Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver?
In New York, if you were involved in a minor traffic accident, you’d file a claim with your insurance provider. If you were seriously injured, however, and someone else caused the accident, you have the right to bring a claim against that driver and collect under their liability insurance policy. What happens when the at-fault driver was (illegally) driving without insurance? Continue reading for a discussion of your options for recovery after an accident with an uninsured driver, and call a seasoned Kingston traffic accident lawyer for advice and representation after a Hudson Valley crash.
No-Fault Insurance Coverage
New York law requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance. Your basic auto insurance policy includes personal injury protection (PIP) or “no-fault” insurance coverage, as well as liability insurance. PIP covers your own injuries, while your liability insurance covers other drivers in the event of an accident.
If you were hit by an uninsured driver, you can still rely on your PIP coverage. Your no-fault PIP insurance protects you regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident. New York requires drivers to carry a minimum of $50,000 in PIP coverage. PIP covers your medical expenses, economic losses (a portion of your income lost during recovery plus a small stipend for daily chores), and death benefits. PIP does not cover other damages, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress, that you would be able to collect in a lawsuit against the at-fault driver after a serious injury.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
New York law also requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 in uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage. UM/UIM kicks in when you were hurt by another driver’s negligence and that driver does not carry the legally mandated liability insurance, their insurance is not sufficient to cover your injuries, or you were struck in a hit-and-run accident and cannot track down the at-fault driver.
UM/UIM covers the difference between whatever you received from your PIP coverage, plus any compensation from the other driver’s liability insurance, and the total cost of your accident. For example: If you suffered $75,000 in personal injury damages and your PIP covers only $50,000, and the at-fault driver had no insurance coverage, then you could collect an additional $25,000 from your UM policy.
If you are within the no-fault scheme, UM will only cover your economic losses (medical expenses, lost wages). If you were seriously injured, however, you can seek compensation under your UM for additional damages you would have been able to collect from the at-fault driver, including non-economic damages like pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, and emotional trauma.
Your recovery will still be capped by your policy limit. We’d strongly recommend carrying more than the minimum coverage for both PIP and UM/UIM.
Suing an Uninsured Driver
As a last resort, you can, indeed, sue an uninsured driver. You’ll need to prove you suffered a serious injury to move out of the no-fault insurance scheme. If you do sue the driver, and you win, you can obtain a judgment forcing them to pay. If they do not pay, then you can seek to attach assets like their car or home, or even garnish their wages. In practice, however, this is often not worth the time and energy of a lawsuit.
We say “last resort” because suing an uninsured driver is usually not a very fruitful option. Most people who drive without insurance do so because they cannot afford insurance. If you are hoping to recover tens of thousands of dollars to compensate you for your injuries, your medical costs, and other damages, it’s likely you will get little from an uninsured driver. You might wind up with a judgment that is worth no more than the paper it’s printed on.
If you were seriously injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, talk to an experienced car crash attorney for advice on how best to protect your interests.
Thorough and Effective Legal Assistance With Your Hudson Valley Car Accident Claim
If you or someone you love has been hurt by a negligent or reckless driver in New York, find out if you’re entitled to monetary damages for your injuries by contacting the trusted and successful Hudson Valley car accident lawyers at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for a free consultation at 845-331-4100 (Kingston) or 845-236-4411 (Marlboro).