As a car accident attorney, I am often asked about what to do if you are involved in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist or an under-insured motorist. Both types of claims are governed by the uninsured motorist (“UM”) provision of your auto insurance policy and are generally treated the same. The main difference is that an uninsured motorist does not carry any insurance, while an under-insured motorist does not carry enough insurance to cover your losses. Accidents involving uninsured motorists can arise under several different circumstances.
First, if the other driver is at fault and did not carry the legally required auto insurance, then the at-fault vehicle would be considered an uninsured motorist. Once your insurance company confirms that the other vehicle did not carry liability insurance, then they will step in and provide the necessary coverage. They will pay for the damages to your vehicle, as well as any losses due to personal injuries. However, if the other vehicle did have liability insurance, then you can make an underinsured motorist claim if the policy was insufficient to cover all your damages. In either case, your insurance company in a UM claim assumes the role of compensating you for your losses that the other vehicle’s insurance is unable to cover.
In the second scenario, let’s assume you were involved in an accident with a hit and run driver. A hit and run driver is considered an uninsured vehicle. However, hit and run accidents have one other condition that must be met before your UM coverage will apply. There must be actual physical contact between your vehicle and the hit and run vehicle. For example, if you are forced off the road by another vehicle and there was no physical contact between the vehicles, then your insurance company will probably deny your UM claim. There is one exception to the “physical contact” rule. Even if there is no physical contact between the vehicles, then you can still make a UM claim if you can prove the identity of the hit and run driver. However, unless you are lucky enough to get the license plate number and can actually identify the other driver, then you will probably be unable to meet this exception.
UM coverage may apply in pedestrian accidents. For example, if you are crossing the street in a cross walk and you are struck by a uninsured vehicle going through the red light, then you can make a claim on your own auto policy for UM coverage. This is true even though you were not in your vehicle at the time of the accident. You can also make a UM claim as a pedestrian if the other vehicle fled the scene of the accident.