Arizona motorists are required to carry certain minimum amounts of property damage and bodily injury insurance coverage if they are operating a vehicle on public roads. The minimum requirement for property damage is $10,000, and the minimum for bodily injury coverage is $30,000 per accident ($15,000 per person).
These minimums are not nearly enough to cover the aftermath of many accidents, however, especially those that result in serious injury. When a motorist doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay the full amount that they are liable for, they are regarded as “underinsured” by the law. While this is not illegal under state law, it puts the burden of collecting the rest of the damages from the individual rather than their insurance company. This greatly complicates the process of recovering the full damages that are owed to you.
It’s also an unfortunate fact that uninsured motorists are driving on Arizona’s roads. The most recent study by the Insurance Research Council indicates that over 10 percent of Arizona’s motorists are uninsured. If one of these motorists collides with you, they can be held personally liable for the damages, but you are again faced with the tricky task of actually getting them to pay up.
It is possible to add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to your own insurance policy to add protection against such collisions. Though this represents an extra expense, it’s also a wise investment given the statistical probability of being involved in an accident with a motorist who doesn’t have the means to cover your damages. Unfortunately, there’s one big limitation to UM/UIM insurance: it usually doesn’t cover property damage.
Left Holding the Bag?
So what happens if you’re in an accident, the other motorist is at fault, and they don’t have insurance to cover your full damages? Realistically, what can you hope to recover?
Honestly, you’re looking at some serious difficulties in this situation. First of all, if the other motorist was able to flee the scene without you getting their contact information or at least recording their license plate number, it’s likely going to be impossible to track them down.
Furthermore, uninsured drivers usually have little in the way of assets. You can bring a lawsuit against them, but it’s effectively meaningless if you win and they have no assets with which to pay you.
It doesn’t hurt to consult with an accident attorney in any situation where you are left with unpaid damages, but realistically a direct lawsuit against the other party is only practical if they are underinsured and you have reason to believe they possess enough assets to cover their damages.
Will My Rates Rise if I File a Claim?
Let’s say you are in the best possible position following an accident with another motorist; you’re safe and healthy, but there are vehicle damages that need to be paid for. You may be hesitant to file a claim, however, for fear that your insurance rates will go up and represent a greater cost over time than simply remedying the situation out of pocket.
Fear not, and file that claim as soon as possible. State statute 20-263 forbids insurance companies from raising your rates in response to collisions in which you were not at fault, regardless of the insurance status of the other party. If they do, they have to refund the added amount and can also be made to pay a penalty of $300.
If you’ve experienced an automotive accident and feel you may need legal assistance with an insurance claim or in a suit against another party, it’s a good idea to get in touch with an experienced attorney.