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What To Know After a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver in New Jersey

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Two-car accident.

Data available from the Insurance Information Institute shows that roughly 13% of drivers throughout the country do not have auto insurance. If you’ve been in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, your own uninsured motorist coverage can help cover the costs. Unfortunately, a lawsuit against the uninsured driver can be a dead end.

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How Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage Can Help

In New Jersey, uninsured motorist coverage is required by law (this is not the case in all states). It can cover expenses for medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering associated with your car accident. Uninsured motorist coverage is only meant to protect you if you’re involved in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance, or in the case of a hit-and-run. In most uninsured motorist accidents, this insurance should cover many of the most urgent expenses.

How Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage Can Help

Underinsured motorist coverage is similar to uninsured motorist coverage, and they’re often used in tandem on insurance policies. UIM coverage is meant to fill the gap between the at-fault driver’s insurance limits and the actual costs of your damages (up to the limits on your own UIM policy).

Given the potential for high costs associated with vehicle accidents and the reality that many drivers only carry the minimum required insurance, UIM coverage is an important piece of a comprehensive auto insurance strategy.

Using Collision Coverage After an Accident With an Uninsured Driver

Collision coverage is an optional part of auto insurance that can play an important role if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. It’s designed to cover the repair or replacement of your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who is at fault.

Here’s how collision coverage can be particularly beneficial after an accident with an uninsured driver:

  • Fault Irrelevant: Since collision coverage is not dependent on fault, it provides a safety net if the other driver is uninsured and unable to pay for damages.
  • Quick Response: Relying on collision coverage allows you to initiate repairs to your vehicle quickly, without waiting for liability determinations or uninsured motorist claims to be processed.

Important Considerations:

  • Deductibles: Collision coverage typically requires a deductible, which means you have to pay a certain amount out-of-pocket before your insurance covers the remaining costs.
  • Premium Impact: While collision coverage offers significant protection, filing a claim might lead to an increased premium in the future.
  • Policy Limits: The amount that your insurance will pay for a collision claim is up to the actual cash value of your vehicle or the cost of repairs, within the limits of your policy. This means your collision coverage may not cover all the related expenses.

Can I File a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured Driver?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver if you are involved in an accident with them. However, the decision to pursue legal action against an uninsured driver should be carefully considered, as they may not have the assets or financial resources to pay a judgment awarded by the court. Even if you successfully sue an uninsured driver, it may be unlikely that you are able to actually collect that compensation.

Here are some key considerations when deciding whether to sue an uninsured driver:

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage: Given New Jersey’s no-fault insurance system, your own PIP coverage will typically cover your medical expenses and other losses, regardless of fault. This means there may be a reduced need to sue the other driver for medical expenses. That being said, PIP does not cover property damage or non-economic damages.
  • Limited Right to Sue: Depending on your insurance policy, New Jersey allows you to choose between a “Limited Right to Sue” and an “Unlimited Right to Sue.” If you selected the Limited Right, you can only sue for pain and suffering under certain circumstances (severe and permanent injuries).
  • Legal and Court Costs: Pursuing legal action involves time and potentially high legal expenses. It’s important to consider this when there is no guarantee that you win the lawsuit or that you will be able to collect compensation if you do win.
  • Collectability Issues: It’s very important to consider the likelihood of actually receiving compensation before deciding to proceed with a lawsuit. In many cases, uninsured drivers may lack the assets or means to pay you.

Do Insurance Companies Go After Uninsured Drivers After Car Accidents?

Yes, insurance companies will often pursue uninsured drivers to recover the costs of claims paid out under uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or collision coverage. This process is known as “subrogation.”

The primary goal of subrogation is to recover funds paid out to the insured in order to mitigate losses for the insurance company and potentially keep premiums lower for policyholders. Additionally, subrogation holds the at-fault uninsured driver financially responsible for their actions, reinforcing the principle that drivers should carry the necessary auto insurance coverage as required by law.

Subrogation’s impact on insured individuals:

  • Deductible Reimbursement: If the insurance company successfully recovers costs from the uninsured driver, the insured may also be reimbursed for any deductible they paid toward the claim.
  • Policyholder Involvement: While the insurance company will manage the subrogation process, the policyholder may need to provide information or documentation to support the effort.

How Our Car Accident Lawyers Can Help in Uninsured Car Accident Cases

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident with someone with no insurance can be a complex and challenging process. Our New Jersey car accident lawyers can provide professional guidance to help you understand your rights, pursue compensation, and navigate the legal processes involved. Here’s how:

Assessing Your Insurance Coverage

Our lawyers can review your auto insurance policy to identify applicable coverages such as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, and Collision coverage. We will help you understand the full extent of your coverage and advise you on how to make a claim effectively.

Filing Claims

Our lawyers can assist in filing claims with your insurance company. We’ll help ensure that all necessary documentation is accurately completed and submitted within the required deadlines.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

Our lawyers are highly skilled in negotiating with insurance companies to ensure you receive a fair settlement. We can handle all communications and negotiations on your behalf, and leverage our experience in negotiating with insurance companies to maximize your settlement.

Pursuing Legal Action

If needed, our car accident attorneys can evaluate the feasibility of pursuing legal action against the uninsured driver. While collecting damages from an uninsured driver can be difficult, there are situations where it may be warranted–especially if you have substantial uninsured losses.

Exploring Alternative Compensation Options

In cases with uninsured drivers, where they may not be able to cover your damages, it’s important to be able to explore other options for compensation. This may include filing lawsuits against additional parties who shared responsibility for the accident, or seeking compensation through other insurance policies that you or your household may have.

Providing Professional Legal Advice and Representation

Our car accident lawyers can provide professional advice tailored to your unique case. We can represent you in all legal proceedings, including arbitration, settlements, and court trials.

Handling Subrogation Claims

If your insurance company seeks to recover costs from the uninsured driver through subrogation, our lawyers can help you understand how this process will affect you.