​Is It Worth Suing an Uninsured Driver?

March 22, 2024 | David Abels
​Is It Worth Suing an Uninsured Driver?

Many drivers continue to operate their vehicles without carrying the insurance coverage required by law. Whether they are ignoring the law or simply can't afford vehicle insurance, they create situations where innocent people may be harmed without the financial means to pay for their injuries.

If an uninsured driver caused an accident and injured you, you are probably wondering, is it worth suing an uninsured driver for compensation? Let's review your potential legal options and the hurdles you may face when you consider suing an uninsured driver for damages.

First, When is Auto Insurance Required?

Did you know that New Hampshire is the only state in the country that does not require residents to have car insurance or even prove they can cover liability in an automobile accident? Alaska also exempts some residents from car insurance when they live in areas not connected by land to the state highway system or roads with an average daily traffic volume greater than 499 vehicles.

Other than those two unusual exceptions, every US state has passed laws requiring motorists and vehicle owners to maintain certain minimum insurance coverage. According to Illinois law, drivers must maintain bodily injury (BI) coverage of at least $25,000 per person per accident and $50,000 total BI coverage per accident. The minimum property damage (PD) coverage required is $20,000 to help prepare or replace someone else's damaged property.

Following an automobile accident with an uninsured driver, most people wonder what options they will have when the other driver is at fault, and the accident caused serious injuries or immense property damage, or both. If you were involved in a crash with an uninsured driver in Chicago, contact an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer who knows the most effective ways to recover financial compensation in these challenging cases.​

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Why You Need a Lawyer for an Accident With an Uninsured Driver

Although automobile insurance is mandatory in almost every state in the nation, many people without insurance coverage act negligently and cause crashes that injure other people. If you were involved in a car accident caused by another driver who did not have car insurance coverage, you should find legal representation as soon as possible. A personal injury lawyer can greatly affect your ability to receive any financial compensation, so act now to find the best Chicago personal injury lawyer near you.

Even when you have uninsured motorist coverage as part of your insurance plan, you may still need legal assistance if your insurance company refuses to fully compensate you for your losses. You can usually call an attorney or contact them online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and get a better understanding of your options.​

Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver?

The short, unhelpful answer is yes, you can sue an uninsured driver for causing an accident that led to your injuries and financial losses. However, bringing a lawsuit directly against the uninsured driver will likely be a waste of time since, chances are, they will not be able to pay for your losses without insurance coverage. Unless the other driver is independently wealthy, insurance coverage is the only likely source of any legal compensation for your injuries.

Keep in mind, if you file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver, and the driver is uninsured simply because they cannot afford insurance, there's a good chance the driver will not pay and may even file for bankruptcy to avoid liability. Even if the other driver claims they do not have the money to pay any judgment you receive in a lawsuit, you may still have two options.

First, you can file for a lien on the uninsured driver’s property, which will mean their assets become frozen and cannot be sold or spent, and you must be paid if they sell the property. In other cases, you might enter into a payment plan when the at-fault driver cannot pay the judgment immediately but can pay you a smaller amount every week or month.​

If a driver lost their insurance coverage because their policy lapsed and they have significant resources, you may be able to recover compensation. This is another great reason why you need to work with a skilled lawyer who can determine whether a lawsuit is worth your time.

What are Your Options Following an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

Tap Into Your Own Uninsured Driver Coverage

In most cases, if you carry uninsured motorist coverage on your own insurance policy, that will be your best avenue for recovering any compensation relating to an accident caused by an uninsured driver. Also, it's important to understand that uninsured motorist coverage is not the same as underinsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured coverage applies to accidents caused by drivers who did not have any automobile insurance coverage at the time of the crash. An underinsured policy will only pay you when another driver’s liability limits are too low to cover the total costs of all your damages.

Important: Be Aware of Any Insurance Policy Time Constraints

Most automobile insurance companies offer uninsured motorist coverage, but they may limit the time you have to file an uninsured motorist claim. This limit may be as short as 30 days in some cases. If you don't report your accident or file a claim within the time limit specified in the policy, the insurer may deny your claim entirely.

What About PIP Insurance?

Another possible insurance avenue after a crash with an uninsured driver can be personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which many “no-fault” automobile insurance states require drivers to carry. PIP insurance covers the costs of injuries and disabilities in an accident without regard to who was at fault. This coverage may be the primary payment source for medical care and income replacement, even before you pursue an uninsured motorist claim.

Many PIP insurance policies require people to quickly seek medical attention for an injury to preserve their rights. If the injured person waits to see a doctor, they may lose any PIP coverage benefits. You might have other insurance coverage even if you don't have a PIP policy.

For example, your health insurance policy may cover a portion of the medical costs of accident-related injuries, although this coverage may not apply until you have exhausted your PIP coverage or a deductible. Long-term disability insurance can also pay for long-term care and replace part of your income if your car accident injuries leave you disabled.

Another option might be workers' compensation insurance benefits, which might apply if you sustained injuries in a car accident while you were working. This coverage is only available if your employer carries workers' compensation insurance.

Is Suing an Uninsured Driver For Damages the Only Way to Recoup Losses?

No. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your crash, you may also have the opportunity to hold third parties liable. For example, a collision involving an uninsured, intoxicated driver could lead to a claim against the bar or restaurant that served them.

