It seems there are lots of people driving around today without insurance. In Illinois, you need insurance to register a car. Even though the law says drivers have to maintain coverage, a driver can drop their coverage after renewing their license plates and drive around for the next two years, completely uninsured. They will go penalty-free — unless they are pulled over by a police officer, or if they have an accident.
The Illinois secretary of state sends 300,000 audit letters to randomly selected drivers, requiring that they show proof of insurance or face suspension of their car registrations. That system shows a 13.7% uninsured rate as of 2017 .
In 2012, the Insurance Research Council looked at claims from serious accidents, mainly those where people were injured. In Illinois, 13% of drivers in bad crashes were uninsured, a point higher than the national average at that time. In other words, there’s a 1 in 8 chance that a driver in a crash will have no coverage. Illinois tallied 6,345 reports of accidents involving uninsured motorists in 2015, according to the revenue department.
People hit by uninsured drivers can have a costly problem. Uninsured motorist coverage, which motorists are also required to carry, covers bodily injury. But most policies don’t cover property damage, and many motorists drop their own collision coverage on older cars. Injured victims sometimes find that their bodily injury coverage under uninsured motorist has limits lower than their main policy.
Then there’s the cost of uninsured motorist coverage itself. It’s not a budget killer. For example, State Farm charges $44 a year for $500,000 of uninsured motorist coverage on a 2012 Buick.
In Illinois, is there is a fine of up to $1,000 and a mandatory license plate suspension if caught driving without insurance. A lot of uninsured drivers in accidents never get a ticket. Police don’t respond to every fender bender, and people who let their coverage drop still have their old insurance cards. Some judges will even waive the penalty fine, if the person comes in with evidence that he purchased insurance and that now the car is covered.
In short, uninsured motorist coverage is very important. Every household should have one car with uninsured motorist coverage, with good limits, in addition to collision coverage.
Why do I say every household? Most people do not know that uninsured motorist coverage extends to any member of the household who is struck by an uninsured vehicle. The two operative words are member of household and struck.
Member of Household
You do not have to be a driver or passenger in the family car that is struck by an uninsured vehicle to be covered. As long as you live in the home where the car is registered, if an uninsured vehicle strikes you, the uninsured motorist coverage applies. If you are on a bicycle, a pedestrian, or sitting on your couch and a car comes through a wall, as long as that car is uninsured, you are covered.
If your car is struck by a car that takes off and is never found, you can recover damages under your uninsured motorist coverage. If a car forces you off the road, causing you to strike a tree or a pole, and leaves the scene, or is not insured, then you are not covered, as the car did not physically strike your car.
You also need to get good limits of coverage when you buy uninsured motorist coverage. You are insuring you and your family. The minimum policy limit in Illinois is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident (https://www.illinoisvehicle.com/insurance-basics/uninsured-motorist-coverage/). Unfortunately, that amount is totally inadequate.
Let’s break it down: If you spend one night in the hospital, break an arm, or are seriously hurt, your case can be worth substantially more than the minimum required coverage. However, you can only recover up to the limits of coverage that you buy. Luckily, the cost of bigger limits is really not that much in the grand scheme of things, so talk to your insurance agent and see how little it costs to up your uninsured limits.
A common thing I hear from clients is that they don’t want to use their uninsured insurance because their limits will rise. This is a misconception. Since the fault for the collision lies with the uninsured driver, your rates do not go up. Rates only go up based on your conduct.
Many insurance companies have now started to sue the at-fault uninsured drivers to make them pay for a part or all of the damages caused by a car accident. As is typical, the insurance company never loses.
Bottom line: It is imperative that you buy uninsured motorist coverage. But just like in a regular car accident where both drivers are insured, you need to be properly represented. Just because you will be dealing with your own insurance company does not mean that they will automatically pay you a fair amount for your injuries. Companies like Allstate and State Farm, to name a few, are notorious for trying to settle their cases for very little. If these companies do not want to pay you the fair amount, then you have a right to a speedy arbitration to decide on a fair amount.
But how will you know what is fair? How will you know how to file and proceed with an arbitration case? That is why you need attorneys with experience, like Adler & Adler, P.C. We have handled uninsured motorist cases for over 35 years, and we have dealt with almost every insurance company in Illinois. We know the fair value of your claim and we know how to win at arbitration.
So, please make sure you purchase uninsured motorist coverage with good limits from a good insurance company. But if you have been injured by any driver, insured or not, call the law firm of Adler & Adler & Adler PC.