Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?

Can I sue an uninsured driver?

Unfortunately, there are millions of uninsured drivers on the road. If you get hit by an uninsured driver, you might be wondering, can I sue an uninsured driver? In a word: Yes. You can sue an uninsured driver. But the bigger question is – is it worth it?

If you were hit by an uninsured driver, contact our office to discuss your options at 847-305-4105.

The truth – 1.1 million uninsured drivers in Illinois

According to the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 13% of all drivers driving on the road are uninsured. In the state of Illinois, there are approximately 8,500,000 licensed drivers. That means, there are over 1.1 million uninsured drivers in Illinois. As such, you are at risk every time you get in your vehicle.

The state with the highest levels of uninsured drivers? It’s Florida where it is estimated that 27% of all drivers are uninsured according to this story by CBS News.

Can I sue an uninsured driver?

Yes, you can sue an uninsured driver. You can file a lawsuit and seek reimbursement for your damages. The problem is, if the uninsured driver doesn’t have the resources to buy auto insurance, they probably don’t have enough money or financial assets to compensate you for your damages.

So, what do you do?

First, you do not just take the driver’s word at the scene of the accident that he or she is uninsured. Take down his/her driver’s license number, license plate number and contact information. Provide that to your auto insurance company which has access to resources to determine if the driver was actually uninsured.

Second, it may be that the driver had insurance but it lapsed prior to the accident. This is a very common scenario. In that case, still file a claim with the defendant’s auto insurance company. Do not just take his/her insurance company’s word that the driver is uninsured. Make them provide you a letter documenting the fact that the driver is uninsured. Your insurance company will likely require that before they compensate you anyways.

File a claim with your auto insurance company

If you have auto insurance in the state of Illinois, then you also have the mandatory uninsured motorist insurance limits of $25,000. If the driver who hit you is uninsured, you can seek reimbursement for your medical bills and your pain and suffering from your own insurance. You may be able to seek reimbursement for your property damage as well if you have collision coverage.

Beware – when you seek compensation from your own insurance company, you become adverse – meaning, your insurance carrier will try and pay you as little as they can just as if you were the opposing party.

Is $25,000 enough uninsured motorist coverage?

Not even close. If you are able, I also recommend that drivers have at least $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you get in a serious accident, $25,000 might not even cover your medical expenses let alone compensate you for your pain and suffering.

When can I sue an uninsured driver? And when should you sue the driver?

If you are involved in an auto accident and you learn that the defendant is uninsured, when should you file a lawsuit against him or her?

I have recommended that people file a lawsuit against the defendant driver in several situations. The most common are:

  • When both parties are uninsured: If you suffered damages and you as the victim also do not have insurance, then file suit. You can file in small claims court if your damages are below $10,000. This is the very situation that small claims court is there for. It will cost you a few hundred dollars to file suit and serve the defendant but at least you have a chance of recovering
  • If you have liability/uninsured motorist coverage but do not have collision coverage: It may be that you got in an accident and you have insurance but do not have coverage to repair your car. If you didn’t suffer any injuries, you might as well file in small claims court.

Prior to going to court, you need to have estimates or receipts for repairs to your vehicle. It is also a good idea to have completed your medical treatment and obtained your medical records and bills.

If you do decide to file suit, do your homework. The rules regarding introducing evidence (like your property damage estimate and medical bills) are very laxed in small claims court. However, you still should do a little research on how small claims court works to ensure success.

If you have any further questions regarding how to sue an uninsured driver, feel free to contact my office at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation. I am happy to consult with you on this or any other personal injury related topic.

Why personal injury cases take so long

People are often surprised when we tell them that their personal injury case may take twelve to twenty-four months to resolve. They always

Personal Injury Cases
Why personal injury cases take so long

ask why personal injury cases take so long. For the answer to this and other personal injury related questions, see part one of the blog article, or contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

Why personal injury cases take so long – Part Two

In part one of this blog article, we explained that obtaining insurance from the defendant who caused your accident, confirming that the defendant’s insurance company has accepted liability or responsibility for the accident, and the severity of your injury, can all affect how long it takes to resolve your case.

In part two of this blog, we will address additional factors that explain why personal injury cases take so long.

