California Uninsured Motorist Accident Guide
In California, people must have insurance coverage on their vehicles to drive them on public roads legally. However, many drivers in the state don’t carry insurance or don’t maintain their coverage. Uninsured drivers pose a threat to other motorists because they do not have financial coverage to pay any damages that might occur because of an accident.
An auto insurance policy in California can include uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage pays your expenses if another driver is at fault but does not possess insurance. As one of the top ten states with the most uninsured drivers, UM coverage can help protect your rights to compensation in a car accident in California.
An accident lawyer can help recover damages after an uninsured driver causes an accident. They can help you navigate the complexities of filing a claim with uninsured motorist coverage and help you file a claim for compensation after your car accident.
What is California’s Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
All California drivers must have auto insurance policies with the following minimum liability coverage requirements:
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
Your insurance company can also offer you the option of UM coverage in case of an accident with an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist coverage can be purchased separately from liability insurance or as part of a bundled policy with other types of auto coverage, such as collision coverage.
This coverage is separate from your liability insurance, which covers the costs of injuries and property damage to others caused by your vehicle. Uninsured motorist policies contain the following coverage:
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI)
If you’re in a collision with an uninsured driver who’s at fault, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for any injuries you and anyone in your car have suffered. It has the same limits as the mandated minimum liability coverage requirements.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD)
If you do not have collision coverage, this coverage pays for auto repairs to a damaged vehicle caused when an uninsured motorist hits it. The minimum amount for UMPD is $3,500.
However, payments from your UMPD are not available unless the uninsured driver has been identified. If your accident was a hit-and-run, you may not receive coverage for property damage.
Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) if I Have a Health Insurance Policy?
Medicare, MediCal, and other private health insurance policies may cover medical expenses after an accident. However, they may not cover additional medical expenses such as prescription costs and massage therapy.
Besides health insurance, other losses associated with a serious car accident include lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Having UMC coverage protects you in case of an accident that you did not cause.
How much UMC do I need?
Drivers in California may not recover compensation beyond their policy’s limits for UMC. Umbrella policies are available to California drivers who wish to have more insurance than available through UMC. If your insurance policy contains maximum limits, an umbrella policy will cover excess losses.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage: What’s the difference?
Uninsured motorist coverage differs from underinsured motorist coverage since it protects you from drivers who don’t have enough liability insurance to cover all their liability claims.
Underinsured motorist coverage only covers the limited costs for injured drivers when the at-fault driver has a limited auto insurance policy. The at-fault driver may have enough insurance to cover all the liability claims but not enough to cover all the damages resulting from the accident.
Who Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Cover?
UMC covers two categories of people: the named people in the insurance policy and their family members and other people entering or exiting an insured vehicle.
The people listed in the insurance policies and their family members living in the same household have UMC coverage. This also extends to those adopted into the family and living at home.
People using the vehicle
UMC can provide coverage to any other person inside, entering, or departing an insured vehicle. The policy also covers anyone near an insured vehicle, like someone standing next to the car talking to the driver.
When Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Apply
Aside from motor vehicle accidents, UMC can apply in the following situations:
- Walking as a pedestrian
- Injured while riding a bicycle
- Riding on a motorcycle
UMC may also cover the wrongful death of an insured driver who died in an accident.
How Do I File an Uninsured Motorist Claim in California
You can only file an uninsured motorist claim in California if you can prove that the other party has no insurance to cover your injuries. Take the following steps to determine if you can file a claim for uninsured motorist coverage with your insurance company:
Call the police
Report the accident to the police and ask for emergency medical services if there are any injuries. A police officer can ask the involved drivers for their driver’s license and insurance information, interview witnesses, and investigate the cause of the accident. Remember when you speak to the officer, never admit fault as your word could be used against you by the insurance company.
If you can, ask the police officer where you may get the police report. They may direct you to the police station to pick it up. The police report should document the accident and conclude the accident was the uninsured driver’s fault. It must also state that the at-fault party lacked insurance to support a UMC claim.
