Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?
New York Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Under New York law, all automobile insurance policies must include both underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. In situations where an uninsured motorist injures an individual, this person can receive compensation for their injuries via their insurance company.
This coverage applies to individuals who:
- Own an automobile
- Reside in a home with a relative who owns an automobile
All uninsured motorist policies issued in the state of New York must have provisions that provide at least $25,000 for each person and $50,000 to each accident for two or more people. However, policyholders can, by paying a higher premium, increase these limits. (This is a frequently overlooked form of insurance protection. People may buy high policy limit coverage to protect themselves from liability claims, but may be unaware that they can buy uninsured / underinsured coverage to provide greater protection of those situations when they or a relative that resides with them are injured in an accident by an unidentified hit & run driver or a driver with too little or no liability coverage.)
Notifying the Insurance Company
After being injured by an uninsured driver, it is important to contact the insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance carriers have time limits for notification and failing to report the accident within this limit will nullify the claim. Injured individuals should consult with an attorney to review their insurance policy and notify the provider in writing as soon as possible to get the benefits they deserve.
Can I sue?
As with many situations in life, just because you can do a thing, does not mean it is a good idea to do it. Just because you may have the legal right to sue does not mean it is in your best interest to do so. Suing is not always the right approach for the goal of recovering the greatest possible amount for your accident injuries.
First of all, in the case of a hit & run accident where the at-fault driver left the scene without being identified and subsequent investigation indicates that the driver or owner of that vehicle cannot be identified, there is no one to sue. (Our firm has had cases where a photograph or video of the at-fault vehicle, including license plate, was obtained before the driver fled from the scene. We have even had cases where the at-fault vehicle’s license plate became lodged in the bumper of our clients’ vehicle and the at-fault driver fled, leaving the license plate behind. In such cases, the offending vehicle’s owner and insurance carrier were identified and a lawsuit could be initiated.)
In many cases, even where the at-fault vehicle owner, driver, and insurance carrier are all identified, the at-fault vehicle is either uninsured or carried inadequate insurance to compensate an injured person for the full extent of their damages. (For example, past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.)
While the law permits the commencement of a lawsuit against the negligent, at-fault driver and the vehicle’s owner, it may be impractical and imprudent to do so. Ultimately, if an injured party wins a case as the result of a trial, they are awarded a judgment. A judgment is basically a right to demand payment from someone. If that person does not pay voluntarily, as an insurance carrier would, to collect on the judgment it must be enforced against the defendant’s assets. If the person has no assets, the judgment can very well be a worthless piece of paper. Unfortunately, and sometimes tragically, a person who is driving with no insurance coverage at all or the absolute minimum level of coverage required by law, may have no significant assets to pursue enforcement against. While there are exceptions, (for example, was the at-fault driver in the course of employment at the time of the accident, potentially making his or her employer vicariously liable and the employer’s hopefully ample insurance coverage a potential source of recovery,) such cases often necessitate making an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim against the host vehicle’s insurer. (However, the “course of employment” scenario described above is one of many examples of why it is critically important to consult with an experienced and dedicated car accident lawyer. Each and every case requires careful review and analysis to make sure every potential source of recovery has been considered.)
Contacting a New York Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one experienced an injury from an accident with an uninsured driver, contact one of the Long Island, New York personal injury attorneys at Friedman & Simon, L.L.P., Injury Lawyers, as soon as possible to discuss your options. We invite you to call now for a no-obligation case review and a free consultation at 516-932-0400. A professional opinion from an experienced and compassionate lawyer can help.