Do Insurance Companies Chase Down Uninsured Drivers?

Insurance companies will only legally pursue uninsured drivers who carry collision/comprehensive or uninsured motorist coverage.
Written by Tiffany Leung
Edited by Amy Bobinger
If you are in an accident with an uninsured driver, your
car insurance
company may decide to pursue the at-fault uninsured driver to recoup your claim—but your own collision or uninsured motorist insurance is generally the best way to cover your expenses.
  • Insurance companies have a legal right to pursue a third party to recover damages paid out following a claim—this is called subrogation.
  • Insurers generally only go after an uninsured driver if your auto insurance policy includes collision and/or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Even if you win a judgment against the other driver, it can sometimes be difficult to collect payment.

Insurance companies go after uninsured drivers, but not always

When an insurance company sues an uninsured or underinsured driver for damages, it’s known as subrogation. Subrogation allows the insurance company to recover the amount they paid you to cover your claims.
Did you know? An underinsured driver is someone who does have car insurance—but they don’t have high enough liability coverage limits to cover the damages they caused.

Prepare to file your UM insurance claim

No matter how you plan to collect, if you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver, you need to document the accident as thoroughly as possible. You need to be able to prove that the other party was the at-fault driver.
What to do: Take photos, collect statements from any witnesses, get a copy of the police report and relevant medical records, document your doctor’s appointments and medical payments, and write out a detailed recollection of the accident. This can all be used as evidence in your lawsuit.

Your insurer may pursue a lawsuit if you have collision or UM/UIM

Subrogation is a legal right held by most insurance companies, but they won’t always expend the time and resources it takes to go after an uninsured driver. 
Typically, your insurance provider will only pursue the other driver if you have the following insurance coverage:
  • Collision coverage
    : This type of insurance will help pay for your vehicle damages if you get into an accident with another vehicle or object, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) protection
    : Depending on whether you have uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, property damage liability insurance, or both, this protection may pay for your expenses resulting from an accident caused by an uninsured driver, including vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more. 
But even if you have either or both of these coverages, the insurance company may choose not to sue the other driver—especially if that person lacks significant assets.

How to collect damages through UM/UIM

Notify your insurance company as soon as possible after an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Many insurers have a time limit for how long after an accident you have to file an uninsured motorist claim.
Be ready to provide all of the documentation you’ve collected regarding the accident. The insurance company will review all of the evidence and decide what amount they feel is fair to pay you.
Need to know: When you’re in an accident with an insured driver, you file a claim through that driver’s insurance. But if you file a UM claim, you’re filing a claim against your own insurance company. 

If you’re not awarded enough money through a UM claim, you can go to arbitration

If your insurance company decides in your favor, they’re legally required to act in good faith when they determine the amount of your damages. 
If you feel that you weren’t awarded enough (and you haven’t exhausted your policy’s maximum payout), you can choose to go through arbitration with your insurance company to have that amount reconsidered:
  • Both you and your insurer will appear before a neutral third party and present your claims
  • The arbitrator will decide the outcome
  • In the case of a UM arbitration, the decision will be binding or final
If the arbitrator sides with you and there’s a considerable difference between the original payout and the arbitrator’s decision, you can even file suit against your insurance company for their bad faith dealings. Fortunately, this is rare—most of the time, your insurance company will award you a fair amount without abritration.
Big picture: UM/UIM is the most reliable way to get paid after a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured driver—so the next time you’re
shopping for car insurance
, be sure to look for a plan that includes this coverage.

You can file a personal suit against the other driver

If you didn’t have UM/UIM or collision insurance—or if it wasn’t enough insurance to pay for all of your damages—you can file a lawsuit against the other driver to try to collect from them:
  • Hire a car accident lawyer or personal injury attorney: Many injury lawyers provide free consultations for legal advice so you can get their opinion before deciding to take legal action.
  • Credit and asset check: Your car accident attorney will likely run a credit and asset check on the other driver to determine whether they have the means to pay you in the event that you win. 
  • Lien: The lawyer may also file a lien against the other driver’s assets, which is a court order preventing them from selling or getting rid of any property that can be used to pay you in the future.
Disclaimer: If the other person doesn’t have significant assets, an attorney may decline to bring a suit against them.

Even if you win your lawsuit, it can be hard to get paid

While it’s not universal, it’s fair to assume that many people skip buying car insurance because they can’t afford to pay the premiums for their state’s insurance requirements. Unfortunately, this means that they might not have the means to pay you back, even if a judge awards you damages in a lawsuit. 
The other person might also declare bankruptcy, meaning the court could dismiss the lawsuit entirely on the basis that the other person can’t afford to pay you back.
This means you might be responsible for paying for your vehicle repairs and medical bills out of pocket.
Then, there’s the matter of your fees. You may be responsible for paying lawyer fees, court costs, and other expenses as a result of your lawsuit—and even if the other driver can’t pay you back, you’ll still be responsible for those costs.
Don’t count on a lump sum: If the other driver demonstrates to the court that they will have a difficult time paying the damages, the court may allow them to make small weekly or monthly payments to you instead.
What to do: Consider settling with the other driver out of court. Come to an agreement based on what they can afford to pay you—and what you can afford to take. But if they don’t actually send the payment, a lawsuit may be your next best option.
“I was literally floored by the savings
found for me. I was paying close to $960 every 6 months and now I’m paying $380 every 6 months for identical coverage in North Carolina!” —Olivia Z.
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