Car accidents can be immensely stressful. However, an accident with an uninsured driver often adds to the stress and frustration. Wisconsin state requires car insurance, but not everyone follows the law. In fact, about 14.3% of all drivers in the state did not have car insurance in 2015. You still have options if an uninsured driver is involved in an accident with you. Understanding how to properly navigate the process and pursue a claim is important.
After an accident, even if the other driver is uninsured, exchange contact information, take photos, and call the police. Sometimes you cannot speak with the other driver or identify them. If this occurs, still collect any information available about the vehicle involved and contact the police right away. Taking these steps is crucial, and often necessary, to pursue a claim.
Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?
If an uninsured driver is involved in an accident with you, you will need to use your own insurance company to cover damages such as:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Wage Loss
- Pain, suffering and disability
- Future medical bills
- Future pain, suffering and disability
- Loss of society and companionship
Your uninsured motorist coverage may cover these damages. If an uninsured driver causes an accident, this type of insurance coverage protects you. Uninsured motorist coverage might also apply when you don’t have the identity of the other at-fault driver. An example of this is a hit-and-run accident.
Filing an uninsured motorist claim through your own car insurance means that your insurance company replaces the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This means you have three years to file a lawsuit in court. Or two years if a death resulted from the crash. It also means that your burden of proving fault and damages remains the same. You must address the notice requirements of uninsured motorist claims, even if you have some time to file a lawsuit. These nuances in the law are what make contacting an attorney right away even more important.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
According to state law, you must carry uninsured motorist coverage, a $25,000 per person limit, or $50,000 per occurrence. However, your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed your liability coverage. So, if you have $150,000 in liability coverage, your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed $150,000. The law requires you to carry liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence. You must also carry property damage coverage of at least $10,000.
If a “phantom vehicle” causes your accident but makes no physical contact with your car, and the identity of its operator or owner cannot be determined, your uninsured motorist coverage may cover it. If a car negligently moves into your lane of traffic, causes a subsequent collision, and drives away without contacting your car, it may be considered a “phantom vehicle.” In this case, you must report the accident to the police within 72 hours and have witnesses to support your claim. You must also file a statement, under oath, with your insurance provider within 30 days of the accident. Otherwise, Wisconsin statutes may prevent you from pursuing a claim. This is just one example of the possible limitations of pursuing a claim involving an uninsured motorist.
If you believe that the other driver involved in a crash does not have car insurance, or you cannot identify the owner or driver (for example, in a hit-and-run or phantom vehicle), it’s important to seek counsel or contact your insurance company immediately. You must file the case in time.
What should I do if an underinsured driver hit me?
Accidents with underinsured drivers can be especially stressful as well. In these cases, the individual who caused the accident may not have enough insurance coverage to pay for all your damages. After exhausting the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, you can make a claim for damages such as medical bills, wage loss, and pain and suffering under your underinsured motorist coverage.
The underinsured motorist coverage available depends on your policy limits and insurance coverage. You are usually entitled to recover the limits on your underinsured motorist policy if it exceeds the coverage of the at-fault driver. Your insurance carrier offers underinsured motorist coverage as an option, even though it’s not mandatory in Wisconsin. If you do purchase underinsured motorist coverage, it must include coverage limits of at least $50,000.00/person and $100,000.00/accident.
Like uninsured motorist claims, you must file a lawsuit in court within three years (or two years if the crash caused a death). However, Wisconsin statutes state that this does not start running until a resolution is reached on the claim against the person responsible for the car accident. It is important to provide notice as early as possible to your insurance company of an underinsured motorist claim to avoid issues later.
Should I hire a car accident lawyer for an accident with an uninsured driver?
If you have been involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, one of our experienced car accident lawyers can help.
Lawyers can help navigate claims with your insurance company. In these cases, early notice to your insurance company is critical, and we can help with that. We can also help make sense of your options and determine the next steps.
Learn more about the car accident lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier here.
Attorney Corey G. Lorenz
Corey Lorenz is a shareholder in the firm’s Madison office. Her practice is focused on representing plaintiffs in personal injury, medical malpractice, and products liability cases. Corey has a strong background pursuing complex product liability matters against large corporations and has been involved in numerous federal multi-district litigations. Throughout her career, Corey has represented thousands of plaintiffs around the country.