Far too many drivers venture out on the road without adequate car insurance. According to the Insurance Research Council, the number is nearly one in seven drivers across the country.
In Massachusetts, the percentage of uninsured drivers is about four percent or one in twenty-five drivers. Though this means Massachusetts is better than the national average, issues still arise when drivers without insurance get into motor vehicle accidents. Drivers need to be aware of the consequences of driving without insurance and how underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage on an insurance policy can help mitigate the problems that arise.
When uninsured drivers get into an auto accident with insured drivers, serious consequences can result. People who drive without auto insurance may face civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply with state laws mandating insurance coverage. They may also lose their houses, cars, savings, and other assets if they cause an accident and an injured person sue to recover for his or her injuries.
Different – but no less serious – issues arise for insured drivers who get involved in accidents with uninsured drivers. Those drivers can choose to sue the uninsured at-fault driver personally for the medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering that result from the accident. In practice, however, the uninsured driver may be “judgment-proof,” meaning that the insured driver will never collect anything because the uninsured driver simply has no money or other assets.
One way that drivers can protect themselves from uninsured drivers is by purchasing uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage as part of their own insurance policies. UM, the coverage pays medical bills, lost income, and property damage expenses when the policyholder is involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
UIM policies pay expenses that exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. This is often necessary when drivers carry only the minimum amount of insurance that state law requires. Damages from automobile accidents frequently exceed these state-mandated minimums and a UIM policy can make up the difference so the injured driver does not have to pay personally.
Some drivers may be tempted to try to save money by carrying the least amount of insurance possible and foregoing UM or UIM coverage – or by driving without insurance altogether. However, the problems that arise when people get into auto accidents and the parties do not have enough insurance to cover the damages are too big to make the risk worthwhile.