Who Pays Compensation If You’re Injured By an Uninsured Driver?

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If you suffer injuries in a North Carolina car accident, the insurance company for the at-fault driver usually pays compensation.  But what happens if that driver has no insurance or has insufficient insurance to cover your injuries?  Fortunately, in many cases, your own insurance policy has provisions that protect you if you’re injured by an uninsured driver.

Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UM / UIM) in North Carolina

A North Carolina statute requires drivers to have auto liability insurance with minimum coverage requirements.  That same law requires policies with the minimum coverage to include Uninsured Motorists (UM) coverage.  Policies with limits above the minimum must have both Uninsured Motorist coverage and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage.

The limits and terms of your own policy (or of the policy that covers you) determine the extent of your UM and UIM coverage.  The discussion that follows includes generally applicable coverage in many policies, but you must consult your own policy to determine what coverage it provides.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage

Uninsured Motorist (UM) provisions in a policy provide coverage in several different situations, including when:

  • The at-fault driver does not have any insurance or inadequate insurance to cover your injuries and property damage,
  • The at-fault driver’s insurance company denies your claim, and
  • You’re injured or have property damage resulting from a hit-and-run accident.

To recover under UM policy provisions, you must file a claim with your own insurance company.  Insurance companies handle claims for UM compensation very differently from other types of claims filed under your policy. 

UM coverage is not automatic.  Your company can (and will) deny your UM claim in some situations.  There are specific requirements that must be met to establish a valid UM claim.  Some requirements vary depending on the circumstances of the accident. 

North Carolina has a special rule that applies to all UM claims and provisions (unless a policy provides to the contrary), called the No Contact Rule.  There must be a collision to trigger UM coverage.  If your vehicle does not make contact with the other vehicle, you do not have a valid UM claim. 

In other words, no contact means no recovery.  For example, the rule prevents recovery under UM insurance if injuries result from a car being run off the road by another vehicle when there is no actual collision.  It also applies if an object falls from a vehicle and strikes another vehicle.

Uninsured Motorist insurance generally covers more than just the owner of the policy.  Most UM provisions include bodily injury coverage for:

  • The policyowner, in any vehicle as driver or passenger
  • Family members living in the policyholder’s household, in any vehicle
  • Anyone driving the car with the owner’s permission
  • Passengers riding in the covered vehicle or any vehicle driven by the policyholder

UM coverage of these different individuals sometimes results in situations in which an injured victim has UM coverage under more than one insurance policy.

As noted previously, the coverage of your policy may be different.  Always check the terms of your own policy before assuming that you do or do not have UM coverage.

Underinsured Motorist Insurance Provisions

Underinsured Motorist (UIM) provisions protect the policyholder (and others as noted above) when:

  • The at-fault driver’s liability limits are insufficient to cover injured victims, and
  • The policyholder’s UIM limits are higher than the at-fault driver’s liability limits.

UIM generally does not cover property damage.  The coverage generally pays for bodily injury up to a maximum of the difference between the at-fault driver’s liability limits and the policyholder’s UIM limits.

What Should You Do If You Have a UM or UIM Claim?

Whenever you receive serious injuries in a car accident, your first priority should be getting medical treatment and doing everything necessary to get your recovery on the way.  However, if another driver caused the accident, you should talk with an experienced auto accident attorney as soon as you feel up to it.

Talking with the insurance company for the at-fault driver is not a good idea.  If you try to negotiate and settle with the company, you likely will not receive the full compensation you deserve.  For more information, please read our article that discusses when you should talk to a lawyer about your car accident injuries.

Consulting with a knowledgeable accident attorney is even more important if you think you may have a claim under your own UM or UIM insurance coverage or under another person’s policy.  UM / UIM claims are more complicated than other types of insurance claims.  Special requirements and procedures apply to the claim process. Trying to make a UM or UIM claim yourself can be a costly mistake.

Regardless of whether the at-fault driver in your accident has adequate insurance or you need to make a UM or UIM instead of or in addition to the claim against the at-fault driver, your attorney will navigate through the process to ensure that you receive as much compensation as possible.  You should focus on getting better and let your lawyer handle the insurance coverage issues in your case.

Talk With Our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers

If you suffered significant injuries in a North Carolina car accident, and the accident might be someone else’s fault, our respected personal injury attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm are here to help.  We will make sure you get the compensation you deserve, including any recovery available under UM or UIM coverage if you were injured by an uninsured driver.

With offices in Elizabeth City and Moyock, we serve clients throughout northeastern North Carolina. Call us at 252-338-4151 (Elizabeth City) or 252-435-2811 (Moyock) or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation.

Categories: Personal Injury

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