What Happens If the At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Car Insurance?
If an accident in The Copper State leaves you with significant injuries and losses, you should be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. What if, though, the driver who hit you does not have sufficient coverage or, worse yet, does not have coverage at all?
Arizona is a fault state, meaning a person who causes an accident assumes financial responsibility for any losses associated with it. Typically, insurance helps at-fault parties cover the cost of damages, which most people cannot afford on their own. In a typical situation, you would file a claim against the at-fault party’s policy, which would pay out your benefits.
When the responsible party does not have coverage, though, your path to recovery becomes slightly more complex. While you might have other options, pursuing those options may prove tricky, and you may face several obstacles along the way. An experienced car accident attorney can help you explore your options, identify the most promising one and advise you of what you need to do to recover the maximum amount of compensation.
Mandatory Insurance Requirements in Arizona
Arizona maintains minimum insurance requirements for persons who operate vehicles of any kind within the state. Before 2020, Arizona maintained low liability coverage limits of 15/30/10. In July of 2020, however, state lawmakers upped the limits considerably, to 25/50/15. Now, when drivers purchase policies, they must cover, at a minimum, the following:
- Up to $25,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person in an accident that the insured causes
- Up to $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of two or more persons in an accident that the insured causes
- Up to $15,000 for property damage per accident that the insured person causes
This basic coverage is designed to help accident victims pay for little more than their medical bills and property damage. Drivers who desire greater protection should invest in more coverage via their own policies.
Your Options When the At-Fault Driver Fails To Meet the State’s Minimum Requirements
It is not unthinkable that you might get into an accident with an uninsured driver. As of 2019, 12.6% of motorists were uninsured. In Arizona, 11.8% of drivers are uninsured. This means that slightly more than one in every 10 drivers around you does not have coverage. If one of these drivers hits you, you may feel angry and frustrated, but know that you are not without options.
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In many situations, at-fault parties do not have coverage. Rather, they simply do not have enough coverage. If the person who hit you merely does not have enough coverage to cover the full cost of your damages, you may have an underinsured motorist claim. To have this type of claim, you must have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, which is an add-on to your basic policy.
If you had the foresight to purchase this type of policy, you would file a claim against your own insurer for the remainder of the damages. Like when filing a claim against another person’s policy, you will need to show proof of your injuries, medical treatment and property damage. Your insurer may also want to conduct an investigation.
If the other driver lacks insurance completely, the same policy would protect you. Again, you would file a claim with your own insurer, which would request proof of damages and likely conduct an investigation.
Types of Damages Available Via an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy
Uninsured/underinsured motorist policies cover injury-related damages that vehicle occupants sustain in a collision. Examples of injury-related damages are as follows:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
This type of policy covers more than a typical liability policy, and it costs considerably less. Though the cost of an uninsured motorist policy varies from insurer to insurer, it generally costs about 5% of your annual insurance premium. This means that for less than $100 more per year, you can enjoy substantially more protection.
It is important to note that uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage does not pay for property damage that an uninsured driver causes. If you want to protect your vehicle and yourself against uninsured drivers, you should also purchase uninsured motorist property damage protection or collision coverage.
Whether an uninsured driver is responsible for your accident and injuries or you are, you have the option to file a claim via your MedPay policy, if, again, you had the foresight to purchase one. As its name implies, MedPay covers the cost of medical bills that stem from an accident, regardless of who was at fault. It also helps cover funeral costs.
However, MedPay will not cover costs beyond the policy’s limits, which are typically low. It will also not cover lost wages, childcare expenses, the cost of household help or other damages you might accrue because of your injuries.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and if you do not have MedPay, your only other option for recovery would be to file a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault party. Because the basis for a personal injury lawsuit is negligence, you must be able to prove that the other party’s actions were negligent, and that said negligence caused the accident that resulted in your injuries. To establish negligence, you must establish the existence of four elements:
- Duty, or that the defendant had a legal duty to not cause you or your loved one’s harm
- Breach of duty, or that the defendant violated an established standard of care
- Causation, which involves showing that the act of negligence was the direct or proximate cause of the accident that caused your injuries
- Harm, or that you suffered injuries and other losses because of the accident
If you can establish these four elements, you may have a case. If you do, you stand to recover far more in damages than if you were to go through an insurance company. Types of damages you can recover in a car accident lawsuit include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, compensation for pain and suffering, property damage and more.
Limitations of Filing a Lawsuit
Though a lawsuit holds the promise of producing the largest recovery, legal action comes with several limitations. Aside from the cost, one of the biggest drawbacks of filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver is the potential that he or she has neither the money nor the assets to pay a judgment. Even if the judge rules in your favor, there is little he or she can do to force the at-fault party to pay you if the at-fault party does not have the means to do so.
Though not necessarily a drawback, Arizona does have a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations is two years. If you fail to file your claim in that time frame, you forfeit your right to pursue legal action entirely.
Consult With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Being involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver can cause significant stress in your life. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help minimize your stress by informing you of your rights and exploring all remaining options for recovery. To better understand your rights and options, schedule your free initial consultation today.
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