Earlier this week I posted about being hit by a Canadian driver on Washington roads. While being hit by a foreign national can be inconvenient, at least you can be pretty certain that a Canadian driver has auto insurance, and probably pretty good coverage too. Sadly, the same can't be said for U.S. drivers. Although Washington law requires that all drivers carry at least $25,000 in liability insurance, nearly twenty percent of Washington drivers have no insurance at all. So if you get injured in a crash caused by an uninsured driver in Washington, what can you do?
The first thing you do, after making sure you are safe and getting the medical attention you need, is report the crash to your own insurance company. If you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, it will pay for your accident-related medical treatment and if you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM), that will cover the uninsured driver's liability. That would include not only your medical bills, lost income and other expenses, but also your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Of course, it will not be easy. When your insurer steps into the shoes of the uninsured driver's insurance, it is entitled to assert all of the defenses the other driver's insurance might have raised. They can claim you caused the crash, that the impact was too minor to cause injury, or that the injuries were the result of a preexisting condition. They could claim you overtreated, or that you failed to mitigate your damages. Finally, they could claim that your pain and suffering is not worth what you claim. Without an attorney on your side, these defenses can be difficult to overcome, and you are basically at the mercy of your insurance company.
Even worse is the situation where you are injured by an uninsured driver and you don't have uninsured motorist coverage. In these situations, your options are very limited. You can hire an investigator to run an asset check on the uninsured driver, but usually if you don't have insurance, you don't have any assets worth collecting. The Department of Licensing will suspend the license of an uninsured driver who causes damages, but this doesn't help you get your bills paid. Some of the most tragic cases I've encountered as a lawyer involve catastrophic damages caused by an uninsured driver and there is no uninsured motorist coverage.
If you drive, or if you are covered by car insurance, please make sure you have adequate PIP and UM coverage, and if you have been injured by an uninsured driver, make sure you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney like the lawyers at the Law Offices of Matthew D. Dubin.