Getting rear-ended is one of the most common and frustrating driving experiences. Dealing with the aftermath is even more difficult if the at-fault driver has no insurance. This article will explain your options and legal rights if you are the victim of a rear-end collision caused by an uninsured motorist.
The Challenges of Uninsured Drivers
It’s illegal to drive without insurance in most states, including New York. But that doesn’t stop some motorists from taking the risk.
The Insurance Research Council estimates that:
- 1 in 8 drivers are uninsured, equaling over 25 million drivers nationally.
- In New York State specifically, around 8% of drivers lack insurance.
This creates huge problems for victims of collisions caused by uninsured drivers. Without insurance, the at-fault driver likely cannot pay for your:
- Vehicle repairs
- Medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Even if they want to compensate you, most uninsured drivers simply don’t have the means.
Steps to Take After a Rear-End Collision
No matter what insurance status the other driver has, your immediate actions after a rear-end collision are important:
Check for Injuries
Make sure you and your passengers are unharmed before worrying about anything else. Call 911 if anyone needs medical attention.
If drivable, move your vehicle and the other driver’s vehicle out of traffic onto the shoulder or a safe nearby location.
Collect the other driver’s:
- License number
- Insurance details
- Contact information
Also provide them with your own license and insurance information.
Document the Scene
Take photos of:
- Damage to both vehicles
- Debris or skid marks on the road
- Injuries (if any)
- Weather and traffic conditions
File a Police Report
Contact the police to file an official report. But in New York, police only need to respond if someone is injured.
For minor collisions, you can file a self-report with the DMV later.
Seek Medical Care
Even if you feel fine, get checked out by a doctor after the crash. Symptoms of injury can take time to appear. This also documents the incident in your medical records.
What to Do if the Other Driver is Uninsured
Learning the driver who hit your vehicle has no insurance adds another layer of stress and difficulty to the situation. Here are your options:
File a Claim Against Your Own Policy
The good news is New York is a “no fault” insurance state. This means your own insurer will cover damages, regardless of who caused the collision.
Specifically, your policy will pay for:
- Medical expenses up to $50,000
- Lost wages up to $2,000 per month for up to 3 years
- Other reasonable expenses up to $25 per day
However, recovery is limited under the no fault system. Filing an injury lawsuit against the uninsured driver allows you to recover more.
File a Lawsuit Against the Uninsured Driver
You have the right to sue the at-fault driver directly to recover compensation for your full damages.
This includes amounts beyond what your own policy covers, such as:
- Remaining medical bills
- Additional lost income
- Repair costs exceeding your coverage
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
However, a major challenge with this approach is collecting on any judgment awarded. If the uninsured driver has little income or assets, they likely cannot pay large damage awards.
But having a judgment at least establishes their legal obligation to compensate you. Your attorney can then try to collect through methods like garnishing wages or placing liens on any assets the driver may have now or in the future.
Use Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Carrying this optional coverage on your own policy helps fill gaps when an at-fault driver has little or no insurance.
It steps in to cover:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
Up to the limits you selected. Though it won’t fully replace the compensation you could get from the other driver, underinsured motorist coverage provides an important safety net.
File with the MVAIC
You can also file a claim with New York’s Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). This non-profit organization steps in to compensate victims of uninsured drivers, up to policy limits of $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident.
While not full recovery, tapping this fund is likely easier than suing the uninsured driver directly. So at minimum, the MVAIC provides some help.
Tips for Dealing With Uninsured Motorists
No matter which options you pursue, having a knowledgeable attorney in your corner is key after a collision with uninsured driver. An attorney can help maximize your recovery through one or more of these remedies.
File claims quickly – Strict deadlines apply, so don’t delay reporting the incident to insurers or MVAIC.
Keep good records – Document all collision details, medical treatment, lost work time, expenses, and other damages. Copies of repair estimates, medical reports, and other evidence will be vital.
Follow medical advice – Don’t decline treatment simply because the other driver is uninsured. Proper diagnosis and treatment builds your injury claim.
Consider suing your own insurer – If you have underinsured motorist coverage, but your insurer denies your claim, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them for bad faith denial of coverage.
Protect yourself – Carry high uninsured motorist coverage limits when possible. Also avoid gaps in your policy to ensure you get compensated even when others drive irresponsibly.
Consulting an Attorney
Trying to recover damages after an accident caused by an uninsured driver can be incredibly complicated and frustrating. An experienced New York attorney can make the process much smoother.
Legal counsel can help you:
- Determine all available options based on your specific situation
- Navigate New York’s complex insurance laws and requirements
- Deal with uncooperative insurers
- File claims correctly and on-time
- Collect all evidence needed to prove your damages
- Negotiate fair settlements
- Take legal action when needed against at-fault drivers or insurance providers
Don’t let an uninsured driver cause injury and loss to you or passengers, then escape liability. Protect your rights by discussing your case with a lawyer today. With determination and the law on your side, you can recover the maximum compensation after a rear-end crash, even when the at-fault motorist tried to drive irresponsibly without insurance.
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