Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver?

Getting into a car accident is bad enough, but getting into an accident caused by someone who doesn’t have insurance is worse. You are not alone if you worry about how you’ll cover the costs of your losses and medical bills and wonder, can you sue an uninsured driver?

“Accidents happen.” This commonly uttered phrase is often heard after a variety of incidents. Some, like a spilled glass of milk or a broken vase, are easily rectified. Wipe up the mess, sweep up the pieces, and move forward. Simply put the incident behind you.

Automobile accidents are another story altogether. A car crash is frightening and even if you walk away relatively unharmed, there can be long-term emotional repercussions. That said, car accidents often result in personal injury as well as damage to your vehicle. Both can be costly.

Some People Don’t Carry Auto Insurance

While it may seem that a simple exchange of insurance information would be an easy fix for an accident, this is not always the case. Insurance claims can be complicated and time-consuming. Even though the state of Washington requires all automobile and motorcycle drivers to carry insurance, not everyone does. In fact, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner of Washington State: “… some drivers may not have enough insurance coverage to pay for all property damage and injuries caused, or they may choose to drive illegally without auto insurance.”

The fact exists that if you are in an automobile accident, the driver at fault may simply be uninsured.

What to Do if You’re in an Accident with an Uninsured Driver

There are Four Things to Do Right Away

Whether you’re in an accident with a driver who is insured or one who isn’t, the first steps to take are the same. If you’re a victim of a car crash, you need to do these things right away:.

  1. Contact First Responders: Call the police and report the accident. If someone is badly injured, call for medical personnel. The adrenaline your body produces in a crash may prevent you from initially feeling pain. Nevertheless, you may very well require emergency assistance, especially if injuries are visible and severe.

  2. Document the Accident: Law enforcement will arrive and write a report. It is critical that you remain at the scene of the accident and speak with them. Even if you believe everyone is uninjured, you should never leave the scene of an accident.
    If you are able, take pictures and/or video of both cars involved and the surrounding area (for example, if you hit a guard rail). More information is better than less. That said, sometimes uninsured motorists will leave the scene immediately (hit and run). If possible, try to identify any information that would help the police, such as model and color of car and license plate numbers.

  3. Exchange Insurance Information: As part of the report, the police will gather information. You should also trade insurance information with the others involved in the accident. Try to take a photo of the insurance card and make sure you get the names and telephone numbers of parties involved.

  4. Contact an Attorney: While dealing with an auto accident should be a simple process, it rarely is — especially when one of the drivers is uninsured. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can make the process both less stressful and more successful.

What if I was in an Accident with an Uninsured Driver?

You Have Two Options to Recover Damages after Getting Hit by an Uninsured Driver

As we mentioned, not everyone in Washington carries auto insurance as mandated by law. If you learn that the person at fault in your accident does not have insurance, you will have one of two options.

  1. Sue Them Directly: Assuming you are able to locate them, you can sue them personally for any damages resulting from the accident. A car accident attorney can represent you and guide you through this process if it is worth your while.

  2. Utilize Your Uninsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage: If you have, as part of your insurance policy, coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists (UM), you can make a claim on that policy. Washington State requires that all insurance companies offer their clients UM. Because many people do not have auto insurance, it is a good idea to have underinsured motorist coverage.

Using Your Uninsured (UM) Coverage

Should you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, your first step is to file a claim with your insurance company. As is usually the case, dealing with an insurance company requires a level of experience to make sure you are adequately communicating the nature and extent of all of your damages. Remember, while it may appear as if they are on your side, the insurance company is a business that is primarily concerned with its bottom line. That is why you need to show the insurance company that it is in their best interest to pay you so that they do not have to go to court.

It is wise to have your attorney handle all communication with the insurance company on your behalf. Car accident attorneys understand both the laws of the State of Washington as well as how the industry works. Therefore, they are much less likely to make a mistake that may be costly.

Understanding why claims may be denied is confusing. Some of the issues that may arise with regard to UM coverage include:

  • Coverage restrictions: Certain types of incidents (perhaps hit and run) may not be covered under some policies.
  • Time constraints: Strict time frames, as established by the insurance company, may govern when you have to file.
  • Submissions confusion: Auto accidents often involve multiple insurance organizations, including both medical insurance and car insurance. Knowing where to submit bills and how to manage the reimbursement process is complicated, especially when dealing with UM coverage.

Your attorney can help explain the situation and manage your claim. Because of all the regulations regarding insurance claims, having him/her involved at the onset is a wise choice.

Talk to an Attorney about Suing an Uninsured Driver

So, the answer to the question “Can you sue an uninsured driver in Washington” is yes. Regardless of whether or not you have uninsured motorist coverage, the advice of an experienced car accident attorney is valuable. He or she will guide you through either directly suing the driver responsible or going through your insurance with a UM claim.

This professional can help you understand exactly what you are legally able to collect. Compensation can include reimbursement for medical expenses and damages to your vehicle. Additionally, you may also be entitled to lost wages and even pain and suffering. The amount you receive will be dependent upon the limits outlined in your auto insurance policy.

What If the Driver Has Insurance, but Not Enough?

Finally, sometimes the individual responsible for your accident will have insurance, but not enough to fully compensate you for your injuries. This is called being underinsured. If this is true in your case, and you have underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), this policy may cover damages not reimbursed because of the shortfall. Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is usually combined with uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in your auto insurance policy. The combined coverage is often designated as UM/UIM in your auto insurance policy.

If you have been in a car accident in Washington State with an uninsured motorist, contact the attorneys at Montoya Hinckley today at 509-895-7373. We have decades of local experience and are well-known for our ability to help our clients navigate the complicated insurance process and receive appropriate compensation. Accidents are stressful, and recovery can be difficult. Let us handle the insurance details so you can concentrate on getting well.

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