Although every state requires drivers to have a minimum amount of insurance before getting behind the wheel, the reality is that many people drive without the required coverage. For victims of car accidents, the prospect of the at-fault driver being uninsured can be a source of anxiety and stress.
While many states have instituted measures to encourage motorists to drive with insurance, these laws don’t always work. Some states have “no pay, no play” laws that prevent uninsured motorists from collecting compensation when another driver is at fault. Some even have stiff fines and suspensions for those who drive uninsured.
When a collision happens with an uninsured motorist, you may worry that you cannot collect damages. However, an experienced car accident attorney can improve your chances of receiving compensation.
Where to Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Your insurance may include uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) as add-ons. Some insurance companies bundle uninsured motorist coverage as part of their auto insurance policies.
Your insurance agent can help you determine whether your policy includes these coverages. If your policy does contain UMC or UIM, your insurance will pay your claim if you collide with an uninsured driver. The following are the types of coverage you can get as a California driver:
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): This coverage pays for bodily injury medical costs up to your auto insurance policy limits if an uninsured driver injures you or your passengers.
Underinsured motorist (UIM): The policy covers limited costs if the at-fault driver is underinsured and does not have enough coverage to pay for your injuries.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): If an uninsured driver is at fault in an accident causing damage to your vehicle, this coverage covers the damage up to $3,500. This coverage is unnecessary if you have collision coverage. This coverage does not cover a hit-and-run accident involving an unknown driver.
Insurance companies must offer this coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages. If you decide not to purchase them, you must sign a waiver to acknowledge you were offered coverage and declined it.
How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works
Uninsured motorist coverage pays for your car’s damages and your medical expenses if you get into an accident with an uninsured driver. Underinsured motorist coverage works by paying the difference between an underinsured motorist’s liability coverage and damages you incurred.
However, under these types of policies, your medical bills may not be covered if your damages exceed your policy limits, especially if you have a long-term or permanent disability.
If you don’t have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, or your policy limits don’t cover all of your expenses, you may file a lawsuit in court against the at-fault party.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
A lawyer can help you file your case with your insurance company or the underinsured motorist’s insurance company. They can help you file a claim against the uninsured motorist’s personal assets and seek damages if necessary. They can also help you organize an argument to prove that the accident was the other party’s fault and pursue maximum compensation for your injuries.
You can still pursue damages if the at-fault driver goes bankrupt. This is because bankruptcy does not remove debts from car collisions or DWIs. You may also need a lawyer if a third-party entity or business acted negligently and could be at fault.
You may be able to sue a business that provided the driver with alcohol before the accident or bring a case against the municipality responsible for poorly maintained road signs that caused the crash. To establish liability in this type of auto accident case, you need experienced legal counsel that can gather evidence and prove fault.
Who Covers Damages?
In cases where the at-fault driver is uninsured, they are still liable for the accident, and you can seek compensation. A knowledgeable attorney specializing in auto accidents can ensure you have a fair chance at collecting maximum damages for your injuries.
Car accident victims of uninsured drivers can use litigation to collect compensation by going after the at-fault driver’s assets. If they do not have the cash to cover your damages, you may go after their assets, such as savings, vehicles, retirement accounts, or property, such as a house. If the driver lacks these assets, the court can enter a judgment against them to garnish future wages or earnings to pay for the damages.
What are the Consequences of Driving Without Insurance in California?
According to California law, a driver must show proof of financial responsibility to an officer upon request. This means the driver possesses financial assistance in addition to auto insurance if the driver caused an accident.
Drivers can show their proof of auto insurance through an insurance policy card or an email from the insurance company with their insurance policy information. If a driver doesn’t have proof of financial responsibility, then they may face the following legal repercussions:
- An infraction charge
- First offense: Fines between $100 and $200 and penalty assessments
- A subsequent violation within the first three years of the first offense: Fines between $200 and $500 plus penalty assessments
The court may order the impoundment of the driver’s vehicle if the owner does not have proof of financial responsibility. The driver has to pay for the storage and towing costs. An impounded vehicle may only be released under these conditions:
- The legal owner is an auto dealer, bank, credit union, or another financial institution
- The legal owner pays all the towing and storage costs
- The legal owner shows foreclosure documents or a repossession affidavit
A minor infraction can result in an uninsured driver paying thousands of dollars in state fines, impound costs, and penalty assessments. They are also open to litigation from crash victims over their injuries and property damage.
Recoverable Damages from an Uninsured Driver
While you may recover compensation from your UMC coverage, it may not cover all your medical costs and doesn’t include other types of economic and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Economic damages are those with tangible monetary value. When determining economic damages, your lawyer identifies them by considering whether the accident caused these losses and if they had a quantifiable monetary value. Your economic damages in a lawsuit may include:
- Past medical costs for injuries resulting from the accident, such as emergency visits and medications
- Future medical expenses for the injuries, including physical therapy
- Loss of wages from time off from work for your recovery
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Repair costs for damaged property like your motor vehicle
If you suffer any emotional and psychological injuries from the accident, you deserve compensation for them. Some non-economic damages your lawyer may consider pursuing on your behalf may include:
- Accident-related physical pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life if you have to use assistive medical devices all your life
- Loss of consortium can result from the loss of a physical relationship with your spouse
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as a foot or hand
An experienced car accident lawyer with The Shirvanian Law Firm can estimate your damages from your medical bills, doctors’ diagnoses, and hospital stays. They can use these records to determine the severity of your pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and how much you can receive in non-economic damages.
Work with a Lawyer When Filing an Uninsured Motorist Coverage Claim
If you are in an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver in California, contact The Shirvanian Law Firm. We can help you navigate the complexities of uninsured or underinsured insurance claims and help you determine the best way to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Let us use our legal expertise to get you maximum damages to cover your accident-related costs so you can rebuild your life. Contact our law firm to schedule your free consultation and learn your next steps.