What’s worse than getting into an accident? Finding out the other driver is uninsured. Unfortunately, this is an all to common occurrence. The Stein & Shulman team regularly helps accident victims from across the Chicagoland area seek compensation for injuries caused by uninsured motorists. Over the years, we have recovered millions of dollars for our clients.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Every state in the country requires drivers to purchase automobile insurance, with the exception of New Hampshire. In Illinois, it is required for car owners to show proof of insurance before they get behind the wheel.
The Illinois Department of Insurance put together this summary of what insurance is required by law:
Liability Coverage – Pays for bodily injury to another person or property damage you cause due to the negligent operation of a vehicle. It may also pay if the accident was caused by a member of your family living with you or a person using your vehicle with your permission. The coverage may also pay for a legal defense if you’re sued because of the accident. Liability coverage is often split into two separate coverages:
- Bodily Injury (BI) – Pays for costs due to injury or death to a pedestrian(s) or person(s) in another car. It may also cover your passengers’ injury costs as long as they aren’t members of your household. Illinois law (625 ILCS 5/7-203) requires BI limits of at least $25,000 per person per accident and $50,000 total per accident.
- Property Damage (PD) – Pays for damage to another person’s car or property such as fences, buildings, utility poles, signs, and trees. Illinois law (625 ILCS 5/7-203) requires PD liability limits of at least $20,000 per accident.
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (UM) – Covers you for your bodily injury caused by a hit-and-run driver or an at-fault driver who has no auto liability insurance. Currently, Illinois uninsured motorist bodily injury minimum limits are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. For additional premium, you may buy higher limits to pay for claims that exceed those amounts.
Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Insurance (UIM) – Pays the difference between your UIM limits and the liability limits of the at-fault driver, if lower than your UIM limits. Illinois law (215 ILCS 5/143a-2) requires this type of coverage if you purchase higher limits of uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM).
This means that drivers who are cruising around without insurance are knowingly breaking the law. How do they get away with it? Some of them are driving without a license, or driving a car registered by someone else. Others buy insurance, register their vehicle, then cancel their insurance.
The Insurance Information Institute estimates that an average of one out of every eight drivers does not carry the required insurance. This is not a comforting statistic.
What happens if I’m in an accident with an uninsured driver?
If you are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, you should still be able to seek compensation for your injuries.
The first place you can turn is your own automobile insurance. Assuming you are a law-abiding citizen that carries the required coverage, you have a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident uninsured motorist (UM) coverage that you can tap into. Many people actually carry more than these minimum amounts because additional coverage is not that expensive, and the cost of healthcare has risen dramatically since the mandatory UM coverage law was passed.
Making a claim against your own insurance seems pretty straightforward, which makes a lot of people question the value of working with an attorney to do so. The reason you may wish to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate with your insurance company is two-fold:
First, if you have been seriously injured you should be focused on healing, not worrying about pushing paperwork. Let us worry about filling out all the required forms and answering all the questions the claims adjuster is going to have.
Second, the insurance company is going to be looking for any reason possible to deny your claim, or at least reduce the amount of money they are required to pay you. Although they may insure you, they are always looking out for their bottom line. You need a strong advocate in your corner to hold their feet to the fire and make them pay you what you deserve.
One of the main ways insurance companies deny coverage or reduce their payouts is by really pushing Illinois’s modified comparative negligence law.
Under Illinois law, the amount of compensation you are eligible for depends on your actions. You can only seek compensation if the accident was less than 51% your fault. If the evidence shows you were the main reason an accident occured, you will be denied any money to help pay your medical expenses or other bills.
Even if you are eligible for compensation, the amount you can recover may be reduced if you were even partially responsible for the accident. For example, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses related to your accident, but the evidence shows you were 20% responsible, you will only be eligible for $80,000 in compensation.
Some common reasons accident victims see their compensation reduced include:
- Texting while driving;
- Distracted driving;
- Poor auto maintenance; and
- Failure to obey basic traffic laws, like using a turn signal.
The uninsured motorist accident attorneys at Stein & Shulman, LLC knows how critical it is to gather evidence that proves our client was not the one that caused the accident. We pull police reports, interview witnesses, visit the scene of the accident and do whatever else we can to find compelling evidence that proves the other driver was at fault.
Suing the Other Driver
Technically, you should be able to sue an uninsured motorist for the harm they have caused. The reality is most uninsured drivers do not have substantial assets, so suing them for compensation is a fool’s errand.
Hit and Run Drivers Count as Uninsured Drivers
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, you can assume your insurance company will treat it like an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Contact Our Chicago Uninsured Motorist Accident Attorneys Today
If you have been involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver and suffered a serious injury, we are here to help. Whether you are ready to take legal action and seek compensation, or are just curious about what options are available to you, we are ready to take your call. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.