While most personal injury cases end in settlements with insurance companies, some still go to court. One of the reasons is the lack of insurance.
You are likely to incur significant medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering when you get hurt in an accident. If you can prove the driver's fault and negligence, they are responsible for providing compensation. If the driver doesn't have insurance, you can sue them directly.
Suing an uninsured driver may be the only way to obtain compensation for your damages. Let's take a closer look at whether it's worth your while. A car accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal process following an accident involving an uninsured driver.
Reasons Why Drivers Don't Have Insurance
Today, over 12 percent of American drivers don't have insurance. The reason why the driver doesn't have insurance plays a significant role in deciding whether it's worth going to court. The common causes behind the absence of an insurance policy include:
The main reason why people drive without insurance is high premium prices. The average annual cost of motorist insurance in Chicago is over $1,800. Not all drivers are ready to pay this amount. They believe that they can drive carefully enough to avoid accidents.
Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes. Uninsured drivers get into accidents just as often as insured drivers do.
If the reason behind the lack of insurance is its cost, this usually means that the driver doesn't have many assets. Accordingly, they could have a hard time covering your damages.
Some drivers (especially younger drivers) believe they don't need insurance since they are invincible. These drivers tend to cause more accidents than others. Proving negligence in accidents with such drivers is often straightforward.
If the reason behind the lack of insurance is a certain mentality, it may be worth suing them. Such drivers are more likely to have assets than those who fail to buy insurance because of its cost.
Some drivers mistakenly believe everyone else on the road has an uninsured driver or personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. However, only a few drivers do. Illinois isn't a no-fault state, meaning PIP insurance isn't mandatory. This additional insurance option raises the cost of the premium, so many drivers avoid it.
While this approach is irresponsible at best, it doesn't always mean that the driver doesn't have assets to cover the damages after the accident. That's why it may be worth going to court to obtain compensation.
Some drivers forget to renew their premiums. While most premiums are renewed automatically, they will only do so if the driver pays. When the insurance premium expires, the driver can no longer rely on the insurance company to cover damages.
The common reason for such forgetfulness is the lack of funds. However, some drivers change bank accounts, forget to speak with insurance companies, and ignore policy expiration reminders. If the driver is forgetful instead of being financially challenged, it may be worth suing them.
Filing a Claim Against an Uninsured Driver
Filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver usually involves hiring a lawyer. While you can go to court without legal assistance, making mistakes that cause unexpected complications is easy. Legal experience is vital to winning the case in court and getting fair compensation.
Reliable personal injury attorneys usually charge something once the case is over. Once you get the settlement, the law firm receives the payment. If you don't win, you don't have to pay. However, you would still need to cover court fees.
This is essential when determining whether the case is worth your while. It depends on how likely the driver is to reimburse your expenses.
Drivers Without Assets
If the driver doesn't have assets to cover your damages, suing them may not be worth it. You would have to spend time and money filing the claim, working with an attorney, collecting evidence, and making your case in court.
Eventually, if you win your case, you could face a problem recovering the funds from the at-fault driver. If they don't pay, you need to go back to court and ask the judge to issue an order that compels the driver to pay.
If the driver doesn't have money, this won't have an effect. They can file for bankruptcy and avoid paying you anything at all without worrying about legal consequences.
Drivers With Assets
If the driver has assets to cover your damages, suing them could be a reasonable choice.
To recover damages, you would need to:
- Collect all relevant evidence
- Prove the driver's negligence
- Make a strong case and present it to the jury
- Back the amount you ask for with proof
When you sue the driver directly, the case doesn't have to go all the way to trial. In many cases, at-fault parties decide to settle at the early stages of litigation. Your attorney can always make or accept a reasonable offer. If the at-fault party agrees and pays, the case is over.
If the driver has sufficient assets, they may hire a lawyer to defend them. This means that you would need to go up against a team of people with legal experience. Proving your case can be challenging if you don't have an attorney by your side.
Getting Rid of Assets
When they get served, some uninsured drivers try to avoid paying for your damages by getting rid of their assets. If there is a real danger of this happening, an attorney can arrange a lien on the at-fault party's property and other assets. This can keep everything intact until they make the necessary payments.
How to Check if the Uninsured Driver Has Sufficient Assets
Before you decide whether to sue the uninsured driver, you need to check if they have assets to cover your damages. The driver isn't likely to provide the information willingly. You may need to conduct an investigation.
