You’re driving along, when out of nowhere, a car blows through a stop sign and smashes into your car. An auto accident is bad enough, but the real pain comes when you learn that the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance. Now what?
According to the Insurance Research Council, roughly 12.6 percent, or nearly 30 million of our nation’s drivers are uninsured. Even worse, Colorado has the 9th highest rate of uninsured motorists – that’s one in six drivers, or nearly 600,000 uninsured motorists on our roadways. Despite that Colorado law requires every automobile owner to maintain vehicle insurance, many drivers, known as “uninsured motorists”, are causing accidents but don’t have proper insurance.
“Nationally we’re seeing the number of people driving without insurance go down but here in Colorado we’re seeing the reverse of that trend,” says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. “People are making the decision to drive illegally.”
Under Colorado law, companies selling automobile insurance are required to sell uninsured motorist insurance as part of every policy unless the driver refuses the coverage in writing. This coverage pays medical bills and other expenses, such as lost wages and pain and suffering, when an uninsured driver causes the accident that injured you.
Like many states, Colorado has a fault-based, or tort, system of auto insurance. This means that an at-fault driver is responsible for paying the victim’s damages and medical expenses. But if that driver is uninsured, you’ll be left having to sue for damages if you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage. However, since the primary reason drivers don’t purchase insurance is that they can’t afford it, the likelihood of collecting compensation from a lawsuit may be slim.
This makes establishing “fault” even more important when settling your claim. To protect your rights, follow these steps after an accident with an uninsured motorist:
- Call police to the scene and file an accident report, even if you think the accident is minor, because proving fault will be necessary for compensation.
- If you’ve been seriously injured, call 911 and get immediate medical help. If you have uninsured motorist coverage it will help pay your medical bills and lost wages that the at-fault driver should have paid.
- Exchange information with the other driver, and any other witnesses. If the driver is uninsured, you want to write down their name, address, phone number, and if possible, their driver’s license identification number to be able to track them down later.
- Take photos of the damage to both vehicles and the surrounding scene and contact your auto insurance company to understand your coverage and report your claim.
- Know your vehicle damage coverage before getting repairs. If you have uninsured motorist property damage coverage as part of your policy, then your insurance company will cover your repairs. If not, your coverage may be insufficient to cover your full expenses.
Unfortunately, for victims of an uninsured motorist accident, the insurance claims and settlement process can be stressful and confusing. If an uninsured motorist injured you or a loved one, immediately contact a knowledgeable Denver uninsured motorist attorney who can carefully examine your insurance policy, evaluate your case, and help you understand your rights.