Vehicle insurance may be required in every state, but one out of every seven drivers is uninsured nationwide. In some states, you run an even greater risk of encountering an uninsured driver: in Mississippi, more than one in four people on the road don’t have insurance. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you recover as much as possible for damages when you have an accident involving an uninsured driver.
What to Do Immediately After the Accident
Once you’ve called 911 and made sure everyone is OK, it’s time to start gathering information:
- The name, address and driver’s license number of the other driver involved in the accident.
- The license plate numbers of the cars involved.
- The damage done to the vehicles.
- Other information that fixes the time and location of the accident.
That may be a lot to remember, but you can record it all by taking a few photos with your smartphone. If you don’t feel safe talking to the other driver or they don’t want to give out information, wait for the police to arrive.
Generating a Police Report
The police will look at the accident to determine how it happened and interview witnesses for more information. From there, they will create a police report that will describe the accident and determine who was at fault. Get a copy of the report for your records: it’s usually available from the police office a couple days after the accident. If your insurance company is involved, they will also get a copy.
Who Pays for Damages?
Your state will follow one of two types of insurance laws: tort (civil wrong) or no-fault. 12 states have no-fault laws, while the rest use tort laws. Payment is almost always determined by the laws in the state you live, no matter where the accident occurred.
With tort law, the person who was at fault pays for the accident. If that person has insurance coverage, their insurance pays. If you’re hit by an uninsured motorist, and the police determined the accident wasn’t your fault, one of two things will happen. If you have coverage for under-insured or uninsured motorists in your insurance policy, your insurance will pay for the damages. If you don’t have that coverage, you could sue the driver, but chances are that if they don’t have insurance, they also don’t have much in the way of assets.
In states with no-fault laws, damages are split between the people involved regardless of who caused the accident. That means your insurance will pay for at least some of the damages whether or not the other driver has coverage, and they’ll pay even more if you have coverage for under-insured or uninsured motorists. States with no-fault laws have heavy restrictions on lawsuits, so you can’t sue the other driver unless there were severe damages or expensive medical bills.
Even if you don’t sue, your insurance company may take legal action to recover damages from the other driver. That means you may still need to appear in court.
Getting Outside Help
The laws that apply to the accident can get confusing, especially when multiple states are involved. For example, it may be easier to sue in a no-fault state if you live in a tort state. If you’re considering legal action, get the advice of an accident attorney.
The auto body shop you choose to repair your car can also make a difference. Your insurance agent may make a basic assessment of the damage when making a claim, but the actual damage is determined by the assessors and technicians working at the shop. Your best bet is to work with a shop that has the training and experience to identify key repair issues and come up with an accurate estimate of repair time and cost to get your vehicle back on the road.
Next to the police report, this assessment is your best tool for getting compensation for vehicle damage. Stop by or give us a call to schedule your free estimate at (262) 538-1319. If your car is undrivable, we also offer a towing service.