Were you hit by an uninsured driver in California? If so, you’re not alone. Experts have calculated that 1 in 3 California drivers either don’t have any auto insurance, or they don’t have enough to cover the damages that can result from a major motor vehicle accident. If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, make sure to thoroughly document the scene with photographs and notes. Also, don’t talk to the insurance companies unless you’ve talked to an attorney first.
Uninsured Motorists – An Overview
All states have laws that require drivers to show proof of their financial ability to pay for personal injury or property damage to others in the event of an automobile accident. Most drivers satisfy this requirement by purchasing insurance, but many cannot afford, or ignore, this obligation. It is also not uncommon for insurance companies to become insolvent, potentially leaving their policyholders without liability coverage. The result is that responsible drivers who carry insurance must bear the burden of paying for their own injuries, or damage to their vehicle, caused by someone who has no insurance coverage. Alternatively, some drivers purchase the lowest amounts of liability coverage permitted by the law in their state, which can be insufficient to cover the damages incurred by someone injured in an accident with them. Unfortunately, many people realize the importance of uninsured/underinsured coverage too late, i.e., after they or their family members have been injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Uninsured motorist coverage is a voluntary form of insurance offered by all automobile insurance companies. Uninsured motorist coverage is coverage you purchase from your own insurance company, which pays for bodily injury losses to you and your passengers as a result of an accident with a driver who is legally responsible for the injuries, but has no liability coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage can also apply when someone is injured in an accident with a hit-and-run vehicle, whose owner and operator cannot be identified. Underinsured motorist coverage pays for bodily injury damages to a policyholder and/or his or her passengers as a result of an accident with an at-fault driver who has liability insurance, but with limits that are lower than the injured party’s underinsured motorist limits.
What Are Your Injuries Worth?
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you have reason to be concerned about money. Medical bills from an injury can mount up very quickly, and even a short period of being unable to work can cause real financial problems for you and your family.
It is impossible to predict in advance exactly how much you may recover for your injuries. There are many factors that affect the value of an injury, and it can take time for these to become clear. For example, the amount you receive will vary depending upon how severely you were injured, whether you are working and what type of job you have, if your injuries are permanent, if you are married, and numerous other factors. An exact prediction is impossible, but an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accident claims can give you some idea of what you might be entitled to recover.
Do’s and Don’ts: Insurance Claims
DO call your agent as soon as a covered event takes place. As soon as you get home from the car accident, or even before you go to the doctor, call your agent.
DO review and understand your coverage before talking to your insurer or your agent. Read the “Coverage” and “Exclusion” sections of you policy in particular.
Before your lawsuit begins, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your claim. This investigation will include
- Analysis of all police reports
- Obtaining and reviewing witness statements
- Obtaining and reviewing medical records
- Inspection of the accident site
Frequently Asked Questions about Automobile Insurance
Q: What is liability insurance?
A: If a driver is at fault in a car accident, liability insurance pays for the damages that he/she caused to someone else. It does not pay for his/her own damages. There are two kinds of liability insurance: bodily injury and property damage. Bodily injury expenses include medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and lost wages. Property damage expenses include the repair or replacement of any items belonging to another person that are damaged or destroyed. Virtually every state requires some level of liability coverage. To find out what your state requires, ask your attorney.
Q: What Happens in a Motor Vehicle Accident Case
A: A claim for injuries caused by an uninsured motorist is similar to most other claims for injuries from a motor vehicle accident. The principal difference is that your own insurance company will be defending against your claim. The uninsured driver may not even be present at any of the proceedings. In fact, if your claim is for damages from a hit-and-run accident, you will not even know the identity of the driver involved.
What follows is a typical sequence of events in a motor vehicle case that involves an uninsured motorist. The exact practices may vary in your state, or your community. An attorney with experience in handling motor vehicle accident cases can tell you what the practices are in your community.
Frequently Asked Questions about Uninsured Motorists
Q: I was injured in an automobile accident, and the other driver does not have insurance. What can I do?
A: Most states require all motorists to have liability insurance coverage. Unfortunately, not all drivers comply with this requirement, or you may be in an accident with a driver from one of the few states that does not require liability coverage. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you may be able to recover for your injuries, just as if the other driver was insured. Your insurance company will step into the shoes of the driver responsible, as though it were insuring that driver.
Q: What is uninsured motorist coverage?
A: Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage that protects you if you are involved in an accident with a motorist who has no insurance, or if you are struck by a hit-and-run driver who is never located. Uninsured motorist coverage is available in the same amounts as regular liability insurance coverage.
Note that your uninsured motorist coverage does not provide protection for the uninsured motorist. In fact, your insurance company may sue the uninsured motorist for amounts it pays to you.