Uninsured motorists cause auto insurance headaches

You have auto insurance. But what about the driver who just crashed into you?

Motorists who lack auto insurance pass their risks onto everyone else on the road. That's why most states have auto insurance laws and requirements -- with fines and penalties for those who don’t get insured. Still, lots of drivers don't carry the required insurance, and when they cause injury to others, they may not be able to pay the bill.

Some states have solved this problem with requiring drivers to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This kind of coverage, which can be added to a policy, ensures that if an at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance (or enough to pay for all damages), the accident victim will be paid by his or her own insurer. According to the Insurance Information Institute, uninsured/underinsured motorist policies cover all of the potential costs of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, including lost wages and pain and suffering. It also covers hit-and-run accidents as well as pedestrians who are hit by uninsured drivers.

The uninsured/underinsured motorist policy system works best if insured drivers get accurate information from the at-fault driver at the scene of the crash. A safety guide from auto reviewer Edmunds.com details what accident victims need when filing a claim:

  • Name, address and phone number of the driver or drivers involved.
  • Each driver’s license number and each vehicle’s license plate number.
  • The year, make and model description of each vehicle.
  • Good visual documentation of the collision (including photos if possible).

Looking at the percentages of uninsured drivers in each state can give drivers a better idea of what they are up against on the road and help them make good decisions about auto insurance coverage. A tally of states' uninsured driver rates from the Insurance Research Council reveals the following, according to 2007 data:

  • New Mexico was the top state for uninsured drivers, with 29 percent of all motorists failing to carry the appropriate coverage.
  • Florida had the highest rate for any Eastern state -- 23 percent.
  • The most populated state, California, was in the top 10 with 18 percent uninsured.
  • Michigan, with 17 percent, edged out Ohio (16 percent) and Texas (15 percent).
  • Illinois had an uninsured rate of 15 percent.
  • Pennsylvania had relatively good numbers, with only 7 percent of drivers uninsured.
  • Massachusetts led the list of the states with the lowest percentage of uninsured drivers -- 1 percent. The next best numbers were from Maine (4 percent) and North Dakota (5 percent).

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