The only two states in which it is not a law to carry auto insurance is Virginia and New Hampshire. If you’re a resident of one of the remaining 48 states, it is against the law not to purchase auto insurance. Yet so many drivers on the road do not obey this law.
HOW ARE PEOPLE CAUGHT WITHOUT INSURANCE?
It is hard for states to always know who is getting behind the wheel without coverage. Several states take the approach of sending out potential letters of suspension when a car is registered for a license plate without being linked to an insurance policy number. The letter you receive gives you 30 days to prove you’ve purchased insurance. However, most people are caught when they break the law in other ways, or are involved in an accident. The driver receives a citation and their license is suspended when they are unable to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident.
HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF?
Your own insurance policy can be extremely important in protecting you from others who break the law. The uninsured/underinsured portion of your policy is protection you purchase for yourself in the event that someone causes you property damage and/or bodily injury harm without having coverage or having enough coverage.
WHAT IS COVERED?
If you need to use your uninsured motorist coverage, your policy will pay to fix your vehicle or the total loss settlement if your vehicle is not able to be repaired. This is not an exhaustive list but your coverage will also pay your medical bills, emergency transportation, chiropractor fees, massage therapy treatment, loss wages from work, and pain & suffering settlement up to the policy limits you purchase. The insurance company then has the subrogation power to go back after the other liable driver to collect on the total expenses they paid out for the accident.
The same is true for the underinsured motorist portion. If the driver does carry insurance but their limits are not high enough to cover all the expenses you’ve incurred, your policy kicks in. And then the same principal applies for subrogation to collect the rest back from the liable party.
BUT I ALREADY CARRY HEALTH INSURANCE
Medical insurance is an option to help cover expenses. However, medical insurance will often expect automobile insurance to pay first in accident cases. You’re also subject to your deductible annually. If the accident happens in December, you’ll pay your total deductible for the year, and then owe it again in January if you’re still getting treatment. And health insurance does not repair or replace your vehicle.
CAN’T I JUST SUE THEM MYSELF?
Yes, you also have the right and ability to sue the other party yourself. It’s important to remember that lawsuits often take a really long time. You can be tied up in court for months or years. You also lose a portion of your settlement in lawyer fees if you do win your case. In some situations, you may personally still find this as a necessary action. However, if you carry higher limits, most cases will provide you enough coverage immediately through your policy to assist with recovering from the loss.
You can read more about automobile policy language and coverages in this previous post. Being educated in what you’re purchasing really is your best asset in protecting yourself in all scenarios.