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, it won’t matter whose fault it is. Because 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.)
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 is purchase uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD), and/or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Below, we explain what each covers and why you need it.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: This type of coverage will pay for your medical bills (as well as those of any passengers in the car) and your lost wages if you are injured in a car accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. This coverage also applies if you are injured in a hit-and-run accident or if you are hit by an uninsured driver while you are a pedestrian.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) Coverage: Uninsured motorist coverage will pay for medical bills but not damage to your car or property. This is where uninsured motorist property damage comes in. You should check with your insurance company to see if this coverage applies to all of your property or just your car.
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 medical bills and 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.
It’s not fair that responsible motorists who purchase for insurance should have to pay even more in an accident with an uninsured driver, but it is definitely better than the alternative: paying out of pocket for damages or fighting in court.
We recommend that you get some type of uninsured motorist coverage in Ohio. This type of coverage is not required in Ohio, and it’s not automatically added to your policy. You have to ask for it. Contact your insurance company to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy and get protection from the thousands of un- and underinsured drivers on the road today.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with an uninsured 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.