If you consult a personal injury attorney, they can evaluate your driver's assets. Legal professionals conduct an online and offline investigation of the driver's ability to provide fair compensation.
Attorneys can run credit and asset checks to determine if the driver has viable assets. They can also request a financial affidavit from the at-fault party. This document lists the person's assets and helps you evaluate their ability to pay.
Once the attorney runs all the checks, they can help you make a decision about suing the driver. If the at-fault party doesn't have sufficient assets to provide compensation, suing them is rarely worth your while.
Other Options to Explore
If you sustain injuries in a car accident, you must conduct an extensive investigation to discover all the responsible parties. In some cases, the other driver isn't the only one liable for your accident.
If the uninsured driver doesn't have assets to cover your damages, you could turn to other accident participants for damage recovery.
Other people and entities you may hold responsible for the crash include:
- Driver's employer. If the driver is on duty at the time of the crash (truck driver, delivery service, tow truck driver), their employer may be responsible for covering your damages. You can file a claim with their insurance company in such a case.
- The third driver. The third driver could break the traffic laws and cause another car to swerve and hit yours. In this case, you may be able to file a claim with the third driver's insurance to cover at least some part of your damages.
- Pedestrian. A jaywalking pedestrian can also cause an accident by forcing the driver to avoid a collision with them.
- Government. If the driver crashes into you after hitting a pothole that the local or federal government should have repaired, it may be possible to file a claim against a government entity.
To discover all the liable parties, your attorney can go back to the accident scene to check for tire tracks and cameras. They can also request the police report and speak to eyewitnesses. After analyzing the available information, finding other responsible people or entities may be possible.
You need a lawyer to conduct an investigation as soon after the accident as possible while the majority of evidence remains intact. By waiting too long, you risk failing to collect camera footage. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses could easily forget important details.
Statute of Limitations
Another reason not to put off an investigation is the limited time you have to commence legal action.
The statute of limitations defines the time you must file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In Illinois, it's two years.
Standard exceptions to the statute include:
- Legal disability. The statute starts working after the disability is lifted.
- Age. If the injured party is a minor, the statue starts working when the person turns 18.
- Absence. If the at-fault party leaves the state of Illinois before you file a lawsuit, the statute starts working when they return.
If you are still determining whether these exceptions apply to you, consult an attorney. Either way, filing a claim as soon as possible can help you build a strong case while the evidence is fresh and the at-fault party is still in the state.
Damages You Can Recover
When you sue an uninsured driver, you can demand compensation for all your accident-related expenses just as you would when filing a claim with an insurance company. Damages that you can try recovering include:
After you get hurt, you can incur a variety of economic losses, including:
- Medical expenses
- Recovery expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
You can recover all these damages regardless of the time they occur. It's possible to get compensation for past, present, and future economic damages.
Non-economic damages (also called pain and suffering) involve all non-tangible damages you face after the accident.
They can include:
- Emotional stress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of life
As with economic damages, you can seek compensation for past, present, and future damages. Proving your right to these damages usually involves hiring expert witnesses.
These witnesses are industry experts (usually doctors) who can testify to how severe your emotional damages are and how long it would take to recover from them.
Non-economic damages are usually worth more than economic damages. That's why you should collect as much proof as possible.
Wrongful Death Damages
If the accident with an uninsured driver resulted in the death of a loved one, you could try to recover wrongful death damages. These damages include all funeral and burial expenses. You can also obtain compensation for before-death medical treatment if any.
The decedent's next of kin can also sue for the loss of inheritance, financial support, and emotional support.
Don't try to reduce the amount of your claim simply because you believe that the driver may have a hard time paying. If the at-fault driver acted negligently, they have full responsibility for their actions.
Your attorney can help you evaluate the fair amount based on the evidence you have and the history of similar cases in Chicago. The more evidence you can present in court, the more likely you will recover a sizable compensation for your injuries and suffering.
First Steps to Suing an Uninsured Driver
If you sustain injuries in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver, you may decide to sue them. It's essential to evaluate the at-fault party's assets to determine whether litigation is worth your while.
To do that, you may hire a personal injury attorney. A legal professional can evaluate your case, run an asset check, and tell you how to proceed with the claim.
Personal injury attorneys in Chicago will arrange free case evaluations. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn what to do next.