Or, if the uninsured driver caused a crash because their vehicle had a defective part, the automobile maker or part manufacturer could also be held liable for your losses. In some cases, government agencies may bear responsibility for failing to warn drivers about hazardous conditions.

In some cases, your insurance company may decide to subrogate your claim. This means the insurer will sue the other driver rather than leave it to you to recoup your damages.

Problems You Might Face With Insurance Companies

Even if you have uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance company may begin working against you because insurers will try to avoid paying claims whenever possible. As already mentioned, the first thing an insurance company will look at is when you filed your claim. Any claims filed after the company's deadline will probably be denied.

Your own insurance company may also make an unsatisfactory settlement offer. In these cases, you may head into arbitration, This is a process where your lawyer presents your case to a single arbitrator or a panel of unbiased decision-makers.

Arbitrators effectively act like judges. They will review your policy terms, receive evidence, and consider legal arguments. Under binding arbitration, you are stuck with the outcome.

Beyond your insurance company undervaluing your claim, it may also deny your claim outright without any objective justification. Some insurers may not thoroughly investigate your crash, while others may misinterpret policy provisions in order to deny payment.

What Compensation Can You Receive After an Auto Accident?

In general, you should receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Ambulance fees
  • Costs of hospital stays
  • Costs of surgical procedures
  • Emergency room treatment costs
  • Medication costs
  • Nursing services.
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anxiety
  • Emotional distress
  • Property repair or replacement

Filing a claim with your own insurance company should not affect your premiums. An attorney will know when an insurer acts in bad faith and can help you fight for appropriate compensation.

Most personal injury lawyers will not charge upfront fees to handle your case because they accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means they only receive payment when they recover a financial award for you. Under these agreements, injured victims do not pay anything upfront and do not pay anything until the case is resolved.​

Resources & Statistics for Accidents with Uninsured Drivers

Accidents can happen in any state - whether you are a resident or only visiting. Below are some important resources, statistics, and facts about uninsured motorists in different states.

One in Eight Drivers are Uninsured - The Insurance Research Council (IRC) issued a press release showing that one in eight drivers in a recent year drove without insurance. At that time, the national uninsured motorist rate was 12.6 percent.

While national uninsured motorist rates increased only 1.2 percent over the last five years, the states with the most significant increases included:

  • Washington (6.9 percent)
  • Rhode Island (6.8 percent)
  • Mississippi (6.4 percent)

The states with the most significant decreases in auto insurance coverage include:

  • Michigan (10.1 percent)
  • Delaware (2.9 percent)

The five highest uninsured rates in the country were:

  • Mississippi (29.4 percent)
  • Michigan (25.5 percent)
  • Tennessee (23.7 percent)
  • New Mexico (21.8 percent)
  • Washington (21.7 percent)

The five lowest were:

  • New Jersey (3.1 percent)
  • Massachusetts (3.5 percent)
  • New York (4.1 percent)
  • Maine (4.9 percent)
  • Wyoming (5.8 percent)

In any state, you never know when other drivers have insurance or not, and an uninsured driver crashing into you can cause many complications.

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance by State - Kelley Blue Book (KBB) - In this guide, you can view a complete list of state-by-state penalties for driving without insurance, including fines, imprisonment, registration suspension, and license suspension.

States in which drivers have license plates confiscated or turned in for driving without insurance include:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii (after multiple offenses)
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Nevada
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia (if the driver has not paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee)

States that impound uninsured vehicles include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii (after multiple offenses)
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon.

States that add points to driving records for driving without insurance include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii (after multiple offenses)
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon

States requiring drivers to get SR-22 proof of insurance coverage for driving without insurance include:

  • Florida
  • Georgia (after multiple offenses)
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada (if insurance has lapsed for 91 days or longer)
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas (after multiple offenses)
  • Vermont
  • Virginia (if a driver did not pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee)
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming.

Facts + Statistics: Uninsured motorists - Insurance Information Institute (III)- On this page, you can learn more about the estimated percentage of uninsured motorists for the past few decades, as well as the estimated rate of uninsured motorists by state.

You can also find automobile financial responsibility limits by state, with Alaska and Massachusetts both having the highest requirements of coverage, including up to $100,000 for all persons injured in an accident, subject to a limit of $50,000 for one individual, and $25,000 coverage for property damage.

Meanwhile, Florida had the lowest requirements of coverage, up to $20,000 for all persons injured in an accident, subject to a limit of $10,000 for one individual, and California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all had the lowest coverage for property damage with only $5,000.

We are Car Accident Attorneys Who Handle Claims With Uninsured Drivers

Dave Abels Lawyer
Auto Accident lawyer Dave Abels

Did you recently suffer serious injuries or incur significant damage to your vehicle in an automobile accident caused by an insured motorist? To protect your rights and learn if you can bring legal action for damages, reach out to a personal injury lawyer who has experience handling uninsured accident claims.

When you have a tenacious attorney on your side, you will dramatically increase your chances of recovering compensation for your losses and holding the negligent party accountable.

Call the car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. at (312) 924-7575 or contact us online for a free consultation today. When we meet, you can fully explain everything that happened and get complete insights into what our car accident attorneys can do for you.

Too many people think the situation is hopeless when another driver has no insurance. They might also assume they can handle an uninsured motorist claim alone. These are both mistaken beliefs.

The best course of action is always to consult a legal professional. Leave it to the car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C., to determine your best options for compensation.

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David Abels

Partner

David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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