You CAN Collect from Uninsured Drivers (but It’s Not Easy)

By Steve Steinberg, CEI Manager of Loss Recovery

 Recovering damages from at-fault third party drivers is one of the most powerful ways that fleets can reduce the net cost of accidents. At CEI, we’ve seen subrogation recover an amount equal to as much as 50% of a fleet’s total original repair estimates.

It’s one thing when you demand payment from a driver who’s insured, but it’s another thing altogether when it comes to collecting from drivers who are or claim to be uninsured.  According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), there are some 30 million uninsured drivers in the U.S., and if you’re in a collision with another vehicle, there’s about a one in eight chance the other driver won’t be covered.

The odds vary by state, however. The IRC says the five states with the highest percentage of drivers who are uninsured as of 2012 were Oklahoma (25.9%), Florida (23.8%), Mississippi (22.9%) New Mexico (21.6%) and Michigan (21.0%).   The five states with the smallest percentage of uninsured drivers were Massachusetts (3.9%), Maine (4.7%), New York (5.3%), Utah (5.8%) and North Dakota (5.9%).

Contrary to what you might think, collecting from drivers without insurance is not impossible – it’s just very difficult.  What it takes are two things:  knowing how to do it and, perhaps even more important, spending the often considerable extra time it takes.

In 2015, CEI collected on behalf of our fleet customers almost $1 million from at-fault drivers who didn’t have – or claimed not to have – insurance.  In line with national statistics, 13% of the demands we launch to recover fleet damages are targeted at the uninsured.   For all of our recovery demands, it takes an average of less than 60 days for us to get recovered funds into our customers’ hands.  For uninsured drivers, the process can take three, four, six or more months, and we’ve even successfully pursued a $12,500 claim that took a year and half to collect.  Here’s how we do it:

After determining from police reports who’s responsible for the accident, we start with making direct contact with the at-fault driver.  We call and send up to three letters with a bill. Sometimes – but rarely — the driver will agree and pay in full with a check, money order or through an installment plan.

If that doesn’t work, our next step is to verify, through online consume information systems, that the driver actually is without insurance, because sometimes the real  issue is that the driver just doesn’t want to report the accident.  If we find out they are covered, we send the demand to the insurance company, and usually the only issue is how much they’ll pay.

Our next resort is to turn the demand over to a collection agency. Even though the funds we’re seeking aren’t a debt, at this point some uninsured motorists will take the collection agency’s calls more seriously, and will make payment.

If the driver still doesn’t pay, we or the collection agency engage the drivers’ state motor vehicle agency to threaten suspending his or her license for driving without insurance, unless the driver makes payment and secures coverage. Payment can be by installment plan, and if the driver misses a payment, we can notify the state to suspend the license.  In most states, suspension requires a judge to issue an order to suspend, but in 24 states a judge’s ruling isn’t required.

Our final option is to sue the driver.  A guilty verdict against the driver results in an order to pay, which can remain  in effect for up to 10 years and in some states and can be renewed for another 10. Since the fleet incurs legal expenses to bring the case to trial, it has to decide whether the amount being demanded is worth it compared to how likely it will ever have the means to pay.

All of this takes time and special expertise that very few fleets have.  And even though the total percentage of drivers without insurance has inched down over the last 25 years, we find collecting from them increasingly difficult as the cost of repairs keeps rising.   But it’s important to remember that just because a driver doesn’t have insurance doesn’t mean you can’t collect – you just might need the right partner to help.


CEI’s In-House Appraisers Complete Professional Course in Repairs on New All-Aluminum Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

Trevose, PA, September 22, 2014 — Fifteen members of the in-house Quality Control team from the CEI Group, Inc. (CEI) have completed I-CAR’s course in collision repairs on the new 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck, which makes the most extensive use of aluminum of any light-duty vehicle on the road, CEI announced today.

