By Michael Ehline of Ehline Law Firm, P.C. As a California trial attorney, who represents families coping with a serious injury or fatality in an auto accident, one of the more difficult parts of my job is explaining to a family that they may never recover any type of compensation even though their accident may have been caused by another person. A look of shock and disbelief quickly takes hold of a family when they learn that their unfortunate circumstance of getting involved in an auto accident may have just gotten worse when their is no avenue for recovery.
“But doesn’t the person who hit me need to carry car insurance?” inquire many clients. California, like most states has legislated to require drivers to carry liability insurance (in CA, drivers must have liability insurance of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident). Unfortunately, the reality is that when you are out driving or even out crossing a the street, there are quite a few people sharing the roads with you that ignore the law and are driving are ‘uninsured’. Not only do they put their own financial well-being at risk by not having insurance to cover their vehicle or any injuries they might sustain, they also negligently put those who may be harmed by an accident they cause at risk of financial casualty.
Number Of Drivers Without Liability Insurance
I recently discussed the seemingly expanding problem of un-insured drivers with attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers who echoes my frustration when it comes to the number of drivers who ignore their financial obligations and take to the streets without insurance on their vehicle. Rosenfeld is an Illinois lawyer and handles auto accident cases on behalf of Chicagoians involved in car accidents with uninsured motorists, shared a study on the topic with me from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an independent nonprofit organization that does research work for the property-casualty insurance business.
Alarmingly, almost 14% or one out of seven drivers on the roads today has no insurance. Putting this number into context, for most people on a busy highway or street that dozens of vehicles are within your line of vision at any given moment, this means that you are sharing the immediate area with up to 4-5 drivers at any given moment! The rates have seemed to increase since the early 2000’s, thought to be linked to the increase in unemployment rates and the financial instability in the country that hit in 2008 and continue to impact many areas through the present time.
The financial toll is great on both individuals and the insurance companies. Those who have uninsured motorist coverage through their own insurance can have their damages covered if hit by an uninsured driver, however that cost is reflected in larger insurance premiums for everyone. In 2007, there was an estimated $10.8 billion in damages caused by uninsured motorists reported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. For those without the coverage, the financial burden is on them to pay for injuries and damages out of their own pocket.
Importance Of Uninsured Motorist Coverage For Everyone
For anyone driving without uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, these statistics should be an eye-opener and inspire you to make arrangements for additional insurance coverage. In most cases the premium for this extra coverage is minimal yet not having this coverage may cost you plenty. If you are in an accident with another driver and they do not have insurance, you may find yourself out a vehicle and paying medical bills as well as other expenses yourself.
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage will cover damages that are inflicted by another driver without insurance or in the case of a hit-and-run accident (for more discussion look here). It may even cover you when you are not driving and are hit by a driver when walking or riding a bike and the person does not have insurance or flees the scene. Under-insured (UIM) coverage bolsters the amount covered in case of an expensive accident where the at-fault person’s coverage is not enough to pay for all the damages.
The best protection against these unlawful and irresponsible drivers on the road is to insure yourself. It may not be fair to have to pay more to be covered when it is another driver’s fault, however, life is not always fair. It is better to be safe than sorry, they always say, and this is no exception.