Getting into a car accident is an awful experience to begin with—but when the other driver is uninsured or simply drives off, it becomes even worse.
We hope this never happens to you, but unfortunately, uninsured driver accidents are common. According to the latest data from the Insurance Information Council, 12.6 percent of drivers (about 1 in 8) are uninsured throughout the country.
Since 1953, Ohio has required all drivers to have auto insurance, yet the rate of insured drivers is among the worst in the nation. Ohio is not one of the top ten states in terms of the percentage of uninsured motorists; however, it has the country’s fourth-highest number of uninsured drivers because of Ohio’s large population. There are about 1.3 million uninsured drivers throughout the state.
Worse still, according to the State Highway Patrol, they are more likely to be at fault for accidents. The latest data from 2015 from the State Highway Patrol shows that uninsured motorists were at fault 67 percent of the time in accidents involving other vehicles. (This statistic doesn’t include hit-and-runs or damage to parked cars, which means that percentage could be even higher.)
Typically, after a car accident, the person at fault is the one whose insurance pays for damages. If you get in a car accident with an uninsured driver, you need to have automobile insurance to cover your property damage and any injuries. In cases where the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you will be on the hook for all damages and medical bills arising from the accident. That means you’ll have to pay your car insurance deductible and may also have to pay for your medical bills. While you can try to take the other driver to court to pay the expenses, this can be a difficult and futile process: most people who do not have car insurance also do not have lots of money to pay you. (You can’t draw blood from a stone, so to speak.) In addition, there is cap on the damages you can seek in small claims court not to mention the inconvenience of having to take time off from work or your life to plead your case and then to enforce any judgment.
What can you do to protect yourself? The first thing you can do is drive defensively. We promise that getting to your destination quickly is not worth the potential injury and damage of a car accident. Drive the speed limit, put your cell phone away, and act cautiously—particularly if other drivers around you are driving erratically and seem not to be paying attention. The second thing you can do is purchase uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM) and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UIM) insurance, uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD), and underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD) coverage. Below, we explain what each covers and why you need it.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) Bodily Injury Coverage: If you are in a car accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault, this type of coverage will pay for your medical bills (as well as those of any passengers in the car), lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent disability. Keep in mind that you will only be covered up to the limit of the insurance you carry, so talk to your agent about what coverage level is most appropriate for you. This coverage may also apply if you are injured in a hit-and-run accident or if you are hit by an uninsured driver while you are a pedestrian.
Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Bodily Injury Coverage: This type of coverage will pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering if the amounts exceed what the at fault person carriers for automobile liability coverage. In Ohio, the legal amount of liability insurance is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. With the cost of medical services today, $25,000 will not cover very much medical treatment.
If you carry UM or UIM coverage, make sure you carry more than the legal limit. Have at least $50,000 per person, or more, if you can afford it. You will be limited to the amount of insurance in effect on the day of the accident.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) Coverage: This type of coverage will pay for the damage to your vehicle or damage to personal items. In addition, make sure you have these types of coverage:
- GAP insurance coverage – This is a must if you have a loan on your vehicle. GAP insurance coverage covers the “gap” between what you owe on the car and what it is actually worth.
- Replacement vehicle coverage – In Ohio, your car will not be replaced, unless you have some type of specific replacement coverage.
- Rental car coverage – If the at fault person has no auto insurance, you will not get a rental car unless you have rental car insurance on your own policy.
When you purchase car insurance, ask what happens if the at fault person has no insurance. Tell your agent you want all of the coverage needed to protect yourself and any passengers, and discuss what policy additions you will need to make that happen.
Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage: Every state requires all drivers to have car insurance, but the minimum amount of insurance coverage varies wildly. Even if the other driver has insurance, it may not be enough to cover your property damage.
In Ohio, the minimum amount of bodily injury coverage is $25,000 per person in the car and $50,000 total per accident. The minimum amount of property damage is $25,000. If you or your passengers have medical bills that cost more than $50,000 (and we all know how expensive health care is) or property damage costs of more than $25,000, you may have to pay the difference. The other driver would be responsible for the costs, but you may never see the money from him or her.
UIM coverage can help with those overflow costs.
It is not fair that responsible motorists who purchase insurance should have to pay even more in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, but it is a reality if you are driving in Ohio. Many people do not have auto insurance and are not held responsible for their actions. Protect yourself, your family, and your passengers.
We recommend that you get some type of uninsured and underinsured bodily injury motorist coverage and uninsured and underinsured property damage coverage.
In Ohio, this type of coverage is not required by the state, and it’s not automatically added to your policy. You have to ask for it. Contact your insurance company to add uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for both bodily injury and for property damage to your policy. You need to have protection from the thousands of uninsured and underinsured drivers on the road today.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver and have questions, we can help you. The Cincinnati, Ohio, personal injury attorneys at Casper & Casper have years of experience dealing with situations just like these.