What Happens if You’re Hit by an Uninsured Motorist in California?
You pride yourself on being a good defensive driver. But car accidents happen. Especially in California, which has some of the busiest freeways and streets in the nation. While an auto accident can be a traumatic experience, finding out that the motorist who caused your accident doesn’t have any auto insurance can add to your confusion and stress.
Here in California, it’s estimated that approximately 15.2% of all motorists were uninsured in 2015. Although that’s not the highest percentage in the country— Florida earned that distinction with a whopping 26%, it’s still high. But back to that accident involving an uninsured motorist.
What exactly is uninsured motorist coverage?
This is not an individual policy. Uninsured motorist coverage is additional coverage that you add onto your current policy to pay for your medical bills and vehicle repairs if you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver. As to the specifics of what’s covered and how much it will cost you, it’s best to call your insurance carrier directly.
What are the different types of uninsured motorist coverage?
There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist for bodily injury (UMBI) and uninsured motorist coverage for property damage (UMPD). There’s also a third type of coverage, which while separate is similar to the two just mentioned: underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).
UMBI – This coverage pays for injuries to you as well as any passengers in your vehicle if you are the victim of an accident involving an uninsured driver. Generally, it also covers resident relatives of your household. In many cases, lost income and pain and suffering are also covered.
UMPD – Generally, if you have collision coverage, you don’t need this coverage. It pays for damage to your vehicle if its hit by an uninsured driver. Be aware however, most policies don’t cover hit and run accidents. If you’re undecided on UMPD, check with your auto insurance company to find out what exactly is covered and your policy limits.
UIM – This provides coverage if you are hit by a driver who only carries the minimum policy limits for California. While it’s perfectly legal to drive with minimum coverage, it can cost you dearly if you are hit by one of these motorists and end up incurring significant medical bills.
For example, say you are in an accident with someone who’s bodily injury liability coverage is only $15,000, the California state minimum. If you incur medical bills of $50,000, the underinsured motorist’s insurance will not cover the full amount, leaving you responsible for $35,000 in medical bills- unless you carry UIM coverage.
If you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, it all comes down to one question:
Do you have uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on your auto insurance policy?
Many consumers don’t know the details of their car insurance policy until they’re involved in an auto accident. If you’ve been hit by someone who was not carrying any type of auto insurance, it’s important to find out if you carry UM or UIM coverage.
Then, according to the answer, you have two options:
- No UM coverage: File a lawsuit directly against the uninsured motorist – Frankly, most uninsured motorists don’t carry car insurance because they can’t afford to. If you take them to court and win, there are usually little to no assets to go after. You’re probably in a no-win situation, unless…
On rare occasions, the uninsured motorist who hit you is well off. For example, maybe they simply forgot to pay their insurance premium on time, causing a lapse in their coverage. If that’s the case, then a direct lawsuit does make sense and some sort of recovery is much more likely.
- Yes, you have UM coverage: File a claim through your own auto insurance policy’s uninsured motorist coverage – This is the most common option for uninsured motor accident victims. One caveat: you must have uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy at the time of the accident. You can’t add it after the accident.
If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, unfortunately, you are stuck with option #1. Hopefully, this scenario never happens to you, but if you are the victim of a major car accident, your medical bills can total six figures or more. Without uninsured motorist coverage, odds are that you will be on the hook for at least a portion of those medical bills. And that doesn’t even take lost income and pain and suffering into account.
Dealing with your own insurance company
If you do carry UM and UIM car insurance, you may think that dealing with your own insurance company will be easier. But insurance adjustors negotiate settlements every day, you most likely do not. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you receive a lowball settlement offer from them. Your adjustor’s only interests lie with their employer’s bottom line. That’s why taking this on by yourself is a bad idea.
Accidents involving uninsured motorists can be complex. At Wilshire Law Firm we know how to negotiate with insurance adjustors because we’ve been doing it successfully for years. Call the personal injury attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm today. We’ll fight to make sure you receive the maximum compensation that you’re entitled to. Call us at 1-800-522-7274 for a FREE consultation today.