One of the best things about being an injury lawyer is the sense of satisfaction that comes from helping a client and his or her family recover from the often crushing financial strain that accompanies a serious injury. The medical bills can be enormous and the injured person is often out of work for weeks or months. It is my job to help free families from this financial vise and I feel privileged that I have the opportunity to do such fulfilling work.
There is a sad flipside, however. Early in my career, I learned that perhaps the most unpleasant duty for an injury attorney is explaining to a seriously injured person that there is no money available to pay their medical bills or cover the income they lost as a result of the accident.
What Is An Uninsured Driver?
This situation arises most frequently in auto crash cases when the person who caused the accident was driving without a valid insurance policy. Like other states, North Carolina law requires drivers to carry liability insurance; despite these laws, as you read this, millions of people are driving our nation’s interstates and highways without valid insurance. Current estimates place the number of uninsured drivers on our roads at 15% — that’s one in every seven motorists.
Who Are These People?
A growing number of these uninsured motorists are people hit hard by the economic downturn. These are folks who can’t make ends meet and let their insurance coverage lapse.
A lot of them, however, are among the most dangerous drivers on the road — people whose licenses were revoked after convictions for offenses such as DWI and Careless & Reckless driving. According to government estimates from 2004, uninsured drivers are ten times more likely to have DWI convictions and six times more likely to have convictions for driving an unsafe vehicle.
Wayne Parsons posted an eye-opening piece yesterday outlining how serious the threat from drunk driving really is. What we often don’t hear about drunk driving is that innocent people are often victimized twice at the hands of the drunk driver. The victims suffer not only the horrific physical injuries inflicted in the crash, but they also suffer a devastating financial blow when the drunk driver is also uninsured.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Family From Uninsured Drivers?
As my friend Rick Shapiro wrote Monday in his blog, you can make sure your auto insurance includes Uninsured and Underinsured coverage. These types of coverage step in to make a financial recovery available to you if you are injured due to the negligence of a driver who has little or no insurance coverage. Since this coverage protects you, your family and your passengers, it is important that your policy provides high limits for these coverages.
In North Carolina and many other states you can also purchase Medical Payments coverage (also referred to as medpay) with your auto policy. This type of insurance is not a substitute for uninsured coverage. However, for most folks, it will help take some of the sting out of your medical bills.
What Else Is Being Done About This Problem?
Taking a page from their efforts to curb drunken driving, highway patrol and local police throughout the nation are setting up insurance checkpoints. Drivers are required to produce proof of car insurance. For those who can’t produce proof of insurance, the fines can be steep. In many communities, frustrated police and judges are ordering vehicle seizures, license suspensions, misdemeanor charges and even jail time in some circumstances.
Call Your Agent
Before you head out onto the interstates and highways this Labor Day weekend, make sure your auto policy covers you against the risk of being hit by an uninsured driver. Give your insurance agent a call. Ask whether you have Uninsured and Underinsured coverage and what the limits of the coverage are.
Here are the other posts in this ongoing series about interstate safety:
Are Double-Bottomed Semis More or Less Dangerous to You? – Devon Glass from Church Wyble, P.C. (Michigan), August 26, 2009
Who wins and loses when a Ford Focus and a fully-loaded semi-truck crash? – Steve Lombardi from The Lombardi Law Firm (Iowa), August 25, 2009
Hawaii Freeway Chronicles #1: What Are The Danger Points On H-1, H-2 and H-3?, by Wayne Parsons of Wayne Parsons Law Offices. (Hawaii), August 27, 2009
The Interstate Highway Graveyard, “Speed Kills”, Lombardi, August 28, 2009
Why Speeders on the Highway Cause More Serious Accidents, Glass, August 28, 2009
Death and Injury On Interstate Highways Increase With Higher Speed Limits, Wayne Parsons, August 29, 2009 2:31 AM
Drunk Drivers Caused 40% of Traffic Fatalities In Hawaii In 2006, Wayne Parsons, August 31, 2009 12:16 AM
Interstate Highways Are No Place For Drunk Drivers Over The Labor Day Weekend Wayne Parsons | September 01, 2009 4:36 PM
Uninsured Motorist Car Insurance: It’s Your Most Important Car Insurance and Here Is Why | September 01, 2009 10:30 AM