make mistakes that their choices can have devastating consequences. For the law-abiding, insured driver like yourself, their deliberate evasion of state law isn’t quite so easy to ignore, as you wind up saddled with expensive medical bills and costs to repair or replace your vehicle.

Working with the assumption that you do not have uninsured motorist coverage added to your own insurance plan (which would entitle you to more compensation from your insurer), you have a few alternative options.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to sue the driver for damages under tort or civil insurance laws. Even though the other driver doesn’t have insurance, if they are still at fault for the accident, you can attempt to sue them for damages. Unfortunately, a driver without insurance likely doesn’t have much in the way of assets, so your personal injury attorney is likely to advise against pursuing a lawsuit.

In most cases, it is a waste of money, time, and energy, since the case is dead on arrival. Even if you do successfully sue, you won’t end up with a lot, and as a college student trying to replace your main mode of transportation, there’s a pretty fair chance you have other things on your mind. Even so, this is often your best chance for getting some compensation.

If you live in a no-fault state, your options are somewhat more limited. In no-fault states, your insurer is required to cover medical expenses and losses resulting from the vehicular accident, no matter who was at fault. This seems like a better system in theory, but there is one glaring flaw: in most no-fault states, vehicle damage isn’t covered.

One exception is Michigan, but even there, damage cannot result from collisions involving two moving cars. You will only be covered if your vehicle was parked when the damage to someone else’s property occurred.

After weighing the options with a responsible attorney, such as those who work at the Davis Kelin Law Firm in the tort state New Mexico, you may wish to pursue legal action or buckle down and pay the fees yourself. Either way, you’re likely going to have to rely on Uber, Lyft, or public transit to get around for the next few months.

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