In this final segment of our four-part series titled Nightmare Scenario Car Accidents & What You Should Do we will look at the scenario of being involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) driver. The Insurance Research Council tracks uninsured motorist claims filed with auto insurance companies. Their recent data suggests that approximately 16.2% of Colorado motorists are uninsured, which is higher than the national average of 12.6%. The state does require that all motorists have vehicle liability insurance of certain minimum levels. Residents are required to present documentation showing insurance coverage for vehicle registration and may impose penalties for driving without coverage. For reasons unknown, the state ranks in the top-ten in this category.
Correlation to Hit-and-Run Accidents
Colorado also has a comparatively high rate of hit-and-run accidents, with 7,744 drivers who fled the scene in 2015. It may be that these drivers are fearful of the consequences of not having insurance in addition to any other potential violation they may incur. Statewide, approximately 15 accidents result in hit-and-runs each day. Colorado has a requirement that all insurers offer uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance to their customers.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you did not cause an accident and the at-fault motorist does not have liability insurance, you could potentially be responsible for medical costs and repair costs yourself. The reasons that drivers operate vehicles without insurance may vary, but is largely believed to simply be a lack of income. Those with uninsured motorist (UM) coverage have this protection available when the other motorist lacks insurance.
The minimum auto insurance requirements for Colorado motorists are bodily injury coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 total per accident, with an additional $15,000 for property damage. What if you are injured in an accident where the medical costs are $30,000? Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage would be used to cover the $5,000 balance in this scenario. UIM is considered to be an “add-on” policy option, rather than a primary “standalone” policy available for purchase.
Can You Sue an Uninsured Motorist?
If an at-fault motorist operating without insurance causes you injuries and property damage you would be able to sue them; however, it is more than likely not a wise use of time and money. Those operating without insurance are unlikely to have many assets or available funds to recover. If the uninsured motorist does have sufficient assets, then you could file suit or your attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement outside of court.
Penalties for Operating Without Insurance
Those determined to be driving without the minimum required auto insurance face the following penalties from CO 42-4-1409:
- First Offense:
- A total of four points added to driver's license record
- A minimum $500 fine
- Driver's license suspension until proof of coverage is provided
- Second Offense (in five years):
- A minimum $1000 fine
- Driver's license suspension lasting four months
- Third Offense (in five years):
- A minimum $1000 fine
- Driver's license suspension lasting eight months
- Up to 40 hours of community service
Colorado Motorist Database Enforcement
In 1997, the state enacted legislation which implemented a centralized motorist and vehicle database. Insurance providers submit the details of new policies and canceled policies for entry and the state can match the data against their records. This information can allow for detection of those drivers potentially operating without required liability coverage. Insurance companies may be subject to a $250 fine for failing to submit this information within the time requirements.
Potential Role of Health Insurance Coverage
If you were involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist and did not elect to purchase uninsured motorist coverage, then you will likely rely on your personal health insurance to cover your medical bills. You will still be required to meet your annual deductible amount if applicable. If you do have UM coverage, generally this coverage will cover these medical costs up to the policy limit and health insurance could then assume paying beyond that.
This concludes our series on Nightmare Scenario Car Accidents. As you can see, from traumatic accidents to car scams, there's enough that can happen on the road to make you lose sleep.