In a perfect world, everyone would obey the law and carry the right type of car insurance. Unfortunately, many Phoenix and Chandler drivers don’t have enough insurance (or worse, they don’t have any insurance at all). So what are you supposed to do if you’re involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver on Arizona roadways?

Accidents and Insurance

The fact is that we all have to maintain auto insurance on our vehicles. However, some people don’t. In fact, as many as 20% of Arizona drivers are uninsured. That figure doesn’t account for the number of people who are underinsured. The difference:

  • Uninsured motorists have no insurance coverage on their vehicle.
  • Underinsured motorists don’t have adequate insurance coverage; they have some insurance coverage, usually the state’s required minimum amount, but that’s not enough to cover real-life damages.

Nationwide, about 14% of motorists are uninsured. In Arizona, our uninsured rate is significantly higher. If you’re in an accident, there’s a one-in-five chance that the person who hit you doesn’t have any auto insurance at all.

The Challenge of Filing a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured Motorist

If the person responsible for your auto accident doesn’t have any auto insurance, you’re probably wondering if anyone can help pay your medical bills, cover your lost wages, or compensate you from the trauma, suffering, and sometimes permanent injuries you’ve sustained.

Your own insurance company may be the company who ends up compensating you. However, these types of cases can get tricky–especially if your insurance company doesn’t want to pay up. It’s usually best to work with a local personal injury lawyer who can help you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t risk dealing with your insurance company yourself; instead, leave it to your attorney. She’ll be able to negotiate in your best interests so that you can focus on what’s most important… recovering from the trauma of your car accident.

Under Arizona law, the minimum amount of liability insurance required is:

  • $15,000 because of bodily injury to, or the death of, one person in any one accident
  • $30,000 because of bodily injury to, or the death of, two or more people in one accident
  • $10,000 because of injury to or destruction of property

Understanding Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Auto insurers offer coverage that can protect you in the event that the driver who hits you is uninsured or underinsured. (“Underinsured” doesn’t just mean that the other driver has coverage less than the required state minimum. It also means that the other driver’s insurance, even if it meets the state minimum, isn’t enough to cover your property damage or pay for your injuries.)

Uninsured driver insurance protects you if you’re injured by a driver who doesn’t have any liability insurance.

Your underinsured driver policy can’t exceed the amount of your primary insurance policy. For example, if you carry $30,000 in coverage for your own negligence, you can only get $30,000 in coverage for damage and injuries caused by someone else’s negligence.

If the driver who hit you doesn’t have any insurance, or refuses to provide you with insurance information, notify your own insurance carrier right away. Some insurance carriers require you to bring uninsured motorist claims within 30 days, so you can forfeit your rights if you wait too long.

When you bring an uninsured driver claim, you’ll be dealing with your own insurance company and negotiating the amount of compensation you’ll receive. If you and your own insurance carrier can’t agree on an amount that you think is reasonable to compensate for your injuries and property damage, then you can’t sue your own insurance company the same way you could sue another driver’s carrier. Instead, your policy will require you to participate in binding arbitration with your insurance company.

An arbitrator will consider each side’s evidence (including medical evidence, accident reports, etc.) and then decide whether you’re entitled to compensation from your insurance carrier and in what amount. It’s very difficult to appeal the arbitrator’s decision—that’s why they call it “binding.”

If you do go to arbitration, you can be represented by a lawyer, just as you would be if a case went to trial.

If you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, then another option is to sue the other driver. The problem is that people usually chose not to carry auto insurance because they feel they can’t afford it. Someone who can’t afford auto insurance is unlikely to have sufficient assets to satisfy a judgment. As the saying goes, “You can’t get blood from a stone.”

However, you may find yourself in a situation where the other driver does have significant assets (such as a home, land, or business) but let his or her auto insurance lapse because of cash-flow issues. Thus, you may be able to enforce a judgment by filing a lien against the other driver’s property. A court can order the property sold to satisfy the judgment.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in the Chandler area involving an uninsured driver, the Thompson Law Firm can help you seek compensation for your injuries. We can handle negotiations with your own insurance carrier if you have uninsured motorist coverage. If negotiations don’t result in a fair settlement offer, we can handle the arbitration against your own carrier. We can also represent you in court if you decide to sue an uninsured motorist.