Being involved in an auto accident is stressful enough without one party being an uninsured driver! Regardless of who is at fault gathering photos, exchanging information and drafting a recap of the event is a lot to deal with even if no one was injured. Now consider, you go to exchange information and the other driver says they don’t have insurance. Here’s what could occur if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver.
What do you do if you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver?
Coming into contact with an uninsured driver is more common that you might think. According to a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council, 1 in 8 drivers are uninsured.
Uninsured driver rates vary drastically by state, but in Oregon, uninsured drivers make up 10% of the cars on the road. While that is not a huge percentage, we are bordered by two of the highest-ranking states. Many drivers in Oregon frequently travel to Washinton and California for business, recreational activities or to attend sporting events.
Washington has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the country. This ranking is equal to 21.7% of drivers. In California, 16.6% of drivers are uninsured. According to Statista, the number of automobile registrations in California in 2020 was 14.2 million. That means, roughly 2.3 million drivers do not have insurance coverage.
Yes, auto insurance is mandatory in every state. However, economic downturn has left people to make difficult choices. Ultimately, that choice for many has been to go without insurance despite low minimum requirements.
So, if your odds of being in an accident with an uninsured driver are so high, what can you do to protect yourself?
Does my insurance have coverage against uninsured drivers?
Fortunately, if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver your auto insurance policy does include liability coverage for uninsured and under-insured motorist in Oregon. This coverage protects you, and anyone in your car, if someone is injured in an accident involving an under insured or uninsured driver.
However, physical damage to the vehicle will only be covered by uninsured/under-insured property damage if it’s been previously added to the policy. Not all insurance agents or carriers automatically add this coverage by default. You must buy the uninsured/under insured property damage to be covered.
Many times, online auto insurance calculators will quote the auto policy without this important coverage to save the buyer money. Yet another reason it’s of great benefit to the consumer to work with an independent insurance agency that can help explain your risks and provide you the option to have coverage to protect your assets. An agent will also offer you a complimentary annual policy review to ensure you have the coverage needed to protect you and your family from an uncovered financial loss.
In Oregon if there is collision coverage on the vehicle, it will be covered for damages caused by an uninsured motorist. In most cases the deductible will be higher under the collision coverage than the uninsured coverage. Also, an uninsured loss will not be charged against the insured drivers record, where a collision loss may be. It depends on the insurance company.
How can an accident with an under-insured driver affect me?
Each state has minimum liability insurance limits. However, these limits in many states are extremely low. California is a great example, where the minimum liability limit is 15/30/5. 15/30/5 liability coverage will pay up to $15,000 of bodily liability damages for a single person, $30,000 for everyone involved in the single accident and $5,000 for any property damage.
Oregon limits are not much better at 25/50/20. Consider this, the average price of a new vehicle in 2022 is $47,000. The average price of a diesel truck is around $70,000. In Central Oregon, mid-size SUV’s and trucks make up the majority of the vehicles on the road. So, if you only have the minimum coverage, it’s very likely you are surrounded by vehicles that are more than double the price of your insurance that could potentially need to be used to replace them.
Envision this, you are on your daily morning commute when you hit a patch of black ice and slide into the lane beside you. A complete fluke accident. You have a newer vehicle as well as the driver that you hit. There are no injuries, but both vehicles are totaled. If you have the minimum insurance of 25/50/20 you will have excess liability to cover the damages that you caused to the other driver. This could put your home or other personal assets at risk as they could be used to recover the damages caused in the event of a lawsuit.
How to Resolve Disputes with your Insurer
According to the Oregon State Bar, “if you have been injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver, and you and your insurance company disagree about the amount you are entitled to recover from the uninsured driver, you and the insurance company may agree to resolve the dispute between you by arbitration. (Arbitration is a procedure to resolve disputes without going through the litigation process or a formal trial.)”
“The arbitration hearing is generally held in the offices of one or three arbitrators and allows both sides to present evidence on the issues in question. Rules of evidence are relaxed somewhat, and the proceedings are not as formal as a trial at the courthouse. The arbitrator(s) will decide all of the issues involved, including whether the damages you sustained were caused by the negligence of the uninsured driver and the amount of damages to which you are entitled. If you and the insurance company have agreed to use arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator(s) is final and binding upon both sides. As stated earlier, you also have the right to a jury trial if you do not want to arbitrate your dispute, but a jury trial may increase the cost and time it takes to resolve your case.”
“Just as in any other matter, it’s wise to talk to a lawyer before you make any decisions or sign anything. Remember that the insurance companies and the other driver have different interests than you; your lawyer will have only your best interest in mind. You might also obtain advice on how to represent yourself while resolving your case.”
Source: Oregon State Bar: Uninsured Drivers (osbar.org) Retrieved on 3/4/2022
Bancorp’s insurance agents are available to provide you with a free review and consultation. Contact Us – Bancorp Insurance Call 800-452-6826
Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice or in place of consultation with an attorney. Changes may occur in this area of law over time.