Lawsuits against careless drivers are technically against their insurance companies. While attorneys will name the driver personally in the lawsuit, it will be insurance company attorneys who defend it. In almost all cases, the insurance company will also pay any damages assessed.
However, if you discover the other driver did not carry insurance, your situation becomes much more complicated. The other driver will face civil and criminal penalties from the state for their non-compliance but that does not help you when your injuries create medical bills and lost wages. Fortunately, there are still options available to compensate you and aid in your recovery. Here an overview of them.
New York Insurance Requirements
New York law requires motorists to carry $25,000 of minimum liability insurance for injuries to one person, $50,000 to all persons, and $100,000 for property damage in each accident. Policies must also include no-fault coverage of at least $50,000. Drivers with assets that could get attached in lawsuits will carry coverage beyond these limits for additional protection.
If you fail to pay your premium or cancel your policy voluntarily, the insurance company notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles. Failing to activate a replacement policy will lead to the suspension of your license and the inability to register your vehicle. You will receive a letter explaining your lack of coverage and how to remedy that.
You can avoid suspension by having a replacement policy immediately after cancellation or paying a civil penalty of $8.00 per day the first 30 days, $10.00 a day through days 31 to 60, and $12.00 a day through days 61 to 90 after the lapse. If the lapse is 90 days, your total penalty is $900.
If you cause an accident while driving uninsured, your penalties are much more severe than fines or the payment of a new premium. You can lose your license for up to one year and face jail time if the damages were severe.
Collecting Damages From Uninsured Drivers
Knowing that the uninsured driver will face stiff civil and criminal penalties is little comfort when you have medical bills and lost wages due to an accident. The first concern is how to get compensated for these damages that were not your fault. There are three options for this situation that all depend on your own insurance coverage and circumstances of the other driver.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Maintaining uninsured motorist coverage allows you extra protection in case you face this challenge. When you endure an accident with an uninsured motorist, you will file the claim with your own insurance company to use these benefits. The accident will be investigated and an agent will determine your damages for coverage. While this is less adversarial than with another insurance company, you will still have a burden of proof to meet. These claims rarely lead to litigation and are normally settled through negotiation and discussion.
Once you receive an award, your insurance will pursue the other driver for subrogation. This means your insurance company seeks its own compensation for needing to cover your injuries. You will be out of the loop in this proceeding except to possibly give a statement or offer testimony.
New York gives a non-fault option in auto accidents. As mentioned above, every policy must contain $50,000 of no-fault benefits to cover your damages in accidents where fault cannot be determined. In these cases, each party must cover their own expenses from an accident.
You also have the option of using no-fault benefits if you face damages from an uninsured motorist and do not carry uninsured motorist coverage. However, unlike uninsured motorist coverage, these do not cover pain and suffering—only your proven damages like wage loss, medical bills, and property damage. Of course, this is preferable to no compensation and you might be able to file this claim alongside your uninsured motorist claim if your coverage levels are inadequate.
Sue The Other Driver Directly
Sometimes, you may come across the fortuitous position of being hit by an uninsured motorist with assets. In these cases, it could be worth the effort to pursue the other driver directly. If you are awarded damages in that lawsuit, your attorney can file proceedings to attach to real estate, wages, and other property owned by that motorist so you can collect compensation. This can be valuable if your no-fault or uninsured motorist is inadequate to cover your situation.
This is not a common strategy. Most people who drive uninsured do so because they lack money. Pursuing them directly for damages is too often the equivalent of harvesting blood from a turnip. Your attorney will perform an asset check to see if there is any chance of collection before you make the decision to get involved in this arduous process.
It can be difficult to navigate the terrain regarding uninsured drivers and guidance could prove vital. For experienced assistance, contact personal injury attorney Ivan M. Diamond for a free consultation so you can secure the compensation you deserve.