Automobile insurance covers property damage and medical expenses after a traffic accident, but what if the motorist who injures you doesn't have auto insurance? In Louisiana, if a careless driver injures you but has no auto insurance, can you still receive compensation for damages?
If that driver was driving while texting or driving while intoxicated, for example, his or her negligence will be indisputable. However, if a negligent driver does not have any auto insurance coverage, assets, or even a job, is it a waste of time to take legal action and speak to a Lafayette personal injury attorney?
Not necessarily. Like so many questions about the law, the answer is “it depends.” If you'll keep reading, you'll find out what Louisiana drivers should know regarding uninsured motorist coverage, and you'll learn more about your rights after a collision with an uninsured driver.
WHAT AUTO INSURANCE COVERAGE DOES LOUISIANA REQUIRE?
All motor vehicles in the state of Louisiana must be insured for bodily injury liability and property damage coverage. The law requires every Louisiana driver to carry at least this much automobile insurance coverage:
- $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person per accident
- $30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage for all persons per accident
- $25,000 of property damage liability coverage
Bodily injury insurance pays to others who are injured the damages that you are liable for if your own negligence is the reason for a collision. While bodily injury and property damage insurance are mandatory, uninsured motorist coverage is not. It's optional, but it's a smart option.
HOW MANY LOUISIANA DRIVERS HAVE NO AUTO INSURANCE?
As you probably know, a lot of people ignore the law and drive without automobile insurance. In 2018, the Insurance Research Council reported that thirteen percent of Louisiana drivers have no auto insurance, and the Louisiana Department of Insurance placed the figure at fifteen percent.
It's illegal to drive a motor vehicle in Louisiana if that vehicle isn't insured. If you are caught driving without auto insurance in this state, the penalty is a minimum $100 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and up to $700 for subsequent offenses.
Although uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is optional in this state, a Louisiana personal injury lawyer would strongly recommend having that coverage. Without it, you'll have to pay for your own losses out-of-pocket if you're injured by an uninsured driver.
HOW DOES UM/UIM COVERAGE WORK?
With UM/UIM coverage, if you're injured by a negligent and uninsured driver, you can file a claim against the uninsured coverage portion of your own auto insurance policy. The coverage then, in practical terms, substitutes for liability coverage that the negligent driver did not carry.
UM/UIM insurance covers any damages that you or your passengers sustain if you are in a collision with an uninsured, negligent driver or with a hit-and-run driver – or if you're injured by an uninsured, negligent driver or by a hit-and-run driver while you're a pedestrian.
UM/UIM insurance covers “compensatory” damages if you or any of your passengers end up injured in a collision with a negligent, uninsured driver. Compensatory damages include medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and most other accident-related damages.
If you carry UM/UIM coverage, it “kicks in” when an uninsured driver collides with you or when any driver collides with you and flees the accident scene. It also kicks in if you're injured by a negligent, underinsured driver.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE UM/UIM COVERAGE?
That's important because so many Louisiana motorists carry only the minimum coverage, and the medical costs for even a simple or moderate injury can easily exceed the minimum coverage limit of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
UIM coverage, in other words, bridges any gap between a negligent, underinsured motorist's policy limits and the amount of your personal injury claim. What's important is that you have auto insurance coverage that will be adequate for you and your loved ones – should it be needed.
If you are injured in traffic in southern Louisiana, a Lafayette personal injury attorney can investigate the accident to determine who may be liable.
WHAT'S THE BEST STRATEGY FOR DEALING WITH UNINSURED DRIVERS?
If a negligent motorist with no insurance is the sole party with liability, a lawsuit may or may not be your best next step. Your lawyer may suggest a different option. The best strategy is preventative, having enough auto insurance coverage at all times for yourself and your family.
If you're injured by a careless driver in Louisiana, whether or not that driver has auto insurance, after you've been examined by a physician or another healthcare professional, schedule a consultation at once with a Lafayette personal injury attorney to discuss the best way to proceed.
HOW ARE MOST PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS RESOLVED IN LOUISIANA?
If an uninsured driver injures you and you have UM/UIM coverage, your attorney will negotiate for the compensation you need from your own insurance company. Your attorney should be a seasoned negotiator familiar with the ways insurance companies try to delay or avoid payments.
You'll probably be offered a reasonable settlement quickly, and the entire matter will be dealt with outside of the courtroom. That's what usually happens in personal injury cases arising from traffic accidents.
However, if there's a dispute over liability, or if no reasonable settlement offer is forthcoming, your attorney may recommend taking the case to trial. That's why it's important to have an attorney who is not only a savvy negotiator but also an experienced trial lawyer.
WHAT WILL A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
If you've been injured, do not make any statement to any insurance company – and do not accept any settlement offer – without your lawyer's advice. Put your lawyer on the case at once if you've been injured by another driver, and let that lawyer handle the questions and negotiations.
The final compensation that the injured victim of a negligent driver recovers in a verdict or settlement may be determined by insurance policy coverage limits, but the right personal injury attorney will ensure that an injured victim of negligence is compensated adequately and fairly.
If you're injured in any traffic crash, have a Louisiana injury attorney explain your rights, review the details of the case, determine who has liability, and ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Every victim of negligence has the right to a good attorney's help.
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Blase Inzina is a personal injury lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a former insurance defense lawyer. He is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Arizona. The information on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should speak to an attorney before taking action.