By: South Sound Law Group

What Are the Legal Considerations for Accidents Involving Uninsured Motorists?

Personal Injury

Why Do Accidents With Uninsured Drivers Present Unique Legal Difficulties?

Accidents involving uninsured motorists in Washington State present a complex array of legal considerations that both drivers and victims must navigate. Washington law mandates that all drivers carry minimum levels of auto insurance, including liability coverage of $25,000 per person for injuries, $50,000 per accident for multiple injuries, and $10,000 for property damage. Despite these requirements, many drivers in Washington operate vehicles without insurance. Due to the state’s fault-based insurance laws, this non-compliance poses substantial risks and legal challenges for all parties involved in an accident. A helpful Washington car accident attorney can explain what you need to know about accidents with uninsured motorists and help you seek the maximum compensation for your circumstances.

What Are the Implications of an Accident for an Uninsured Driver in Washington State?

Driving without insurance in Washington is a risky choice that can significantly impact the driver and other motorists. When an uninsured motorist is involved in a collision, the immediate legal consequence is a traffic infraction, which can result in fines, license suspension, and mandatory payment of civil court judgments. The fine for driving without insurance in Washington can range from $15 to $450. Failure to pay these fines on time may lead to the suspension of the driver’s license. Additionally, if an uninsured driver is at fault in an accident causing property damage exceeding $1,000, their license may be suspended for up to three years, and they must pay a fee to reinstate it.

How Can an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist Cause Difficulties for Victims?

The legal landscape is equally challenging for victims of accidents involving uninsured motorists. Washington operates under a “fault” system, meaning the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating the victims for their damages. However, when the at-fault driver is uninsured, victims often face difficulties recovering adequate compensation. In such cases, victims may need to rely on their own insurance policies, specifically Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, if they have it. These coverages are not mandatory in Washington but are highly recommended as they provide another layer of financial protection.

Why is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage So Critical For Drivers?

UM and UIM coverage can be crucial in ensuring victims receive compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and other losses. UM coverage compensates for damages caused by a driver who does not have liability insurance. In contrast, UIM coverage applies when the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover the full extent of the damages. Washington law requires insurers to offer UM and UIM coverage to policyholders, but drivers can opt-out by submitting a written waiver. Without this coverage, victims may have to bear the financial burden of the accident themselves or pursue a civil lawsuit against the uninsured driver.

What Should You Do if You’ve Been Involved in an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

After an accident with an uninsured motorist, it is essential for a victim to take immediate steps to protect their legal rights. Key actions for safeguarding your rights to recovery include:

  • Reporting the accident to the police.
  • Gathering evidence, such as accident scene photographs and witness contact information.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention for any injuries.
  • Informing your insurance company of the crash within the time specified by your policy.

Consulting with a trusted personal injury attorney can also be critical, as they can help navigate the challenges posed by complicated insurance claims and potential lawsuits. Your attorney can assist in filing claims under your UM/UIM coverage, pursuing third-party claims against any other liable parties, and representing your interests in court if necessary.

How Can You Recover Damages After a Crash With an Uninsured Motorist?

Purchasing additional insurance coverage, including UM and UIM, may provide a measure of protection from some of the issues caused by a collision with an uninsured motorist.

However, even this extra coverage may not be enough to handle the extensive injuries and losses caused by a severe car accident. Depending on your circumstances, a personal injury lawsuit may be the best option for recovering compensation for your damages. Your lawyer can help you determine the best way to proceed in your unique situation that will maximize your recovery. Through a lawsuit, you may be able to pursue a settlement that covers all of the economic and non-economic losses resulting from the collision, including:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity if you have been seriously disabled by the crash
  • Costs for in-home care or modifications to make your home and vehicle accessible
  • Damage to personal property
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of life’s enjoyment

How Can Our Law Firm Help You?

While the dangers of driving without adequate insurance are clear, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that 16.5% of Washington motorists still do not carry car insurance. The state’s high percentage of uninsured drivers underscores the substantial risk of encountering an uninsured motorist and the possible financial and legal repercussions of a collision. By understanding the legal considerations and taking proactive measures, drivers can better safeguard their interests in the event of an accident involving an uninsured motorist.

A skilled car accident lawyer from South Sound Law Group can provide invaluable assistance if you’ve been hurt in a collision with an uninsured motorist in Washington state. We can help you navigate the complexities of filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claim with your own insurance company, ensuring that the claim is filed correctly and within the applicable time limits. If your insurance company denies your claim or refuses to offer a fair settlement, our lawyers can help you file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver or initiate legal action against your insurance company. Throughout the process, a knowledgeable lawyer can provide guidance, protect your rights, and ensure all legal requirements are met.

To schedule a free consultation, contact our Tacoma law firm today at 253-465-2722.