Recovering Under An Uninsured Motorist Policy

In a perfect world, every time there is an automobile accident, the person at fault has insurance to cover whatever damage they may have caused.  However, this is not the reality of many accidents in North Carolina.  In 2012, it was estimated that 12.4% of drivers in the United States did not have insurance.  Given the high probability of a collision involving an uninsured motorist, it is important for every driver to know what remedies are available and how to preserve those actions.

Following the 2009 amendments pursuant to House Bill 738, The North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act requires insurance providers to carry uninsured motorist coverage on each policy.  Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides insurance coverage when an individual is involved in an accident with a vehicle that does not have insurance.  UM coverage essentially allows a person to recover from his or her own insurance company in place of the uninsured defendant who is at fault in the event of a wreck.

Recovering under an UM policy is similar to recovering from an at-fault insured driver.  When someone is attempting to recover under a UM policy, the injured party’s goal is to recover from the insurer but the burden still remains on the plaintiff to prove that the uninsured motorist was negligent.   An innocent plaintiff must show that they are 1) legally entitled to recover damages 2) from the owner or operator of an uninsured automobile 3) because of bodily injury 4) caused by the accident and 5) arising out of ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured automobile. See Williams v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 269 N.C. 235, 237 (1967).

If someone is involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist, getting an attorney to negotiate with the insurance adjuster is always a good move in order to ensure adequate recovery, but there are other ways that a plaintiff can improve their chances of recovery.  First, one should examine their auto insurance policy to see the extent of their UM coverage.  North Carolina has set minimum limits of recovery for bodily injury at $30,000 and property damage at $25,000, however some insurance policies cover up to $1,000,000 in damages.  Second, after a collision with an uninsured driver, try to get the identity of the driver.  Sometimes this can be difficult given that uninsured drivers often try to flee a scene, but knowing the identity helps prove liability.  If the identity of the uninsured driver cannot be obtained, the plaintiff can still recover under the UM policy but doing so requires the plaintiff to take additional steps like reporting the accident to a “police officer, peace officer, other judicial officer, or to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles” within 24 hours of the accident. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-279.21(b)(3)(b).  Lastly, when in doubt, report the accident to the police.  The police report is one of the most important pieces of evidence to a claim.  It shows who was at fault, how the collision occurred, and the estimated damage to each vehicle.  The information in the police report is often times vital to a successful recovery after any automobile accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident by an insured or uninsured motorist, our experienced personal injury attorneys at King Law Offices is happy to schedule a free consult to go over the options available to you.