There are two different approaches to addressing a situation in which an at-fault driver caused an accident whereby you suffered injuries or property damage: (1) you can institute an action against the driver; or (2) you can make a claim against your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage (if you purchased such coverage). The second option is your best option by far if you have this option available.
Pursuing a claim against an uninsured driver, while legally sound, has serious practical problems. This option will likely result in litigating the claim against the at-fault driver. This can be time consuming and unnecessarily complicated for the average person without the assistance of legal counsel. It would likely result in you having to obtain a judgment against the driver. After negotiating the legal obstacles of obtaining a judgment, collecting on that judgment against the at-fault driver becomes the primary problem. A driver without insurance is invariably a driver without assets. If the driver had assets to protect (paying job, bank account and extensive personal and real property assets), then the adverse driver would likely have purchased car insurance (or ensured that his or her auto insurance premiums were paid) to protect those assets. Drivers without insurance are always drivers without assets. This means your judgment that you spent so much time to obtain cannot be executed against anything (i.e. assets of the driver). Thus, you are left with a piece of paper that is worth the value of the piece of paper- nothing more. Finding the at-fault driver’s assets and attempting to collect on those assets costs money and likely legal fees as the ordinary person does not have the knowledge or understanding how to collect on a judgment. This is the worst possible option and often proves expensive and fruitless.
The best option (if available) is to make a claim against your own policy, specifically the uninsured portion of the policy. Doing so, will not cause your insurance premiums to increase and it is protection that you paid for to use in this specific circumstance. The amount of coverage is dependent upon what you paid for. The minimum policy coverage is $15,000 and it increases incrementally depending on what limits you have ($25,000, $50,000, $100,000, $1,000,000 etc.). You must notify your insurance carrier that you have been informed that the at-fault driver is uninsured and that you intend to make a claim. You then negotiate with your own insurance company as you would against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you cannot resolve it, your policy will provide you with your options (either binding arbitration or litigation, i.e. filing a Complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court). Unlike your relationship with the at-fault driver (tort), your relationship with your own carrier is based upon contract (your policy). As such, you have to comply with the terms of the policy, which often dictates whether you must arbitrate or litigate should you not be able to settle your claim.