Few events can upend your life like a car accident with an uninsured motorist. If you suffered an injury or property damage due to another driver’s negligence, you shouldn’t have to pay for medical bills and vehicle repairs out of your own pocket.
Fortunately, even if the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage has lapsed, you may still be able to recover compensation. Depending on the facts surrounding your case, your attorney might recommend the following options:
1. Filing a Claim Against Your Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim against your own insurance provider. Insurance companies in California are required to offer UM coverage to anyone who is purchasing a liability policy; however, you can choose not to buy it by filling out a waiver.
There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage:
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI): This coverage pays for injuries that you or another person in your car sustained in a crash with an uninsured driver who is at fault. The policy limits are usually the same as your liability coverage limits.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD): This coverage pays for damage to your vehicle resulting from an accident with an uninsured motorist. UMPD will only pay out if the at-fault driver has been identified.
2. Filing a Claim Against Your Medical Payments (Med Pay) Coverage
Med Pay covers the cost of healthcare expenses for you and any passengers in your vehicle who have been injured—no matter who was at fault for the crash. All Med Pay policies sold in California cover at least $1,000 per person, though higher coverage limits are available. Med Pay is o
3. Filing a Claim Against Your Collision Coverage
Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle resulting from a crash with another vehicle or an object such as a building, rock, tree, animal, or person. This policy can offset the cost of property repairs or replacement after a crash with an uninsured motorist.
4. Filing a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Driver
Generally speaking, most drivers who don’t carry auto insurance lack the finances or assets to pay for the damages they cause in accidents. There are exceptions, of course, and a seasoned personal injury attorney can help you determine if filing a lawsuit would be worth your time.
7 Steps to Take After an Accident with an Uninsured Driver
If you are involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist, it is important that you take the necessary steps to put yourself in a favorable position to file a claim. Keep these tips in mind:
- Contact the police so an officer can create an accident report;
- Take photos of property damage, injuries, traffic signs, skid marks, and the weather and road conditions;
- Write down the driver’s name, phone number, address, driver’s license number, and license plate tag;
- Write down the contact information of eyewitnesses and record their statements about what happened;
- Visit a doctor as soon as you leave the scene;
- Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly; and
- Consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Why You Should Still Hire an Attorney When Filing a First-Party Claim
Many people assume that if they file a claim against their own insurance company, or a “first-party claim,” they won’t have to worry about a legal dispute. But insurance adjusters investigate first-party claims just as rigorously as they do third-party claims.
The insurance company has financial incentive to undervalue or deny your claim. Even if you are certain that your claim should be covered, there are countless tactics the insurance adjuster might use to reduce your payout. Here are just a few:
- Asking You to Provide a Recorded Statement: The insurance company will likely call you within a few days of the accident to gather information. The adjuster might seem sympathetic to your situation, but any statements you make during a recorded phone call may be used to dispute your claim. Insurance adjusters know how to ask leading questions to get claimants to make compromising statements, so it is best to leave this correspondence to your personal injury lawyer.
- Offering a Premature Settlement: If the insurance company offers you a settlement shortly after you file the claim, you might take it as a sign that they are acting in your best interests. Although this may be true, it is also possible that the insurer wants you to accept a low settlement before you’ve had a chance to speak with an attorney. For example, the settlement might not include compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, or it may underestimate your future medical bills and loss of earning capacity. A seasoned personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your case, gather evidence, and calculate your damages so you know what a fair settlement might look like.
- Delaying Your Settlement: Insurance companies are well aware that most people will fall behind on essential bills after just a few weeks of missed work. The longer the insurer takes to offer a settlement, the more debt you will likely incur. Under the pressure of mounting costs, you may be more inclined to accept an unfair settlement. An attorney can make sure the insurance company doesn’t delay your payout without justification.
- Disputing the Severity of Your Injury: If the insurance company has reason to believe your injury is less severe than you are claiming, they might dispute the extent of your damages. It is important that you do everything in your power to avoid such a dispute. For example, you should maintain all of your medical bills and diagnostic images. Also, do not mention your injury, recovery, or case on social media. Insurance adjusters often review the social media accounts of claimants to find evidence that can be used against them. It is best to stay off social media entirely or, at the very least, change your profile settings to “private” and do not accept any new connection requests.
- Arguing That You Have Not Mitigated Your Damages: Every personal injury claimant has a duty to mitigate their damages. That means you must take reasonable steps to minimize your accident-related expenses. For example, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible, follow your doctor’s orders, and attend all scheduled follow-up appointments. You should also avoid any activities that could aggravate your injury, even if that means staying out of work for an extended period of time. The insurance company might put you under surveillance to find evidence that you are not mitigating your damages.
Discuss Your Case with a Car Accident Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone in your family was injured by an uninsured driver, it is important that you take action right away. Over time, important evidence may become unavailable, and there are strict deadlines for filing tort lawsuits in California.
At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we have many decades of experience representing people who were severely injured by uninsured and underinsured motorists. Attorney Michael Waks will assess your case for free and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Page to set up a free case review.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
It’s not easy to remain calm and think clearly at the scene of an accident. Stay prepared with our Car Accident Emergency .PDF. This simple guide will help you gather the information you will need to give your claim the best possible chance of success.
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