While it is illegal to drive in California without liability insurance coverage, unfortunately, due to the number of California drivers, there are many individuals who drive without insurance. In order to protect yourself from losing compensation for injuries suffered in a car accident with an uninsured driver, you can obtain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is available through all California licensed insurance companies, however it is not included in basic liability coverage or collision coverage.
As you may know, liability coverage applies when you are at-fault in a car accident. In this situation, your insurance company will pay the medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of earnings, etc. of the individual that you injured in the car accident. The insurance company will pay up to your policy limits in compensation to the other party. In California, the minimum liability policy limits is $15,000 per individual and $30,000 per accident if the accident injured more than one person. If the injuries suffered by the individuals the car accident you caused, exceeds your policy limits, you could be personally liable for the damages exceeding your policy limits.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Now, in the situation where you are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist (a driver without liability insurance) that was not your fault, you could be left holding the bag. In the situation where a driver has no liability insurance, the driver is likely “judgment proof,” so no attorney will likely want to take your case. As an aside, “judgment proof” means that the individual responsible for your injuries does not have any assets or money available to compensate you for your injuries, so an attorney is not going to want to spend his or her time and money prosecuting a case when s/he knows that after they prevail with a judgment there will be no money to collect.
In order to protect yourself from being “left holding the bag” in an accident that is not your fault, you need to request uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your policy. You must specifically ask your insurance company to provide this coverage and it will add to your premium. However, the increase in premium is not substantial and the added protection this coverage provides is well worth the added premium.
When you have uninsured motorist coverage, if you get into a car accident with an uninsured motorist, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay you for your medical expenses and pain and suffering up to your policy limits. In California, the minimum uninsured motorist policy limit is the same as liability insurance, i.e. $15,000 per individual and $30,000 if more than one person is involved in the accident.
For example, if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist that is not your fault and you have the minimum uninsured policy limits, your insurance company will pay you up to $15,000 for your pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of earnings, etc. In addition, an attorney will be willing to take your case and fight the insurance company in making sure you receive your full compensation.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage applies when you are injured in an motor vehicle accident and the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage does not sufficiently cover your damages, i.e. pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of earnings, etc. In this instance, your underinsured motorist coverage will pay the difference between what the other driver’s insurance company paid you and your policy limits for underinsured motorist coverage. The key is that your underinsured policy limits must be greater than the liability policy limits of the other driver.
For example, if your underinsured policy limits and the other driver’s liability policy limits is $15,000 per individual and $30,000 per accident, you are not entitled to any underinsured compensation. You cannot add your $15,000 policy amount to the other driver’s liability policy. Your underinsured policy limits must exceed the other driver’s liability policy limits.
In the situation where you have underinsured policy limits of $25,000 per individual and $50,000 per accident, and the at-fault driver has liability policy limits of $15,000 per individual and $30,000 per accident, you would be able to collect the difference of $10,000 from your underinsured policy. However, you must first collect the full policy amount of $15,000 from the other driver’s insurance company (if you are making a claim for only one individual) before you are able to collect on your underinsured policy. When you attempt to collect on your underinsured policy, you will have to establish that the $15,000.00 did not fully compensate you for your injuries.
As you can see, these are complicated issues and it is important to discuss your claim with an experienced attorney to help guide you through this maze. If you have any questions regarding uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, contact the attorneys at The Rinka Law Firm, ph. 310-556-9653.