What Happens After an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

A car accident lawyer filling out forms for a client, with a miniature car on his desk next to a gavel.For the most part, the Utah insurance code does a good job of encouraging drivers to take financial responsibility when they are involved in an accident. On average, Utah drivers pay about $500 per year for minimum and about $1,500 for full coverage.

Despite this, between 5% to 10% of all drivers on Utah’s roads are uninsured. Going off the numbers alone, that means out of the roughly 60,000 car accidents that occur in the state each year, between 2,500 and 5,000 of them involve uninsured drivers.

It also means the same number of drivers involved in a car accident run into trouble when they need to cover their injuries and damages, but the other party does not have the resources to pay for the accident they caused.

So let’s get right into it and figure out what you can do when you’ve been in an accident with an uninsured driver in Utah.

How to Sue Someone Without Car Insurance in Utah

Because Utah follows a modified no-fault system, drivers are required to seek compensation for their injuries as well as those of any uninsured passengers through their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy.

This means regardless of whether or not another driver is insured, it’s usually your insurance provider that will cover expenses. It also means pursuing claims – and, yes, lawsuits – against other parties is difficult in Utah compared to at-fault or tort states.

The idea behind no-fault systems is that they offer a more streamlined process than at-fault systems, leading to quicker compensation. This is because at-fault insurance is often delayed by investigation and dispute regarding fault, which in turn can delay treatment for injury.

The downside is that PIP policies hold drivers individually responsible for their compensation even if they had nothing to do with the cause of the car accident anyway. This might feel unfair, but is a tradeoff that has to be made in exchange for speed and efficiency.

Thankfully, the modifications Utah makes to the traditional no-fault system allow drivers to step outside PIP coverage… if certain conditions are met.

Stepping Outside Utah’s PIP Coverage

Utah’s no-fault system sets two kinds of thresholds for expenses and injuries, respectively, if a driver wants to pursue a claim against an at-fault party. Drivers only have to meet one of these thresholds rather than both.

Moreover, Utah PIP exclusively covers medical expenses, so you cannot use it to pay for vehicular damage. However, this means you can pursue a third-party claim for damage to your car, no matter how minor the damage is.

  • Medical Expense Threshold: This is the amount of medical expenses the driver and any passengers must accrue before they can step outside PIP. Utah law sets this threshold at $3,000, which is also the minimum amount of PIP coverage that drivers are legally required to possess.
  • Injury Severity Threshold: Utah allows drivers to pursue claims from other parties if they sustain serious injuries, including dismemberment or permanent disability, impairment, or disfigurement.
  • Non-medical expenses: Like all states, Utah requires drivers to have third-party liability insurance. This can cover property damage and non-economic damages sustained in an accident, regardless of whether or not you meet one or both of your PIP thresholds.

Meeting one or more of these requirements opens up the possibility of compensation from a third party, be it in the form of a damage claim or a lawsuit. This rule holds true with or without the other party having any insurance of their own.

What Happens When an Uninsured Driver Hits You?

When an uninsured driver hits you, as mentioned, you will have to take it up with your insurance company before any other option becomes available. At least, that is the case for injuries you or other people in your vehicle sustained.

But assuming you’ve met the required thresholds, you sadly won’t be able to turn to the uninsured driver’s insurance policy because, well, they have none. However, you might have the option of turning to your own provider or filing a lawsuit, depending on your case and policy.

Before we go any further, there is one important thing to remember when choosing how to proceed with either a claim or a lawsuit, and that is to act quickly. That doesn’t mean you should rush the process, only that you should ideally start the process as soon as possible.

The statute of limitations in Utah for personal injury is four years, which means you have that amount of time to file your claim. And even then, waiting that full length of time before taking action is inadvisable.

The success of lawsuits and third-party claims alike rely heavily on records and evidence available, some of which may be time-sensitive in nature. Good examples of time-sensitive evidence include CCTV and traffic camera footage.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is offered by insurance companies in Utah but is not required by law. That said, many drivers will invest in UM coverage for extra protection just in case they get in an accident with a driver without an insurance policy.

UM coverage plans are usually comprehensive enough to cover any additional expenses you might have suffered in an accident and, depending on the insurer, are not limited to medical expenses.

Most UM policies compensate a claimant for property damage as well as wrongful death. Depending on the limits of the policy, they may also cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In a similar way to UM coverage, underinsured motorist (UIM) Coverage provides additional protection in the event your PIP cannot cover all damages. The difference between the two is that UIM comes into play only if the other party’s insurance is insufficient to compensate you.

Again, Utah law does not require drivers to have UIM. But it is a good safety net in the event an insured driver does not have a comprehensive enough plan to pay for all the damages you suffered in an accident.

Personal Injury Lawsuits Against Uninsured Drivers

Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming procedures and involve a lot of resources to settle a dispute, even if nine out of ten lawsuits never make it to trial. There are also several reasons why lawyers look at lawsuits as a last resort.

  • Lawsuits might not get settled on time: You might need money for medical procedures now, either for yourself or for another person who was in the accident. Lawsuits can take months or years to settle, making them a poor option for victims who need quick financial support.
  • There is no guarantee the at-fault party can pay: Even if you won your case and the court ordered an uninsured driver to pay, there is no guarantee they have the financial capacity to do so. Their failure to pay might hold them in contempt of the court and get them sent to prison, but that might not solve your problem of fair compensation.
  • There is a risk of lower payout: After deducting lawyer’s fees, court fees, and other legal expenses, there is a chance the amount the court orders the uninsured driver to pay might be less than what you would have gotten had you settled outside of court.

Still, there are times when insurance claims are impossible. Such may be the case when you get in an accident with an uninsured driver, and you do not have UM coverage.

Assuming, then, that you’ve passed one of the aforementioned thresholds, your lawyer may recommend you seek compensation by suing the at-fault driver. They will, of course, provide you with legal counsel throughout and work toward the best outcome for your interests.

As an example, say that you won the lawsuit and the at-fault driver is required to pay a five-figure sum to you, the injured party. Let’s also say that, unfortunately, the uninsured driver does not have enough money on hand to pay the sum.
Your lawyer can negotiate a fair payment structure for both sides, such as through garnishing wages, perhaps, or taking assets. Such a plan can have an insurance company provide you with a lump sum while the driver can pay through installments.

You get your compensation, and they do not lose everything they have just to pay you back.

Suing Someone Without Car Insurance? Call Valley Law

Utah insurance laws might feel restrictive when you need compensation after a car accident. They might make you feel like you don’t have many options available, especially when the driver responsible for the accident has no insurance to cover your damages.

When you need to step outside these restrictions, call Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers. At Valley Law, lead attorney Brigham Richards brings over a decade of experience in personal injury law to the table to make sure you get the fair compensation you need.

Whether you need to negotiate a higher payout with your insurance provider or sue an at-fault uninsured driver to maximize your resources for treatment and recovery, Valley Law is on your side.

We do not charge for your case evaluation, and you only pay us when we win your case. Call us at 801-810-9999 today or fill out our online contact form found here.

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