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What Should You Do If You're Hit By An Uninsured (Or Underinsured) Driver?

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Accidents happen -- and in an era of rising insurance rates and stagnant wages, more drivers than ever before are traveling with inadequate auto insurance coverage, or no coverage at all. If you're unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with someone whose insurance company won't pay out for your medical expenses and lost wages, you may be wondering about your options.

Read on to learn more about the steps you should take after being involved in an accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) driver. 

What should you do after you've been hit by a driver who doesn't have insurance? 

When you purchased auto insurance for your vehicle, you likely were given the option to purchase a certain amount of uninsured motorist coverage. In states that permit this type of insurance product to be sold, uninsured motorist insurance will help compensate you if you're involved in an accident with someone who doesn't have insurance. Your auto insurance company will help you navigate the claims process and determine whether the uninsured motorist payout is enough to cover your bills and other expenses related to the accident. 

Unfortunately, there's no similar "underinsured motorist" provision, and if you're struck by someone who has insurance (but whose insurance has very low payout limits), you'll need to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover the full amount of funds to which you're entitled. You may also want to file a personal injury lawsuit if the amount paid out under your own insurance policy's uninsured motorist provision wasn't quite enough to cover your bills.

What will you need to prove to recover in a personal injury lawsuit?

In order to obtain a judgment (or settlement) from the person responsible for your accident, you'll need to establish a few things using evidence from the crash or witness statements. 

First, you'll need to show the defendant's actions directly caused your injuries. A police report from the accident may indicate that the defendant's vehicle initiated the crash, or you may be able to gather witnesses (including passengers in your vehicle) who saw the defendant collide with your vehicle.

Next, you'll need to show the accident directly caused your injuries. If you already suffered a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by the accident, the defendant may be able to avoid financial responsibility for the portion of the claim that was pre-existing. This can be a tough argument to defend against, and you'll want to speak with a skilled personal injury attorney before filing your lawsuit. 

Finally, you'll need to prove an amount of damages. This can include both past medical care and future projected care (if you suffered an injury that requires ongoing treatment). You may also be able to recover pain and suffering costs, lost wages, and even punitive damages -- awarded funds designed to punish the defendant for his or her negligent or reckless behavior.

How will you receive funds from the defendant? 

Although being awarded a judgment against the person who caused your harm can be a wonderful feeling, this alone won't put money in your pocket. You'll need to execute the judgment before you can receive any funds.  

After your judgment has been issued, your attorney will help prepare a document that seeks certain information from the defendant -- bank accounts, investments, and other physical assets that can be sold to pay your judgment. Once you have this information, you'll be able to contact the defendant's bank to freeze (or seize) accounts, or contact the defendant's employer to garnish a portion of the defendant's regular wages. In other cases, you may be able to force the sale of certain assets, like an extra car or piece of property. 

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