“Auto manufacturers are starting to use more aluminum because of its strength, lighter weight and greater corrosion resistance, but it requires a range of completely different repair techniques than steel,” said Greg Neuman, CEI’s senior manager of quality control. For example, he said, different welding tools and procedures are required, and repairs must be made in a totally separate and contained area of a repair shop to keep the metal free from any contact with steel, which causes aluminum to corrode.

The Ford F-150 – one of the most popular fleet vehicles – is the first American-made vehicle to use aluminum for all of its body panels and most of its internal structural parts. “What’s happening with the F-150 is a harbinger of things to come in fleet, ” said Wayne Smolda, CEI’s CEO and president. “Every fleet and its business partners need to be prepared to deal correctly with the challenges of aluminum collision repairs, and I-CAR’s course is a great way to do it.”

The day-long course was conducted at CEI’s headquarters and concluded with an examination. “The course was very comprehensive and thorough, and the test was rigorous,” Mr. Neuman said. “We’ve encountered aluminum material in some body parts for years, but the Ford F-150 presents a whole new challenge for the collision repair industry at large.”

CEI provides fleet accident management services as well as fleet driver safety and risk management services. Mr. Neuman’s quality control department audits every repair estimate it receives from its network of auto body shops for accuracy, safety and cost savings.

I-CAR, the Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality reports. For more information about I-CAR, please visit

About CEI
The CEI Group, Inc. is the largest integrated fleet accident, driver safety and risk management providers in North America. Its provider network consists of some 4,000 collision repair shops in North America, and includes nearly 1,000 truck collision repair centers. Its customers include self-insured, commercial, institutional and government fleets, directly and through alliances with fleet leasing companies. CEI also provides vehicle direct repair program outsourcing to leading property and casualty insurance companies.

Founded in 1983, CEI has headquarters near Philadelphia, PA, and field sales offices in Trevose, PA, Tulsa, OK, and Lake in the Hills, IL. In 2000, CEI launched the DriverCare™ line of services, which include fleet risk management, MVR ordering and compliance, on-line and behind-the-wheel driver safety training and a safety newsletter. For more information about CEI, please visit

Avoid These Pitfalls When Creating a Fleet Safety Culture

Trevose, PA, July 2, 2013 — Inconsistent fleet safety policy enforcement and lack of senior leadership support are common pitfalls to avoid in creating a fleet safety culture, according to CEI’s Brian Kinniry.

Mr. Kinniry, the company’s manager of risk and safety services, is quoted in the cover story of the June issue of Automotive Fleet, “9 Pitfalls to Avoid in Creating a Safety Culture.”

The article points out that effective fleet safety policies must be regularly updated and internally consistent. “In addition to the policy itself being consistent, it needs to be consistently enforced, and in a timely manner,” Mr. Kinniry pointed out. “Always treating drivers the same way for the same violations helps protect the fleet sponsor from liability. holding drivers accountable as soon as possible after their…violations is vital to changing driver behavior,” he noted.

Senior management must also make clear to employees that safety isn’t a secondary consideration, according to Mr. Kinniry. “All employees need to know that senior management views fleet safety…has a major impact on how well [the company] performs,” he said.

To see the full article, please visit:

CEI Sponsors Mobile Application Program Guide for AFLA Annual Conference

Trevose, PA, August 28, 2012 — The CEI Group, Inc. (CEI) announced today it is sponsoring the mobile program guide application for next month’s annual meeting and conference of the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA).   The event will be held September 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio, Texas.

“The theme of the conference is ‘Innovation,’ and sponsoring this innovative way to distribute AFLA’s guide book was an appropriate way to demonstrate our on-going commitment to creating new solutions for the fleet industry,” said Vincent Brigidi, CEI’s president and chief operating officer.

This year’s conference marks the first time that AFLA will offer an electronic version of its program guide, which AFLA executive director Paul Hanscom said typically is about 20 pages long.  “We’re going to provide the mobile app version and a paper version this year, but we hope to move to the electronic version exclusively in the future,” he said.

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