I got hit by an uninsured driver. What can I do to repair the damage?

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Question:

I got hit by an uninsured driver. What can I do to repair the damage?

Answer:

If your car is damaged after an accident with an uninsured driver, you have a few options.

First, you can sue the other driver in small claims court (assuming the amount that is at stake is under the dollar amount limit that your local court puts on small claims). That would involve presenting your case to a judge -- which would include introducing evidence like photos, police reports, vehicle repair estimates, and witness statements, if you have them -- and hopefully ending up with a judgment in your favor.

But getting a judgment in your favor and actually collecting on that judgment are two very different things. People who drive around without car insurance (which is against the law in most states) may not have a lot of extra money lying around, or they may not have much in the way of assets, so collecting could be an uphill battle.

The other option is to file a collision coverage claim under your own car insurance policy. As long as the cost of repairing your vehicle is within the limits of your collision coverage, your insurance company will pay the full amount, but you will need to pay any applicable deductible. For example, let’s say you’ve got $25,000 in collision coverage, with a $500 deductible, and it’s going to cost $5,000 to get your car fixed. Your insurer will pay your claim in the amount of $4,500, and you’ll need to pay the additional $500.

You can then turn around and sue the uninsured driver to get your $500 deductible back, and you may have a better chance of collecting that $500 than you would the full $5,000.

What about uninsured motorist insurance? While it’s usually a good idea to carry UIM, in most states this coverage only applies to bodily injury after a car accident, not vehicle damage. Depending on where you live, and who your insurance carrier is, you may be able to purchase separate “uninsured motorist property damage,” but standard UIM coverage does not typically apply when you just want to get your car fixed.       

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