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Chances are drivers will not be involved in a vehicle accident during these travels, but everyone likely will be involved in at least one car accident in his or her lifetime.

Questions then can arise if one or both of the vehicle drivers don’t have car insurance. What happens now?

Across the United States, chances are roughly one in seven that a driver is uninsured, according to estimates released in April from the Insurance Research Council.

The recession also has caused an increase in the number of uninsured motorists.

The estimated percentage of uninsured motorists declined four straight years before rising to 14.3 percent in 2008 and dropping to 13.8 percent in 2009, according to the IRC.

The economic downturn is thought to be a major factor in the brief increase.

“The leveling trend in the percentage of uninsured motorists is an unfortunate consequence of the economic downturn and illustrates how virtually everyone is affected by recent economic developments,” said Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC, in a press release.

“Despite laws in many states requiring drivers to maintain insurance, about one in seven motorists remain uninsured. This forces responsible drivers who carry insurance to bear the burden of paying for injuries caused by drivers who carry no insurance at all,” Sprinkel said.

In a new study, “Uninsured Motorists, 2011 edition,” the IRC estimates the percentage of uninsured drivers countrywide and in individual states for 2008 and 2009 based on the number of uninsured motorist insurance claims versus the number of bodily injury claims.

In 2009, the five states with the highest uninsured driver estimates were Mississippi, 28 percent; New Mexico, 26 percent; Tennessee, 24 percent; Oklahoma, 24 percent; and Florida, 24 percent.

The five states with the lowest uninsured driver estimates were Massachusetts, 4.5 percent; Maine, 4.5 percent; New York, 5 percent; Pennsylvania, 7 percent; and Vermont, 7 percent.

Illinois falls in between with 15 percent uninsured.

In a previous report, the IRC predicted a lower number of uninsured motorists, citing a strong historical relationship with the national unemployment rate. The strength of the relationship appears to have diminished slightly in light of more recent data.

Mandatory insurance law

Illinois has a mandatory insurance law, but that doesn’t mean all drivers are insured.

Insurance policies can lapse or drivers enter Illinois from other states resulting in uninsured drivers, explains Missy Lundberg, with State Farm Insurance Public Affairs in Downers Grove.

“If you are involved in an automobile accident, no matter how minor, always ask the other party for their insurance information,” Lundberg said.

“Jot down pertinent information if they do not have an insurance card with them such as name, address, phone number, make and model of the vehicle, and the license plate number. Ask them directly if they have insurance. Call the police and make a police report no matter how small the loss appears,” she said.

Lundberg adds that drivers also should always complete the Illinois Motorist Report provided by the police officer. This will record the loss with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

If a motorist suffers damages, property damage and/or bodily injury and the other driver is uninsured, the Illinois Department of Transportation will ask them to provide proof of insurance.

If the driver cannot prove insurance, post a bond or pay for the loss, the state can suspend the driver’s license.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, if someone is hit by an uninsured motorist who was at fault in the crash, the victim should submit an Illinois Crash Report to the Illinois Department of Transportation Accident Report Office, 3215 Executive Park Drive, Springfield, IL 62766; (217) 782-4516.

In the report, the driver should indicate the other party was uninsured and request the case be certified to the Secretary of State for suspension under the Safety and Financial Responsibility Law.

Once the case is certified, the Secretary of State’s office will suspend the driver’s license of the at-fault uninsured driver and the license plates of the uninsured owner involved in the crash. The suspension will remain in effect until restitution is made or until other requirements under the law.

Another option available to a victim of an uninsured motorist is to file a court judgment against the uninsured motorist. If the judgment remains unsatisfied for 30 days, the victim may submit it to the Secretary of State’s office for suspension.

Lundberg adds that “if a driver has collision, medical payments or uninsured motorist (insurance) coverage, these coverages will reimburse you for your property damage and injury claim …” The insured motorist’s company then will seek damages from the uninsured driver.

Drivers are in compliance with Illinois’ mandatory insurance law if they have vehicle liability insurance in these minimum amounts: $20,000 — injury or death of one person in an accident; $40,000 — injury or death of more than one person in an accident; and $15,000 — damage to property of another person.

Drivers always must carry an insurance card in their vehicle and show it upon request by any law enforcement officer.

Liability insurance is required for all motor vehicles requited to display license plates and that are being driven, including cars, vans, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, trucks and buses. Trailers are not required to have liability insurance.

Some vehicle classes — such as dealer, rental and tow trucks — require higher liability minimums and proof of insurance under other Illinois laws.

Also, some insurance companies do not sell insurance to vehicle owners who have been driving uninsured. If a driver is having problems buying insurance, they should ask an insurance agent about the Illinois Automobile Insurance Plan.

The Illinois Department of Insurance maintains a consumer services division that will answer any questions drivers might have about auto insurance. Write: Illinois Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division, 320 W. Washington St., 4th Floor, Springfield, IL 62767 or call: (217) 782-4515. (Source)

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