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Protecting yourself against uninsured or underinsured drivers

Even though New York requires drivers to have auto insurance, there are still those who are uninsured. In 2012, the Insurance Information Institute found that New York only had about 5.3 percent uninsured drivers, one of the lowest in the nation. Still, if you are in an accident with one of these drivers, you may find yourself with out-of-pocket for your expenses. Learn how to protect yourself against “naked” drivers, the industry’s term for uninsured motorists.

1. Check your UM/UIM coverage. In New York, you are required to have $50,000 of no-fault coverage. Consider whether you need more than this amount to protect your personal property. Keep in mind that your policy may not cover certain damages.

2. Take a defensive driving course to learn methods to avoid accidents. It is better to prevent accidents before they happen.

3. If you are in an accident, document everything. Call the police to create an official report. Get information from the other driver, including registration, vehicle make and model and plate number. If there are witnesses, get names and phone numbers. Report the accident to your own insurance company.

4. Offer sympathy to the other driver if they ask you not to report the accident, but do not comply. Although it is human nature to want to believe people will meet their obligations, when it comes to an uninsured driver, you have little reason to trust this person.

Consumer Reports estimates that medical treatment following a car crash averages about $23,000. In a severe accident, with incapacitating injuries, the bills commonly come in at about $72,000. If you drive out of state, you may want to check with your insurance company to ensure your policy will cover you in case of an accident.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimates that about 13 percent of all motorists in the United States do not have insurance. Responsible drivers should not have to pay for the actions of those who choose to ignore the law, but it is very difficult to make sure every car on the road has insurance at the time of operation.

Talk to an attorney about your options

If you have been in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you should know your legal options. Often, it may not seem worth it to sue the individual, but your lawyer may be able to find other avenues of recompense. There are many strategies that can be utilized to maximize the compensation you receive after a serious auto accident.

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