If You Hit an Uninsured Motorist, Do You Still Have to Pay?
Experts currently estimate that almost 25 percent of drivers on the road are operating their vehicles without insurance. This is a huge problem for everyone, as accidents caused by uninsured motorists cost money not only in property damage and personal injury, but in higher insurance premiums for drivers who do insure their cars.
There are also costs to the taxpayers associated with prosecuting uninsured drivers, such as court fees and incarceration costs. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the situation or what happens when an uninsured driver is involved in an accident.
If you hit an uninsured motorist, you have several options. However, one of the options is not to “just forget it.” Most states have reporting requirements for accidents, especially if the damage is over a “threshold” amount which varies from state to state. If you fail to report an accident, you can be fined and penalized for this fact alone.
Further, if you have insurance and the accident is your fault, then your insurance must pay for the damages you caused. Failure to do so could be considered an illegal act, whether the other driver had insurance or not.
Reporting an accident to your insurance company will likely make your rates go up, but the alternative is to possibly have your coverage dropped or to face legal consequences.
However, if the other driver is uninsured, it is very possible that he or she will not want to report the accident because of possible penalties which might be assessed for driving without insurance. So, in reality, you may not find yourself having to pay much or any of the damage, especially if the accident was minor.
A word of caution is in order, however. There are several situations which might bring about negative consequences to you if you fail to report an accident. Between various state laws and possible scams, you are often better off reporting an accident immediately no matter what the consequences to either driver.
One such scenario is when you hit an “uninsured” driver who turns out to have insurance. If the other driver believes the accident to be his or her fault, the person could say that he or she has no insurance to try to keep you from filing a claim.
If the accident turns out to be that person’s fault, your insurance company will find out any relevant insurance information so you can make a claim.
If the accident is your fault, your insurance company will need to know the other person’s coverage to see how much liability you are assessed; in no-fault states, for example, a person must cover his or her own damages up to a certain amount.
Another possible situation is when you are the victim of a scam. There are people who will set up an accident—for example, one gets behind you while driving fast, scaring you into speeding up, and the other gets in front of you and slams on brakes.
The “victim” of the accident will then try to make a claim against your insurance, or worse still, tell you that he or she is uninsured in order to get you to pay cash to avoid having the accident on your record.
In each of these scenarios, your best bet is to call the police. While you may be in for a rate hike, it is preferable to being taken advantage of or to putting yourself in a position where you have inadvertently broken the law.