If you get involved in a car accident in Illinois and an uninsured driver is at fault, you may be able to sue for damages and recover compensation. However, there are some things you should know about uninsured motorist insurance coverage and other elements in these types of cases to determine whether you can sue an uninsured driver.
Here is an overview of what to expect when getting into an accident with an uninsured driver and the steps you can take to protect your rights as an accident victim.
Suing an Uninsured Driver in Illinois
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you can financially recover from an accident with an uninsured motorist in two main ways: You may file an insurance claim against your own insurer if you have uninsured motorist coverage, or you may sue the other driver if he or she is liable.
While it’s possible to sue the liable party for compensation, it’s often challenging to successfully recover it if the other party doesn’t have insurance. Even if you succeed with your case, it may be difficult to get the liable party to pay. Instead, it’s typically favorable to file a claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist policy.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
This type of insurance is in many insurance policies in Illinois and provides policyholders with coverage in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver. Illinois actually requires drivers to have a certain amount of uninsured motorist coverage as part of their auto insurance policies, along with a degree of underinsured motorist coverage.
While uninsured motorist coverage helps provide compensation for accidents involving uninsured motorists, underinsured motorist coverage in Illinois can provide coverage if another driver doesn’t have enough insurance.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage and you get into an accident and an uninsured driver is at fault, you’ll need to file an insurance claim with your own insurer. Keep in mind that this process will be more complex than filing another type of insurance claim, with special requirements involved that can make the process more daunting.
Is Using Uninsured Motorist Coverage Easy?
Although it may be easier to file a claim with your own insurer instead of filing a third-party claim with another driver’s insurer, it can still be challenging using your uninsured motorist coverage.
The reason for the potential difficulty is that insurers generally don’t want to pay large sums of money to claimants. Insurers will assign an adjuster to the case to negotiate the claim or deny it, with adjusters often looking for any valid reason they can find to severely reduce your settlement amount or reject the claim to avoid payouts. Some insurers may even act in bad faith and fail to provide a proper reason for rejecting a claim or reducing compensation, while others could delay the process as much as possible in the hope that you’ll drop the claim.
You may be able to recover much more than medical expenses and other financial losses in car accident cases, but insurers may not inform you of this. Insurers may simply attempt to cover your medical bills, the costs of repairs or replacements for damaged property, and other economic damages, even though your case may qualify for damages for pain and suffering and other personal losses.
These issues make it important to consult with an uninsured motorist accident lawyer in Illinois to discuss a claim and determine the amount of compensation you’re able to recover. An attorney with experience handling these types of cases can negotiate with insurers on your behalf, or even take the uninsured driver to court if necessary.
What to Do if You’re in an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist
In the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist, there are key steps to take to build a successful case and begin the recovery process. These steps include:
1. Remaining Calm and Pulling Over
If you’re in an accident, try to pull the vehicle off the road or into another safe area, and stay calm. It’s easy to panic in these situations, but remaining calm will help you properly assess the situation and take the appropriate actions. Also, if anyone sustains injuries in the accident, it’s important to remain in place until help arrives in the form of medical personnel and police.
2. File a Police Report
One of the most important steps to take after an accident involving injuries or extensive damage is to file a police report by calling 9-1-1. Police can arrive at the scene and record the details of the accident in a formal written report. They may also ask witnesses about what they saw and include these statements in the report, which may help your case.
When discussing the accident with the police, be detailed about the nature of the accident, but avoid admitting fault at any point, either to the police or the other driver. Even if you believe you are at fault and apologize, you may discover later that another party was at fault, only to have compromised your case by admitting fault.
3. Seek Immediate Treatment if Needed
If you notice any injuries after the accident, it’s important to seek immediate treatment. Even if you don’t require an ambulance to take you to the hospital, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Not only will seeking treatment provide you with a clear diagnosis and help you begin recovery, but it can also provide you with medical records and other documentation that may support your case.
The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more your symptoms could worsen and the harder it will be to prove that the accident—and the liable parties involved—caused your injuries.
4. Gather Evidence
To help build a case and determine liability, you’ll also need to collect plenty of evidence immediately after and in the days following the accident.
There are many types of evidence to collect and organize in a car accident case. You can obtain this evidence by taking these steps:
- Collect all medical records, bills, receipts, and other documentation when seeking treatment
- Take pictures or record video footage of the accident scene, damages, and injuries.
- Obtain copies of police reports.
- Keep bills for property damage, such as receipts for vehicle repairs or replacements for damaged belongings, like cell phones.
- Record witness contact details, which an attorney may help you use later to obtain witness statements that may support your version of events.
5. Consult an Attorney
After seeking treatment and collecting as much evidence as you can, speak with a car accident lawyer in Illinois to discuss a potential case. Car accident lawyers may be able to meet with you for a free consultation to review all the details of your accident and determine who was liable. If they decide to handle your case, they can represent you during the claims process or in a lawsuit, if your case goes to court.
If you’re unable to obtain evidence on your own, a lawyer can help you get essential evidence for use in your case. For example, he or she could contact the police to get a copy of the police report for your accident or even consult expert witnesses to reconstruct the events around the collision.
Ultimately, a lawyer can navigate the claims and legal process on your behalf to increase the chances of succeeding with a car accident case, especially in instances involving uninsured motorists. In the process, the attorney can identify and calculate all damages involve to determine the total settlement amount.
6. File a Claim
Depending on the situation, you might then file a claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage or against the liable party’s insurer to begin seeking compensation. A lawyer can help determine the right approach. You and your attorney would then begin negotiating with the insurer to seek total compensation.
Insurance Requirements in Illinois
All drivers in Illinois must carry a certain amount of uninsured motorist coverage under their insurance policies. Today, the current limits for uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM) are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. However, it’s possible to get policies with higher amounts, depending on how much protection you want.
If you decide to get a higher amount of uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance, you will also need underinsured motorist bodily injury insurance (UIM). This coverage will help cover damages if the other driver has insufficient insurance.
So, can you sue an uninsured driver in Illinois? The answer is typically yes, if the other driver is liable and you can prove liability in a car accident case, whether you file a claim with your own insurer or sue the liable party in a lawsuit.