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Uninsured drivers: a problem in Montana and across the nation

Imagine that you are driving along one of Montana’s many roadways when you are suddenly hit by another driver. The force of the impact causes you to suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment. But as if this wasn’t bad enough, the police report later indicates that the driver who hit you wasn’t insured, meaning those thousands of dollars in medical bills must come out of your pocket.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t just some worst-case scenario that is only happening to drivers here in Montana, but rather is something that is happening to drivers across the nation. In fact, according to the industry-funded Insurance Research Council, approximately 14 percent of drivers nationwide are uninsured. And while many states enforce fines against drivers who fail to operate a motor vehicle with valid insurance, many motorists believe that the threat of not having insurance is not high enough to justify the risk.

But as many drivers here in Billings know, uninsured and underinsured drivers often cause considerable problems for the people they injure. Take the example above. Depending on your own insurance policy, you may have to pay for your medical treatments out of your own pocket despite the fact that the accident was not your fault.

Some state legislators have noticed the problems created by uninsured and underinsured drivers and have started strengthening the penalties these drivers face if they cause a motor vehicle accident. Some states have already started taking away the license plates of uninsured drivers, while other states have started restricting an uninsured driver’s ability to sue for damages after an accident. The ultimate hope here in Montana, as well as in other states across the nation, is that these tougher penalties will be more of a deterrent than current fines and will prevent worse-case scenarios like the one above from happening to you.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Uninsured-Driver Dilemma," Leslie Scism, Dec. 1, 2013

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