Getting hit by an uninsured driver doesn’t automatically mean you will not be compensated for damage and medical costs.
Missouri law clearly states that to be able to drive in the state, you need auto insurance that can cover injuries you did to another person:
- At least $25,000 per person;
- $50,000 per accident;
- $10,000 for property damage.
Even though the law is clear, it is estimated that approximately 13% of Missouri drivers do not have auto insurance. This poses a rather large problem both for the uninsured driver, who may be liable to pay for compensation out of their own pocket and for the injured party who can have a more difficult time getting compensated.
However, getting hit by an uninsured driver doesn’t automatically mean you will not be compensated for your medical costs. The matters are a bit more complicated than that.
What the Process Looks like
If both parties are insured, then the injured party will file an auto injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. A small investigation would most likely follow, but your St. Louis auto accident lawyer can build a case and help negotiate a settlement for you.
When the at-fault driver is uninsured, things get a bit tricky. Typically, you may have three potential options for covering the cost of your treatment:
1. Your Auto Insurance
Part of the idea behind making auto insurance mandatory in Missouri is also to protect yourself against uninsured or underinsured motorists. Here, you will have to file a claim with your own insurance company. They will still analyze the case to see if they have an obligation to cover these costs – if the accident was your fault, for instance, the claim could be denied.
2. Your Medical Insurance
If you have health insurance, you may use it to cover some of your medical costs. However, most health insurance policies have limitations as to what types of injuries or treatment they cover, so it’s possible not to be able to cover the full cost through it.
3. File a Lawsuit against the Other Driver
Auto injury claims are the most common form of resolving these issues and getting compensation, but you also have the option of filing a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault party.
If the other driver is uninsured, you may file a lawsuit and try to get compensated this way. However, it’s important to understand why the driver is uninsured. If they cannot afford it, they most likely won’t be able to afford to pay for compensation either. If the policy simply expired and they did not renew it, you may have a shot.
Understanding the Coverage – Is Mental Health Included?
As we’ve discussed, coverage minimums in Missouri for uninsured motorist insurance are set at $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Of course, you may opt for a policy that offers higher coverage to increase your protection if you want, but this is the minimum.
However, your uninsured motorist coverage doesn’t apply in all car accident cases. It will only kick in if you are in a collision with an uninsured driver, or when you’re the victim of a hit and run. And the policy will only cover the cost of treating bodily injuries that have resulted from the accident.
Because it’s only applicable for bodily harm, mental health services may not be included, even if your mental health problems are a direct result of a car accident.
What Can You Do?
Car accidents, even those that can be considered minor can kickstart a lot of different mental health issues. When you are dealing with these conditions, it’s very important to get adequate help as soon as possible.
Since you may not be able to cover these expenses through your uninsured motorist coverage, you may do so through your health insurance. Since 2014, many insurers are legally required to include mental health coverage in their policies. If you have any doubts you should consult your plan before or ask your employer in case your health insurance plan is attached to your job.
Another option you have is to sue the driver for damages and get the money to cover your mental health services by going to court. Some drivers lack proper auto insurance for financial reasons, but if you only ask for compensation for mental health service, you may have a chance of getting compensated, since you’re not asking for full damages.
Is An Uninsured Driver Worth Suing?
Lawsuits in real life look almost nothing like what you see on TV – they are long, tedious processes, and you never really know if the outcome will be in your favor. It all depends on how well you convince a judge and jury, and how you present your evidence.
It’s why many people prefer to go the insurance route, where the settlement is negotiated between the two parties. However, when one driver has no insurance, the victim may consider suing them in hopes of getting compensation this way.
Here, you have to consider why that at-fault driver has no auto insurance. In most cases, people take this risk because they genuinely cannot afford to pay for a policy. And if they don’t have the money for insurance, they likely don’t have the money to cover your damages either.
Even if you do file a lawsuit, win your case, and a judge rules the at-fault victim has to pay for your damages, there’s still another chance you won’t get it. If the driver does not have the money to pay, they may declare bankruptcy, which means they are no longer responsible to pay for your compensation.
In Some Cases, They May Prove Useful
Sometimes, a lawsuit may help you recover part of the damages. For example, if you use your uninsured motorist coverage to cover part of your expenses, you maybe be able to recover the rest of the damages through a lawsuit.
Because the amount is less, you have a better chance of the at-fault victim being able to pay, even in installments. However, you may still face the problems described above: if the remaining damages are high, the at-fault driver may genuinely not have the money to pay.
So, Is a Lawsuit Worth It?
It depends on the case. The at-fault driver may not have insurance for another reason, that has nothing to do with their finances. In this case, a personal injury lawsuit can help you get compensated for all your damages.
The best way to know for sure is to speak with an experienced St. Louis car accident lawyer. Based on the case, and the evidence surrounding it, they can help you figure out if a personal injury lawsuit is suitable, or if there a better way to pursue compensation.
Speak With a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, speak with a St. Louis car accident lawyer, and see what your next steps are. For mental health treatment, there may be other legal options for compensation available, and a lawyer can help you find out which ones are best suited for you. They can help you make sense of the situation and figure out the best course of action to take to get compensated. Give us a call 24/7 at (314) 361-4242.