Once the dust settles after a car accident, the most frustrating part of the ordeal can be dealing with the drivers’ respective auto insurance companies. In an ideal situation, both drivers would have sufficient liability coverage so their car insurance companies can deal with the aftermath.
Although Arizona is one of many states that require all drivers to carry insurance, not all drivers do. It is common that the driver at fault is uninsured or underinsured, meaning that their policy limits are too low to cover the damage.
What is uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance?
Uninsured motorist insurance is liability insurance that you purchase as part of your auto insurance policy. In many states, if you are hit by an uninsured driver, your uninsured motorist insurance will pay for:
- Bodily injury coverage for you and your passengers that pays for your medical bills;
- Lost wages for you and your passengers;
- Property damage coverage, covering damage to your vehicle and any personal property in the vehicle, such as your cell phone or laptop.
Uninsured motorist insurance is also useful if you are the victim of a hit and run accident, where the other driver leaves the scene without leaving their contact information.
If you are a bicyclist who is hit by an uninsured driver, your uninsured motorist insurance may cover your medical injuries as well.
Underinsured motorist coverage will come into play if the other driver’s insurance policy limits are too low. The underinsured driver’s insurance will come into play first, then, your coverage. Typically, underinsured motorist coverage will only cover the motorist’s bodily injuries, meaning that it will only cover your medical bills.
While neither type of insurance is required in Arizona, it can be worth paying a bit more each month to ensure that you and your family are covered in a car accident.
What should I do if I’m in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver?
If you have been in a car accident, you should follow these steps:
Immediately after the accident:
- Ensure that everyone is safe, and request emergency medical attention if necessary
- Take photos of the damage to both vehicles for documentation purposes
- Exchange contact information with the other driver and insurance information
- File a police report to have a record of the accident. This will also create documentation for your insurance company and if you decide to file a lawsuit in the future.
Shortly after the accident:
Speak with your insurance company regarding filing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. Most companies require that you file a claim within 30 days, so file promptly.
Your insurance company may be reluctant to cover your bills, which is why it is important to show the police report and photographs from the scene. Both will provide evidence to support your claims.
Within two years of the accident:
If you decide to file a lawsuit against the other driver due to death, injury, monetary loss, pain and suffering, or property damages as a result of the car accident, you must file the lawsuit within two years of the accident.
You should know that Arizona follows a legal theory of pure comparative fault for drivers involved in auto accidents. A jury would determine how much of the accident was each driver’s fault. The plaintiff’s damages will then be reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. For example, if the defendant ran a red light, but the plaintiff was changing the radio station when they entered the intersection, the plaintiff could be found 10% at fault for the accident and the defendant could be found 90% at fault. The plaintiff’s damages then would be reduced by 10% which is the amount of fault the plaintiff contributed to the accident.
Other things to consider after a motor vehicle accident
If you have been in a car accident, even a minor fender bender, make sure you speak with a doctor about common car accident injuries shortly after the accident. Often, people who are in a car accident do not realize the extent or the severity of their injuries because they do not feel injured until hours later. Keep track of all medical bills in case you decide to file a claim in the future.
Additionally, you should have your car looked at by an experienced mechanic to ensure your car is in streetworthy condition. Again, hang on to any bills you receive.
If you need assistance working with your insurance company after a car accident involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.