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What Happens if You Hit an Uninsured Motorist? – Are You Liable?

A worried woman making a phone call after hitting an uninsured motorist to illustrate what happens if you hit an uninsured motorist.

What Should I Do If I Get Into a Crash With an Uninsured Driver?

If you are able, be sure and get as much information as you can about the other driver. Whether you were at fault or not or you live in an at-fault or no-fault state, getting the name, address and phone number of the other driver may be critical down the line for your car insurance claim.

According to current statistics, it’s believed that an estimated 25 percent of drivers on U.S. roads are without auto insurance. A huge and expensive problem for everyone, uninsured motorists causing accidents cost those unfortunately involved not only money in property damage and personal injury, but also in higher insurance premiums for all drivers who are legally insured.

In addition, while uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist insurance coverage is not required in all states, the costs to taxpayers associated with the prosecution of uninsured drivers, including court fees and incarceration, has become an undue burden. Surprisingly, many people don’t fully understand the situation or what happens when an accident occurs involving an uninsured motorist.

In many states, no-fault car insurance is the answer to dealing with uninsured or hit and run drivers. In these states, your insurance takes care of your injuries and damages no matter who caused the crash. In at-fault states, the burden for costs associated with a wreck fall on the driver found to be responsible for the incident.

What is Uninsured Motorist?

Uninsured motorist car insurance coverage (UIM) gives you financial recourse if you get into an accident with a driver who isn’t carrying insurance or if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident. This coverage kicks in to pay for injuries and damages you suffer as a result of a wreck with an uninsured driver in an at-fault state. Some no-fault states also require you carry UIM, even though your own liability is there to help with any injuries and damages you sustain. Many states require UIM.

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Do I Need?

You should carry enough to replace your vehicle and pay for your medical costs in the event of an accident. In states that require it, you’ll need at least the minimum required amount. It’s a good idea to carry this coverage even if it’s not required. To decide an exact amount, talk with your insurance agent.

What Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Cover?

Just like liability insurance, UIM covers medical costs and property damage associated with a covered event, such as a car crash, with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Different states have different rules for other items you can pay for with your UIM coverage, but most commonly, you may use this for funeral expenses, lost wages due to injuries and recuperation, and vehicle repairs.

What If I Cause an Accident with an Uninsured Driver?

In an at-fault state, your insurance will cover their costs – up to your policy limits. In a no-fault state, they may take you to court since they won’t have the insurance necessary to pay for their injuries and damages. On the other hand, they may not want to report the wreck at all, since driving without insurance is a big problem within the legal system and can result in a citation, fines, loss of registration and driver’s license and more.

Should you hit an uninsured motorist, you don’t want to just drive away and forget about it. You have an obligation mandated by most states to report the accident, especially if the damage is over the threshold amount of $1,000. Not only that, if injuries are involved, you could be breaking the law by leaving the scene of an accident. Failing to report the accident altogether can lead to a heavy fine and legal consequences.

Furthermore, if you have insurance in an at-fault state and the accident is your fault, then you’re liable and your insurance company must pay for damages you caused, regardless of whether the other driver has insurance or not. The evident drawback to reporting an accident to your insurer is that your annual premiums are likely to go up. But, it’s still better than facing the possibility of having your coverage dropped or facing legal action.

Young women tears her hair out over a car accident on a wet road

What is the Difference Between Uninsured Motorist Covered and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage means the driver has no insurance at all. Underinsured motorist coverage means the driver has insurance coverage, but it may not be enough to cover injuries and damages that driver causes in a wreck.

Will My Auto Insurance Increase if I File an Uninsured Motorist Claim?

The answer could be yes or no. Many insurance companies will not raise your rates if you are in an accident that is not your fault. If the accident is not your fault and the driver who caused the wreck is uninsured or left the scene, then you shouldn’t get dinged by your car insurance company. In some states, it is expressly against the law for insurance companies to raise rates or deny coverage after a not-at-fault accident.

However, it’s always best to know beforehand how your insurance company is going to act in any circumstance. If you don’t like their policies, you should shop around and compare car insurance companies for more favorable conditions.

Don’t Be the Victim of a Scam

Another thing to watch out for – don’t be a victim of a scam. There are individuals who prey on innocent motorists and set up a “deliberate accidents”. For example, a car speeds up behind you, while another one gets in front of you and slams on the brakes, resulting in a rear-end collision. You’re considered at-fault because you ran into them. The so-called “victim” of the crash will then attempt to file a claim against your insurance company, often reporting more damage than actually exists or a non-life threatening injury. In some instances, they may try to get you to pay them cash to avoid having the accident appear on your record.

Regardless of the circumstances, the safest bet is to call the police to the scene. Although you may be looking at a rate hike, it’s still better than getting suckered by a scam or being accused of breaking the law. Protect yourself and check into adding uninsured/ underinsured coverage to your existing policy.

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