Unfortunately, there are numerous cars and drivers on the road today without liability insurance -- in large part because of the inflated cost of that insurance. If you have an accident with an uninsured vehicle or driver, the place to turn for compensation for your injuries is the uninsured motorist (UM) coverage of your own vehicle insurance policy. That coverage might even pay for the damage to your vehicle -- though you must check the specific language In your policy to see whether, and under what terms, your UM coverage pays for property damage. If property damage is not included in your UM coverage, you can look for property damage compensation under the collision coverage of your policy. If your uninsured motorist coverage does not include property damage and you do not carry collision coverage, you will have to pay out of your own pocket for damage to your vehicle.
This article provides an overview of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. To learn about underinsured motorist insurance, check out the article Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How It Works.
Most uninsured motorist coverage will pay up to your policy's UM limits for injuries caused to:
• you while driving or riding in the vehicle named in your policy, while driving or riding in any vehicle you do not own, or while a pedestrian
• a relative who lives with you and is injured while driving or riding in the vehicle named in your policy
• anyone else riding in or driving your insured vehicle with your permission, or
• anyone riding in a vehicle you are driving but do not own.
UM coverage places limits on when you may collect compensation and on how much you may receive:
• Some UM coverage includes accidents with unidentified hit-and-run drivers. Such coverage doesn't apply unless you or your vehicle was actually hit by the other car; being forced off the road by a driver who disappears is not sufficient. If your UM coverage includes hit-and-runs, your policy probably requires you to notify the police within 24 hours of the accident.
• Other UM coverage includes hit-and-runs only when you are able to identify the driver or the vehicle.
• If you are injured while on the job, your UM payments will be reduced by any workers' compensation or other disability payments you receive.
• If you receive payments for medical bills from your own insurance company under medical payments coverage, the amount you are entitled to recover under UM coverage will be reduced by the amount of those medical payments.
• If you or a relative is injured by an uninsured motorist while you are in another person's car, the UM coverage of that other car's owner is the primary coverage, and your own UM coverage is secondary. You can collect from your own UM coverage only the amount of your damages that is not covered by that car owner's UM policy.
If you file a claim under your UM coverage, an insurance adjuster from your insurance company will handle your claim just as if it were a regular liability claim. You will negotiate with the adjuster about the other person's liability, the extent of your own comparative negligence, and the extent of your injuries and other damages.
For more tips on figuring out insurance coverage after a car accident, and in-depth information on what to expect at every step in your case, get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo). And if you're thinking about filing a lawsuit after a car accident, you may want to consider talking with a personal injury attorney to make sure that all your legal bases are covered and your rights are protected.