Uninsured and underinsured motorists pose a serious risk to others on the road — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc. — as their injured victims may, in many cases, be left without adequate financial recourse for obtaining a full recovery. Perhaps more concerning are the statistics. It is not at all uncommon to encounter an uninsured or underinsured motorist on the roads. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, 12 percent of Arizona drivers are uninsured, and many more are likely to have minimal insurance coverage (the state of Arizona only requires minimum liability insurance coverage of $15,000 per person) that is inadequate for accidents resulting in serious injuries.
If you have been injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may be concerned that the defendant-driver does not have the resources necessary to adequately cover your damages. Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, however, you may have alternative avenues for recovery that are worth considering. Consult with an experienced Arizona motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible for further guidance on how to pursue a claim against an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
When the defendant-driver lacks sufficient insurance coverage, then you — the plaintiff — are put in an unenviable position. For example, if you have $250,000 in damages, but the defendant has only $30,000 in liability insurance, then you will have to look elsewhere to ensure that your damages are covered.
Consider the following strategies for securing a fuller, more adequate recovery.
Secure the Personal Assets of the Defendant
In the event that the defendant lacks sufficient insurance coverage (or lacks coverage altogether), you may be able to secure a lien against the personal assets belonging to the defendant-driver, or even against the earnings of the defendant. Bear in mind, however, that in many cases, uninsured and underinsured motorists do not have significant personal assets on which to recover. For example, a driver with substantial personal assets ($1 million or more) is unlikely to lack insurance or otherwise be underinsured with respect to liability coverage.
Engage Your UM/UIM Policy
Arizona does not have mandatory uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) for drivers, though it is highly encouraged. If you have UM/UIM coverage, then you may be able to file a first-party insurance claim with your insurer for the damages you suffered as a consequence of the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct.
It’s important to note that — even if you have a sizable UM/UIM policy — your insurer is not your ally, and will almost certainly attempt to minimize their payout to the degree that it is possible to do so. As such, it’s critical that you consult with a qualified attorney who can engage in discussions with your insurer and maximize your recovery.
Investigate Potential Co-Defendant Liability
One excellent strategy for recovering damages in cases where the defendant is uninsured or underinsured is to spread liability to other persons or entities. Further investigation of the facts may reveal additional defendants.
For example, suppose that you are involved in an accident where the defendant-driver (who is an uninsured motorist) was speeding and lost control of their vehicle, thus leading to the collision with your vehicle. Your damages are $100,000 in total. After further investigation, you find that — though the defendant was negligent in the operation of their vehicle — the defendant’s vehicle malfunctioned at the time of the accident, and that this malfunction was caused by the negligence of the defendant’s auto mechanic. Suppose that the mechanic is 50 percent liable for your injuries. Even if you cannot recover anything from the uninsured motorist, you would, at the very least, be able to secure $50,000 in damages from the liable mechanic.
Contact us today to discuss your legal rights and options.