Number of uninsured drivers down, but still high

An estimated 14% of drivers nationally are uninsured, according to the industry-funded Insurance Research Council–a chronic problem that states have been unable to solve. Auto liability insurance has been required in most states for decades, but lawmakers and insurance regulators say they feel increasing pressure to solve the problem, which results in higher rates for drivers who do follow the law. Fines, which have been the standard punishment, do not seem to be working as an effective deterrent against driving uninsured.

The Wall Street Journal rate of uninsured drivers has been falling over the last few years. The most recent data available is from 2009 which they analyzed based on the number of uninsured motorist claims filed compared to the number of injury claims filed.

Unfortunately, the rate in Texas is still fairly high at over 15%. Even more disturbing, there are 12 states where the number of insured drivers tops 16%.

Alex Hageli, director of auto-insurance policy for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said uninsured drivers weigh “what are the odds” of being caught against “what will I get in a fine and court costs?”

Fortunately, many states are now fighting this problem with more aggressive measures than just citations.

In November, Oklahoma became at least the third state to put into effect a law that allows troopers to yank license plates from uninsured motorists. The driver can reclaim the confiscated tag from a sheriff’s department after obtaining car insurance and paying a $125 administrative fee, a $250 fine and court and some other costs.

Another option being considered is to remove the ability for uninsured drivers to file claims against insured defendants in what is known as a “no pay, no play” system.

The uninsured numbers that the Wall Street Journal calculated seem pretty much in line with what I’ve noticed in my practice. I reviewed the last three years of cases that I have represented clients for, and 14.7% of my cases have been uninsured motorist claims, and another 3% have been cases where the defendant was uninsured and my client was uninsured.

Fortunately, for those clients have Uninsured Motorist benefits on their auto policy when they hire me, I was able to file a claim with their own insurance company to recover for their damages.

Uninsured Motorist coverage pays for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, just as a third party insurance claim will. I always recommend that my clients carry uninsured motorist coverage because far too often after obtaining the police report for their wrecks, I find that the defendant drivers are uninsured. If you are hit by an uninsured driver and do not carry Uninsured Motorist coverage, the only option for recovering for your damages is to sue the other driver, get a verdict, and then try to collect it from them. Sadly, collecting verdicts from most people is effectively impossible since most people – especially ones who cannot afford insurance – have very little if any collectible assets.

If you have been hit by an uninsured driver, you need a lawyer who has experience handling these cases and can help get you every dollar you are entitled to. Call my office at 817-885-8000 to discuss your case and learn how I can help you.

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