Ask the driver if they have auto insurance coverage
While waiting for the police to arrive, you may request the insurance coverage and contact information from the other driver so you may file a claim against their insurance company. They may let you know they do not have coverage or their insurance has expired. If an uninsured driver just offers to pay out of pocket for your damages, do not accept this offer without consulting an attorney first.
If you cannot get the driver to cooperate, you may prove the other party does not have insurance by contacting California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Fill out form 1A and submit it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The department can determine whether the other driver was insured and notify you.
Get medical attention
If you go to the hospital for emergency care for your injuries, keep track of medical bills, doctor diagnoses, and prescription expenses. You should follow the doctor’s orders, including taking time off to recover and schedule follow-up appointments.
These records from your doctor visits can prove to your insurance company that you have suffered injuries and have received medical treatment to help you recover.
Notify your insurance company
Call your insurance company as soon as you can after your accident with an uninsured motorist. You should talk to your insurance adjuster about the specific coverage limits under your UMC policy to determine what is covered and what is not. The insurance company may settle your UMC claim, or you can have a car accident attorney negotiate on your behalf.
Contact a car accident attorney
You may have UMC coverage under your car insurance policy, but this does not guarantee that your insurer will pay your claim. You may receive a minimal payment, or the insurance company may deny your claim.
Working with an auto accident lawyer can help you protect your interests before you agree to settle your insurance claim. They can review your medical bills, loss of wages, and property damage to ensure you receive reasonable coverage under your policy limits. Working with a lawyer makes you more likely to receive the compensation you deserve to treat your injuries and repair damage to your vehicle.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
An experienced car accident lawyer from the Shirvanian Law Firm can offer many benefits following an accident with an uninsured motorist. You can rely on their extensive experience in car accidents involving motorcycles, trucks, and rideshare vehicles to help you. A car accident attorney can help you with these crucial tasks to file an uninsured motorist claim:
Inform you of what you need to know about your insurance policy
An attorney can review your insurance policy and help you determine how much compensation you deserve under your UMC policy. Should you choose to file a claim, they can investigate the circumstances of your accident, such as if the driver did not provide their insurance information. They can also give you a better idea of how your claim can move forward.
Prepare your claim for damages
There are often many steps involved with filing a claim, making it extremely complicated to understand how to obtain the compensation you deserve. A car accident lawyer can maximize your chances of recovering from your injuries.
Your lawyer can calculate the total amount of compensation you may receive for your medical expenses and the cost of car repairs on your behalf to receive coverage under your UMC policy.
Negotiate with your insurance company
A lawyer can help you negotiate with your insurance company to settle for a fair amount. During negotiations with the insurance company, they can focus on the severity of your injuries and the required treatments, such as surgeries and rehabilitation after the accident.
The lawyer will negotiate for as long as it takes to receive a fair compensation offer for your injuries. They will update you at every stage of the negotiation process. The insurance company may offer a final dollar amount after several rounds of negotiations or accept your lawyer’s counteroffer.
Ready to take your case to court, if needed
If the insurance company refuses to compensate you, you may ask your lawyer about taking legal action against them. The lawyer can help you understand all phases of the legal process and will do their best to keep your interests in mind.
Contact the Shirvanian Law Firm After an Accident with an Uninsured Driver
If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and suffered injuries and property damage, The Shirvanian Law Firm can help you pursue compensation. Our lawyers have experience helping victims of car accidents involving uninsured drivers throughout California, including in Glendale, Bakersfield, Riverside, and Sacramento.
With our knowledge of personal injury cases, we will thoroughly investigate your claim with your best interests in mind. Our attorneys can ensure that you receive the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and losses.
Reach out to us today to schedule a free evaluation of your case with one of our car accident lawyers. You have no out-of-pocket expenses when we represent you until we reach a judgment or settlement for your claim.
List of References
Facts + Statistics: Uninsured motorists
Automobile Insurance Information Guide
Daun v. USAA Casualty Ins. Co.
Insurance Code: Section 11580.2.(a) (1)
Insurance Requirements, California DMV