After a car accident, you should always pull over to a safe place, take pictures of the damages and exchange insurance information with other involved drivers. Unfortunately, you may find that when you ask another driver for their insurance information they refuse or are reluctant to provide it.
People usually refuse to provide their car insurance information for one of two reasons. The first is that, if the accident was minor, that person may hope that you’ll agree to let them pay for the damages out of their own pocket in order to avoid their insurance premiums going up.
The second, and far more likely, reason someone would decline to provide insurance info is that they’re either underinsured or not insured at all. Most states require drivers to carry car insurance, but there are still a number of people who don’t. While illegal, this happens all the time.
This puts you in a difficult situation of seeking compensation for your damages from someone who doesn’t have any to give. In this situation, it’s a good idea to speak to the Denver car accident attorneys at The Frickey Law Firm. Our accomplished lawyers have extensive experience in underinsured/uninsured motorist cases.
Uninsured/Underinsured Driver Statistics
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), data from 2012 showed that 16.2 percent of Colorado drivers were uninsured. That means Colorado is the 9th highest state for uninsured drivers when compared to the rest of the country.
Nationwide statistics from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) reveal that 29 million of the 209 million licensed drivers on U.S. roads are uninsured. That means, statistically speaking, that out of every 8 cars you see on the road, one of them will be driven by someone without any car insurance. According to the IRC:
- 62 percent of uninsured drivers are men
- 45 percent are high school age or younger
- 22 percent are between the ages of 18 and 24
- 48 percent rent the homes they live in
- 32 percent make under $20k/year
Why Do Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Exist?
Economic problems have led many individuals to cut costs wherever they can. Unfortunately, many people decide that car insurance is one way to save money. Some people justify not carrying car insurance because:
- Their car doesn’t run
- Their car runs but they don’t drive it
- Insurance premiums are too high
In Colorado, anyone applying for a vehicle registration is required to show proof of auto insurance. However, people get around this by getting insurance and then dropping it after they get their registration.
Another concern is that someone could drive a car that is not registered to them. Unless the owner of the vehicle carries insurance that covers other individuals who drive the car, this person is still driving uninsured.
The Benefits of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Most insurance companies offer an option that allows their clients to purchase coverage to protect them if they are involved in a car accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver. While this does cost more, it can be invaluable when it comes to protecting your financial best interests.
Before you purchase this coverage, it’s important to know the difference between uninsured and underinsured driver coverage:
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage exists to pay for medical bills and property damage if the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance. You can still sue the at-fault party if they don’t have insurance, but since most people who don’t carry insurance don’t have money to spare, it’s unlikely you’d receive any compensation. Uninsured motorist coverage allows you to file a claim with your own insurance company and gives you a much better chance at the compensation you need.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage exists to pay for medical bills and property damage if the at-fault party has insurance, but doesn’t carry enough liability coverage to pay for your expenses. This coverage is advantageous as it fills the gaps between your expenses and the at-fault party’s insurance limits. Dealing with an underinsured driver is sometimes harder than dealing with an uninsured driver as it can take time to determine the extent to which their insurance limits will offset your damages.
Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage in Colorado
In Colorado, all drivers are required to carry liability coverage at the following minimum rates:
- $25,000 per person bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident bodily injury
- $15,000 per accident property damage
While you are not required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, insurance providers in Colorado are required to offer this coverage in the same amount as the bodily injury liability limits you choose to purchase. So if you purchase $25,000 in per person bodily injury coverage, you will automatically be offered $25,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
You can only reject this coverage if you inform your insurer in writing that you wish to waive it. It’s a good idea to accept it however, as it may cover things like:
- Vehicle repairs
- Rental cars
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of future earnings
- Funeral expenses
Remember, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage exists to protect you if you’re in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver. For instance, imagine your costs after the accident total $50,000. If the at fault party only carries $25,000 in insurance and you don’t have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you’d be paying the leftover $25,000 out of your own pocket.
Filing an Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Claim
Even with the right coverage, your insurance company may be hesitant to pay what you deserve, especially if you cannot prove that the uninsured/underinsured driver was at fault.
Keep the following tips in mind for this type of claim:
- Keep a record of what happened to give to your insurance company. This should include police reports, photos, medical records/bills, receipts, and proof of lost income if injuries rendered you unable to work.
- Get names and contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident.
- If the driver who hit you fled the scene, do your best to note what they looked like, what kind of car they drove, and what their license plate was.
- If the driver who hit you remained at the scene, get the name and contact information for them and any passengers in their vehicle. Additionally, write down the make, model, year, and plate number of their car.
- Get a copy of the official police report and the information of the officer who filed it.
- Get medical treatment immediately, no matter how minor your injuries are. If you can, work with a doctor who will wait to bill you after your settlement is finalized.
- If you need a rental vehicle, work with a company that will bill through your insurance.
- Work with an uninsured/underinsured car accident attorney who can help determine the value of your case and file the necessary paperwork in the required time frame.
- Never speak to liability claims adjustors about your accident without your lawyer present.
- Don’t accept any settlement offers from insurance companies before consulting with your attorney. Many times the initial offer you receive is far lower than what you deserve.
Why Hire an Uninsured/Underinsured Car Accident Attorney?
If you’re in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may be left footing the bill. These costs can have a severe impact on your finances.
Even if you have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company may make it difficult to get the settlement you’re entitled to. They will almost certainly try to pay you less than your claim is worth. Do not assume that having underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage means it will be easy to get a fair settlement.
The Denver car accident attorneys at The Frickey Law Firm have helped countless clients in this situation. We know what kinds of tricks insurance providers will pull and we know how to combat them. We will do our best to ease the burden of this unfortunate situation and fight to help you get the full compensation you deserve. Contact us or call 303-237-7373 for a free consultation and review of your case.