What Happens When Someone Hits You Without Insurance in North Carolina?
When another driver causes an accident that results in injuries or property damage, the “normal” thing to do is exchange insurance information and follow up with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to seek payment for your vehicle damage and personal injury claims.
What happens, however, when the other driver doesn’t have insurance? Can you still be compensated? In almost all cases, the answer is yes.
Leveraging Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Benefits
Even though the laws in North Carolina require that every driver has car insurance, current statistics show that approximately 6.5% of North Carolina drivers have no car insurance. To help protect drivers, North Carolina also requires all drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage will apply when the other driver is at fault but has either no insurance or when a hit & run driver causes an accident and cannot be later identified. Hit & run victims can collect uninsured motorist insurance payments for their injury claims whether they are riding in a car, or when they are riding a bicycle, or struck as a pedestrian.
For hit & run cases, it is important to understand that the uninsured motorist coverage pays only for personal injury claims and that there is no “uninsured motorist property damage” coverage for the damaged vehicle in these cases. Thus, the damaged vehicle must be covered by collision coverage on the owner’s insurance policy, and the collision deductible will apply to reduce the insurance carrier’s total payment for vehicle repairs/replacement. In cases where the at-fault driver is identified but has no valid car insurance, uninsured motorist property damage coverage will apply to pay for vehicle damage. The deductible is much lower than the collision deductible, typically $100.00 (compared to the typical collision deductible of $500.00), and UMPD also pays for a rental car.
To sum up, your uninsured motorist insurance coverage will pay injury claims can pay for injuries associated with the following types of accidents:
- The at-fault driver had no insurance
- The at-fault driver’s insurance appears valid but later proves to have been properly canceled by the insurance carrier before the crash occurred
- You were the victim of a hit-and-run accident
- You were a pedestrian hit by an uninsured driver
- The vehicle you were driving had an uninsured motorist policy
- You were a passenger in a vehicle that carried this coverage
- A person related to you by blood or marriage who lives with you in the same household at the time of the collision has their own auto insurance policy
Uninsured Motorist Insurance Adjusters Always Try to Minimize Injury Claims
If you are struck by an uninsured at-fault driver, your claims will be paid by uninsured motorist coverage. In most cases, this is your own insurance policy. Please be aware that in these cases, the adjuster WILL seek to minimize your injury claims, and they actually represent the uninsured driver. In fact, if the case cannot be settled and you have to file a lawsuit against the uninsured at-fault driver, your insurance company will hire and pay for the lawyer who defends the uninsured driver, and who will oppose your case at trial.
Please don’t trust the uninsured motorist insurance adjuster to voluntarily pay full value for your injury claims. The good news is that using uninsured motorist coverage will not harm your coverage or cause any increase in your car insurance rates. Further, pushing them to pay the FULL value of your injury claims will not impact your premiums or cause you to lose your coverage. In all crash cases involving personal injury, never trust the insurance company and their adjuster, and always push hard to make sure they pay a generous settlement that reflects what you would win following a successful personal injury jury trial. Most cases settle, but you have to fight to make sure the settlement is on your terms, not the discounted amount the insurance adjuster will try to get you to accept.
Why Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Might Not Be Adequate
Like the minimum liability thresholds outlined by North Carolina law concerning liability insurance coverage, there are also minimums for uninsured motorist coverage. To keep the cost of insurance premiums reasonable, many drivers may opt for the minimum coverage level to comply with the law.
While this decision can make financial sense, it also leaves one vulnerable to not having enough coverage when you are hit by an uninsured driver in North Carolina. For example, if a crash victim has serious injuries and $100,000.00 in medical bills after a hit & run accident, and if the uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage limit is just $30,000.00 per person, the available insurance coverage pays only a small fraction of medical bills, leaving the injury victim in debt for huge medical care costs.
One great law we have in North Carolina is the uninsured motorist “stacking” law. If you are injured by an uninsured driver, you can collect from ALL uninsured motorist policies that are available for the car you were riding in, and under all family-owned policies in your household. Here’s an example: Angela is injured while riding as a guest passenger in her friend’s car, and the at-fault driver has no insurance. Her friend has $50,000.00 in per-person uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage on the policy covering the car involved in the collision. Angela has her own car, and her own insurance policy with $100,000.00 in per-person UMBI coverage. Angela lives with her mother who has a separate policy with $30,000.00 in UMBI coverage, and with her daughter who has another separate policy with $100,000.00 in UMBI coverage. For this single collision, Angela can “stack” or add up all policies to determine the total amount of uninsured motorist insurance available to cover and pay her injury claims. Under our hypothetical, Angela can collect up to $280,000.00 for her crash-related personal injury claims.
How to Recover When the Damages Exceed Insurance Coverage
Though safeguards are in place to help you recover damages for your accident, accident victims are vulnerable when their policies max out, and there are no available funds from your insurance to cover the additional costs.
In this situation, you still have options, including:
- File a lawsuit against the other driver: Your attorney can help determine whether the other driver has assets that can be liquidated to collect a trial verdict and judgment. We secure detailed asset searches to identify bank accounts, business holdings, and real estate holdings which may be taken from the at-fault driver who had no car insurance.
- Investigate whether another party might also be liable: In some cases, more than one driver commits errors that contribute to causing the accident. All at-fault drivers share legal and financial responsibility for victims’ claims. In some cases, although this is rare, a defective car or vehicle part might make the car manufacturer accountable for the accident. In drunk driving cases, if the impaired driver was extremely intoxicated, you may be able to collect from a bar or restaurant if you can prove that they carelessly over-served alcohol thereby creating the risk of a drunk-driving accident.
- Identify possible government entities that could be responsible: If the roadways were dangerous or defective, there was inadequate signage, or a faulty traffic signal, the government could be liable. These are rare cases, but you should always look at every possible option if you suffer serious injuries in a car accident.
- Explore whether a rideshare policy is applicable: If you were involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver, those companies have insurance policies that could cover the incident. The key here is to determine whether the driver was indeed on the rideshare company’s App, logged in properly, and either ready to accept a paying passenger or in the process of carrying passengers for a fee. If so, even though the driver’s personal auto insurance was not current and valid, the rideshare policy will cover and pay victims’ injury claims.
Get Compassionate Legal Help from Nagle & Associates, P.A.
Car accidents are disruptive and can cause stress and financial worries when injuries are involved. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist or a hit & run driver, please contact our team of NC personal injury attorneys at (866) 815-9866 for a free consultation. Our firm ONLY handles motor vehicle accident cases, and we offer an immediate free legal consultation by telephone to help you understand all of your legal rights and options.