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Uninsured, Underinsured Car Accidents

Central Pennsylvania Auto Injury Lawyers


You’re at a stoplight when you’re suddenly rear ended. You pull off the road to assess the damage and talk to the other driver. You walk around the vehicles, snap photos, and take the steps necessary after a car accident. But when it comes time to exchange insurance information, the other driver is reluctant or even refuses.

There are several reasons why someone would be unwilling to provide their insurance information after a motor vehicle accident. If the accident was relatively minor, they may offer to pay out of their own pocket to avoid increasing insurance premiums.

While this scenario does happen, it is far more likely that someone unwilling to provide their insurance information is either uninsured or underinsured. Now you’re seeking compensation from someone who doesn’t have it and, unless you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, you may never receive the amount you’re entitled to.

The Facts about Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists

According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), out of 209 million licensed drivers in the United States, nearly 29 million are uninsured. That means one of every 8 cars you see on the road has no insurance whatsoever. According to the IRC, those uninsured drivers are:

  • 62 percent are men
  • 45 percent are high school age or younger
  • 22 percent are ages 18-24
  • 35 percent are Hispanic or African American
  • 48 percent rent the home they live in
  • 32 percent make less than $20k per year

Why Don’t People Carry the Appropriate Insurance?

Our economy’s troubled past has hit everyone hard and in different ways. Unfortunately, fiscal troubles have led many to cut corners to save money. One of the ways people do this is by not carrying auto insurance.

The most common reasons people give for not carrying auto insurance are:

  • Their vehicle doesn’t work
  • Their vehicle works but they aren’t driving it
  • Insurance premiums are unaffordable

Since Pennsylvania requires insurance coverage to get a vehicle registration, we don’t have many uninsured or underinsured drivers. In fact, at 6.5 percent, Pennsylvania has the 6th lowest concentration of insurance/underinsurance drivers in the country. This may lessen the likelihood of you getting into an accident with one of these drivers, but the risk is still there.

Uninsured/Underinsured Insurance Coverage Defined

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is an option every insurance company offers to their customers. Using this coverage can seriously protect your financial best interest if you’re in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver.

When purchasing these coverages, it’s important to know what the differences are and how they apply in various situations:

Uninsured Motorist Coverage pays for your medical bills and property damages if the at-fault party does not have insurance.

If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver, you could sue but, since most people without insurance don’t have much money, you probably won’t recover any compensation. In this situation, make an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage pays for medical bills and property damages if the at-fault party doesn’t carry enough liability insurance to compensate you fairly.

This coverage fills the gap between your expense and the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance. Finding out whether the at-fault party is underinsured is more difficult than if they aren’t insured at all. It will take some time to determine how the at-fault driver’s limits line up with your expenses and medical treatment.

What Does Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage Pay for?

In Pennsylvania, property damages from a car accident actually fall under collision or comprehensive coverage, not uninsured or underinsured coverage. This coverage only handles bodily injury to the driver and, in some cases, the passengers involved in the accident.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may also cover things like:

  • Car repairs
  • Lost wages
  • Rental car costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of future earning ability
  • Funeral expenses

Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. That means drivers injured in car accidents have to rely on their own insurance company to pay for their expenses. Our state also allows drivers to choose between no-fault insurance and traditional insurance.

If you carry traditional insurance, you maintain your right to sue the at-fault party. This means you could be sued as well. Taking the no-fault insurance route only allows for a lawsuit if the accident resulted in serious injury, typically one that caused serious or permanent impairment of bodily function or disfigurement.

Pennsylvania does not require drivers to carry either uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. It’s optional but can come in handy if you are involved in an accident with a driver with low coverage.

For example, lets say your costs after an accident total $50,000. If the at-fault party is only insured up to $25,000 and you don’t have underinsured motorist coverage, you would have to pay the extra $25,000 out of your own pocket.

Tips for Filing an Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Claim

Since this coverage is through your insurance company, they may be reluctant to pay out unless you can prove the uninsured/underinsured driver is responsible for the damages. When preparing to file a claim, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Be prepared to provide a record of what happened, police reports, photos (damages and injuries), medical records, receipts, and proof of any lost wages.
  • Speak to an uninsured/underinsured car accident attorney. They can help you determine the value of your case and help you file it in the required time frame.
  • You may have to talk to liability claim adjusters about the details of your accident. This should never be done without an attorney present.
  • You may be presented with a settlement offer quickly. Before accepting or signing anything, consult with your attorney to find out if your claim is being undervalued.
  • Seek medical treatment immediately, even if your injuries do not appear to be severe.
  • When seeking medical treatment, find a doctor who will wait for payment until your settlement is finalized.
  • If you need to rent a car, find a rental company that bills directly through your insurance.
  • If the driver who hit you fled the scene of the accident, do what you can to describe the driver, their car, and the license plate number.
  • If the driver who hit you remains at the scene, get their name and contact information, as well as information for any passengers in their vehicle. Write down the make, model, year, and plate number for the vehicle as well.
  • Take plenty of photos, both of your injuries and the damages done to both vehicles. It’s also a good idea to take photos of the scene where the accident occurred.
  • If there were witnesses, get their name and contact info.
  • Obtain a copy of the police report.

Why Hire an Attorney?

The main reason is insurance companies rarely dispense fair settlements unless they are forced to. Having underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage doesn’t make it any easier to get the compensation you deserve. Given the opportunity, any insurance company will do whatever they can to delay the process and pay you as little as possible.

The attorneys at Hagelgans & Veronis have seen our clients go through this time and again. We know how insurance companies operate and we know how to obtain the compensation our clients deserve. If you have been in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, call 1-877-454-8529 or schedule a free consultation.