Getting into a car accident is a frightening experience. Even a relatively minor fender bender can be frustrating. Those involved in these accidents may try to ease their frustrations with the comforting realization that the other driver is supposed to have insurance to cover the costs of the accident.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute shows that 9.1 percent of motorists in North Carolina are driving without any insurance coverage at all. That means the bills related to the accident could be your responsibility. The thousands of dollars to replace your bumper and align your tires plus the cost of any medical bills to check out the whiplash from the relatively minor car accident could all fall on you.
Doesn't North Carolina state law require drivers to have insurance?
The short answer is yes, state law requires drivers to have insurance. More specifically, North Carolina state law requires drivers have $30,000 for bodily injury coverage, $60,000 for total bodily injury for all persons in an accident, $25,000 for property damage liability as well as uninsured motorist coverage.
Unfortunately, not every driver abides by this law.
What's a driver to do?
Fortunately, there are proactive steps drivers can take to protect themselves from financial ruin in the event of an accident with another driver who does not have proper coverage. One involves use of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
It is helpful to have a basic understanding of this form of coverage. Two of the more common things to be aware of involving uninsured and underinsured coverage in North Carolina include:
- Uninsured and underinsured drivers in North Carolina are not uncommon
- State law requires only minimal coverage
Having a basic understanding of these two points can help drivers in the state better prepare themselves in the event of an auto accident.
Uninsured and underinsured drivers are not uncommon
Unfortunately, as noted above not only are these drivers common - the number appears to be growing.
The rate of uninsured motorists reportedly increased significantly in recent years. A publication by the Insurance Journal discusses this issue. The piece points out that there was a huge increase in the amount victims had to pay to cover the costs associated with an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver. In 2012, $2.6 billion dollars was paid to cover these claims; this translates to a 75 percent increase over the rates studied from 2003 to 2012.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and North Carolina state law
The costs associated with an accident, such as damage to your vehicle and medical bills if injured, can quickly surpass the minimum coverage requirements noted above. Drivers can supplement their insurance policies with underinsured policies.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is defined by North Carolina's Department of Insurance as coverage that "will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. It also provides property damage coverage." Similarly, Underinsured Motorist Coverage is that which provides "protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, causes injury to a covered individual. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not enough to cover the losses of the people the underinsured driver injured."
Victims can hold negligent drivers accountable for the costs of an accident through a personal injury suit, and in the case of uninsured or underinsured, drivers recover from the victim's own uninsured/underinsured policy. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss this option.