What to Do After an Accident if You're Uninsured
A car accident with one or more uninsured parties can greatly increase the costs involved. Unfortunately, roughly one in 10 people drive without insurance. If you’re ever involved in such a situation, then you should know your options.
First Things First
In the event of an accident, don’t move the cars involved, or anyone who is injured. Call 911 immediately so police (and paramedics, if necessary) can be at the scene to assist as soon as possible. While you’re waiting, call your insurance company. Your agent will provide you with instructions.
After you’ve called emergency personnel and your insurance company, take pictures of the scene and see if there are any third-party witnesses willing to testify. Collect their contact information if they can’t wait for the police to arrive. Exchange contact and insurance (if available) information with the other driver. Be courteous but do not admit fault. Even if you think you’re at fault, it may come to light in court that you were not.
There are car accident report forms available online that will help you remember what you should document about the scene. It’s a good idea to keep one handy so you don’t have to rely on your memory right after an accident.
If You’re Insured
Your insurance might have coverage for accidents involving uninsured drivers. If this is the case, you’ll be glad you called your insurance company right after the accident. All situations are different, so your agent will be able to guide you from this point.
If your insurance doesn’t cover uninsured drivers, then you might be out of luck. In some states, it’s possible to seek legal action against an uninsured driver if you’re not at fault. However, many uninsured drivers can’t afford insurance, in which case they may also lack the funds to pay a court judgement. In such a case, you’ll likely have to pay the court costs.
If You’re Not Insured
Even in the worst-case scenario — you’re uninsured and at fault — make sure to give a statement to the police. This will be important in court. Even though you’re probably going to get slammed with fines for not having insurance, this statement will help protect your rights. Your statement is evidence as to what really happened, so it will mitigate any untrue claims about how much damage you caused.
If you’re not at fault, the other person’s insurance will pay for your damages, as long as you gave a statement to the police. If you are at fault, you may be able to work out a payment plan with the other driver’s insurer as a show of good faith. And if you’re really lucky, and the other driver’s insurance covers accidents with uninsured motorists, then you may be responsible for only their deductible.
In a no-fault state, the other driver cannot sue you for damages unless they exceed a certain amount, e.g., $25,000. In a tort state, however, you could be sued for all the damages involved, such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. If you’re uninsured, you probably don’t have the cash to pay for these damages, but your assets or wages could be on the hook. To avoid such a financially disastrous situation, re-evaluate whether you should allocate some of your budget to a modest insurance policy.