What If I'm Hit By an Uninsured Driver?

If your car accident was caused by an uninsured driver, your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage will kick in, if you have it. If your car insurance policy doesn't include UM coverage, your options are limited.

By , J.D.
Was a police report filed?
  • Thousands of drivers on the road today carry no car insurance on their vehicles, in part because of the cost of coverage.

    • If you get into a car accident with an uninsured driver, the first and best place to turn for compensation for your injuries is the uninsured motorist (UM) coverage of your own car insurance policy.
    • If you don't have UM coverage (it's not required in most states), you still have options.
    • A UM claim with your own car insurance company covers some (but usually not all) losses resulting from an accident in which the at-fault driver is uninsured, up to your coverage limits.

    Uninsured Motorist Coverage Basics

    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.

    Complications can arise (including when the injured person has their own car insurance coverage), but those are the basic rules.

    The Limits of UM Coverage

    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 usually 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.

    Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Apply to Vehicle Damage?

    Most standard uninsured motorist coverage applies only to injuries and related losses after a car accident. If you want to make sure vehicle damage is covered if you're hit by an uninsured driver, you probably need to ask your insurance company about purchasing separate "uninsured motorist property damage" coverage. With this kind of coverage, you'll be able to get your car fixed (or replaced if the damage is bad enough) when you're hit by an uninsured driver.

    If you have collision coverage as part of your car insurance policy, that will also kick in to pay for vehicle repair/replacement after a car accident, regardless of who was at fault. So that's another option when you're hit by an uninsured driver.

    If your uninsured motorist coverage doesn't cover property damage, and you don't have collision coverage, you'll likely have to pay out of your own pocket for damage to your vehicle.

    The Uninsured Motorist Claim Process

    If you file a claim under your UM coverage, an insurance adjuster from your insurance company will handle your claim and work toward a satisfactory settlement, but you'll likely find the process to be significantly less adversarial than it might be if you were dealing with someone else's insurer.

    You might negotiate with the adjuster about the extent of the other driver's liability for the accident, but the majority of the process will probably be devoted to establishing the nature and extent of your car accident injuries and related losses, balanced against the dollar limits of your UM coverage. Most categories of car accident-related losses are in play with a UM claim, including:

    • compensation for medical treatment necessary to treat your car accident injuries
    • time missed at work and other income-related losses resulting from the accident, and
    • your physical and mental pain and suffering resulting from the accident, your injuries, and the course of your medical treatment.

    Remember that standard UM coverage usually doesn't apply to vehicle damage resulting from an accident with an uninsured driver.

    To learn about underinsured motorist insurance, check out our companion article Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How It Works.

    Suing the Uninsured Driver

    If the other driver has no car insurance, and you don't have UM coverage, then any money is going to have to come directly from the at-fault driver's pockets, and you'll need to file a car accident lawsuit to get it. But, even if you win a judgment in court, collecting on that judgment is going to be a different story. Practically speaking, if someone is driving around without insurance, it could be because they can't afford to pay for coverage, and that means they probably don't have much in the way of money and assets. Learn more about what happens if you're hit by an uninsured driver.

    If the defendant does not pay the judgment, you can go back to court to apply for a court order requiring the defendant to pay you. However, courts recognize that a winning plaintiff can't get blood from a stone, and will not require a legitimately indigent defendant to pay a judgment.

    The Payment Plan Option. If the court finds that the defendant does have some money, the court might set up a payment plan, and have the defendant pay you a certain amount per week. This will probably not be a very satisfying result, especially since any time the defendant stops paying, you and your lawyer will have to go back to court and start the whole enforcement procedure over again.

    Getting More Information and Legal Help

    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).

    If you've been in a car accident with an uninsured driver, your options might be limited, but it may also make sense to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. Learn more about finding and hiring the right car accident lawyer. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a car accident attorney near you.

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