Being hurt in a car accident is traumatic and can be even more frustrating when an uninsured or underinsured driver is at fault for your injuries and property damage. There are several steps you can take to protect your rights and seek compensation to cover your medical bills and other damages. Having an experienced car accident attorney assess your case can help ease some of the stress you may be feeling and help you find options to protect your health and financial well-being.
Immediately Following an Accident
After any motor vehicle accident, your first priority should be your health and safety. Call 911 and wait for first responders to arrive. Take photos of the scene, your injuries, and anything else you think may be relevant. Gather contact and insurance information from any motorists who were involved. It is also a good idea to get contact information for any witnesses who may have seen what happened. If possible, obtain a copy of the police report at the scene. Make sure to seek medical attention to ensure you receive proper treatment for your injuries. Your medical records also provide valuable evidence that will back-up any insurance claims you file.
If a driver asks you not to call the police or offers you cash to avoid legal repercussions of not having insurance, do not accept it. There is no way to know what the total amount of your damages may be, and if you take what they offer, you may have no recourse for collecting compensation down the road.
Call Your Insurer
Report the accident to your insurance company. Before signing a statement or accepting a settlement, talk to an accident attorney. Most personal injury law firms offer free consultations, so speaking to an attorney will not cost you anything even if the attorney decides not to take your case.
Options for Recovering Compensation
Depending on the specifics of your auto insurance policy and the state in which you live, you may have several options. In “no-fault” states, your insurance company should pay for some or all of your medical expenses, lost time from work, car repairs, and other damages.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Although some states require motorists to carry UI/UIM insurance, it is very important to add it to your policy even it if is not mandated. Having adequate auto insurance coverage can help to ensure you get the medical care you need and protect your financial security in the event of an accident — especially one involving an underinsured or uninsured driver. This type of coverage can also help you get compensation for your injuries if you are hurt in a hit-and-run accident.
Personal Injury Protection
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance may pay for damages. For example, in Pennsylvania, drivers are required to have PIP insurance in the amounts of $5,000 in Medical Benefits coverage and Bodily Injury Liability coverage of $15,000 per person per crash (or $30,000 per collision), and $5000 in coverage for property damage.
Although you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against someone who does not carry liability auto insurance, it can be a losing battle out of the gate unless that person has significant assets. A good injury lawyer who is well-versed in handling uninsured and underinsured motorist cases can evaluate your case and help you determine which option may be appropriate for your specific circumstances.