It’s stressful enough to be in a car accident resulting in vehicle damage and/or personal injury that the other driver caused. But if you learn the other driver is either entirely uninsured or has very little insurance, that can add to the frustration of the situation. This is a complicated situation, not least of which because Colorado law requires vehicle owners to have liability insurance to protect people when accidents happen. If the vehicle owner doesn’t have insurance, there are various legal issues at play.
Colorado is an at-fault state, which means people who cause an accident are liable for paying for damages, usually from their insurance policy. This is different than no-fault states, where each driver turns to their own insurance policy for damages, regardless of who was at fault. Obviously, if the at-fault driver doesn’t have coverage, it can be more challenging to recoup damages.
What Does Colorado Require in Terms of Car Insurance?
The minimum car insurance Colorado requires for vehicle owners is:
- $25,000 for bodily injury (per person)
- $50,000 for bodily injury (per accident)
- $15,000 for property damage (per accident)
Insurance policies can also include coverage for under- or uninsured drivers. However, it’s not required by law. Insurance companies are legally obligated to offer it as part of the policy. If the vehicle owner doesn’t want it, they have the right to refuse it but must do so in writing. If the owner doesn’t refuse it in writing, it’s added to the overall policy.
What Does Under- and Uninsured Car Insurance Offer?
It offers coverage for people who are in an accident caused by a driver that has no or too little car insurance (and in cases of hit-and-run drivers where the hit-and-run driver isn’t identified). Essentially, it acts as the at-fault driver’s policy and takes effect as the personal policy would if the insured driver was at fault. However, it does cost extra, and some vehicle owners opt out of it.
What Happens if I Don’t Have Under- and Uninsured Car Insurance and Am in an Accident with an Uninsured Driver?
That depends on a variety of circumstances. Because Colorado is an at-fault state, if the other driver is determined to be responsible but is uninsured, you can file a civil lawsuit to recover damages. However, if the driver is uninsured because they can’t afford insurance, it’s not likely they’ll have money or assets that you can use to recoup your own losses. But if the uninsured driver does have assets, you can sue them to receive damages.
Another option is trying to claim damages from your own insurance company. If you signed the form opting out of the under- and uninsured car policy, you would benefit from having a personal injury attorney involved, as the insurance company could likely point to that as a reason to deny the claim.
What Should I Do if I Been in a Car Accident Caused by an Uninsured Driver?
There are several things you should do, the first few of which should be done even before you know if the at-fault driver has insurance or not.
If you’re physically able to, immediately following the accident collect the other driver’s contact information and license plate number. This is when you’ll learn if the other driver has insurance, as that’s part of the information you want to collect.
Again, if you’re physically able, collect whatever evidence you can. Taking photos of both vehicles with your phone is also a good idea. See if there are any witnesses and get their contact information. Look around to see if there are nearby businesses or private homes that might have security cameras that would have caught the accident on video.
Call the police.
This is true for any accident, whether you’re at fault or not and whether the other driver doesn’t have insurance. Get a police record started, which will help you during the insurance claims. Make sure to give them your full account of what happened and point out to them any witnesses or potential security cameras.
Visit a doctor.
Even if you think you’re not injured, visit a doctor right away. Some injuries don’t always show symptoms, at least not right away. If the doctor doesn’t find anything, but you start to notice symptoms that might be related to the accident days later, go back for a second visit. Doctor’s records are important in filing claims and lawsuits.
Call your insurance company.
Whether or not you have under- or uninsured driver insurance, you need to notify your insurance company that the accident occurred and there are likely to be claims involved.
Contact our office for experienced, knowledgeable assistance with this type of law.
Call me as soon as possible at 303-500-1376. I’m happy to provide a free case evaluation in which I’ll interview you to learn the specifics of the accident and offer advice as to next steps. These situations are complex and best handled by a personal injury attorney who’s knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with uninsured at-fault drivers. I will work hard to help you receive the damages that should be due to you.
If the uninsured driver has an attorney too, don’t talk with them, as they might try to get you to say something that could be interpreted as admitting to some of the fault for the accident. Refer them to your own attorney instead. I understand the tactics and questions they might use and can help you avoid those pitfalls.