Factors that affect how long it takes to resolve your case

Obtaining medical bills and records

The medical bill and record aspect of your cases is a primary reason why personal injury cases take so long.

Once you are through treating, your law office will have to order all your medical bills and records from your medical providers – and there can be a lot of them. This is a slow process that requires dealing with medical bureaucracy. We are constantly required to order and re-order bills and records. And there are often significant fees for ordering the bills and records that have to be processed and paid.

Often our clients send us copies of the bills they receive and wonder why those won’t work. When we order bills from medical providers, they come with ICD Codes which are the codes insurance companies require before they compensate an accident victim for his or her damages. Our clients do not receive bills with ICD codes, we have to order them ourselves.

Medical bill and record review

Once we finally obtain the bills and records, they are reviewed in detail. This is a time intensive process and must be performed by an attorney or paralegal. Often there are hundreds and hundreds of pages of bills and records that have to be reviewed.

In addition, often when records are first reviewed, we learn that there was additional medical treatment that we did not know about, that there are records we have not ordered or received as yet, or that there were dates of service that were not provided to us. As such, we have to order those bills and records and that starts the process over again.

Once all the documents have been reviewed, your attorney will get on the phone with you to review your case before taking the next step in the process described below.

Demand Letter

Writing the demand letter to the insurance company is also a time intensive process. The demand letter will document:

  • The facts of the accident
  • Your theory of liability
  • Analysis of the medical bills and records
  • Description of your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment, among other things
  • A demand for compensation

Once the letter is written, it must be reviewed and sent to the client for corrections, suggestions and approval. Then we will mail the demand to the insurance company. We will give them 30 days to respond to the letter – though it often takes much longer.

Negotiation

The negotiation process can take several weeks or months. Our demand letters often include very high demands and the insurance companies often begin with a very low offer. Then the process of negotiation begins. Your attorney will argue to the insurance adjuster about the value of your case and where the insurance company has exposure.

The insurance company will attempt to reduce your claim by disputing the severity of your injury and the amount of your medical treatment. They may point out you have pre-existing conditions and allege that the injuries you suffered were not actually suffered in the accident at all.

In many cases, the two sides are able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution of claims. However, that does not happen in all cases, discussed below.

As an aside, it may be that your injuries are so severe that they are more than worth the value of the insurance policy. In that situation, the insurance adjuster may just “tender” or offer the entire amount of their insured’s insurance policy.

Underinsured Motorist Protection

If the defendant offers you the full value of their insurance policy, you may be able to seek to recover additional compensation from your own underinsured motorist policy. We have handled several cases where we were able to quickly obtain the $25,000 or $50,000 policy limits from the defendant and then went after our client’s own insurance policy to compensate our clients for the rest of their damages.

Medical Bill/Lien Negotiation

Once your case settles, your attorney will attempt to resolve all outstanding medical bills you have as a result of injuries suffered in the accident. There are often deductibles, co-pays and in some cases entire medical bills outstanding.

Health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois also intend to be reimbursed for the medical bills they paid on your behalf. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a reduced amount with your insurance company as well. Do you have to pay your health insurance company back? Yes, often you do.

If you used your auto insurance medical payments (or “medpay”) benefits to pay your medical bills, you will have to pay your auto insurance company back as well. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate this amount down for you as well.

Be aware that some health insurance companies just simply take forever to settle with, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. They are huge governmental bureaucracies and just move much slower than a private health insurer.

Lawsuit/Litigation

The last reason why personal injury cases take so long, is that if you are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company, your attorney may be forced to file a lawsuit against the defendant on your behalf. If you are in Cook County, you might not get to trial for eighteen months to two years. That’s on top of all the time you already spent on your case.

Despite this, it’s still optimal to try and resolve your claim amicably first as litigation costs a lot of money. Every dollar you spend on costs and expenses for your case comes out of your settlement/your pocket. Pre-litigation expenses cost a few hundred dollars while litigation can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Conclusion

All the above are many of the reasons why personal injury cases take so long. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless other tasks that your law firm must to do prep your case and they all take time. If you want a free consultation to discuss why personal injury cases take so long, contact our office at 312-848-9783.