California does not require drivers to have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Since it is optional, many drivers think it is not needed. As an experienced car accident attorney, I consider UM and UIM coverage to be essential protections for all drivers.
In my 35 years of representing car accident victims, I have seen too many cases where a driver causes an auto accident without insurance, leaving the victim with lifelong injuries and no insurance coverage. Many drivers without car insurance can’t afford it. If they can’t afford car insurance, they aren’t likely to have enough assets to pay for their victims’ injuries.
If a driver causes an auto accident without insurance and has little income, no savings, and no property, even though the crash victim has a right to collect damages, there is nothing to collect. “You can’t get blood from a turnip” is the phrase that comes to mind in these tragic situations.
15.2% of the drivers on California’s roads have no insurance. So if a driver hits you, there’s a 1 in 6 ½ chance that you are in an auto accident without insurance. The average cost of a California car accident bodily injury claim in 2013 was $15,443. These numbers should make every insured driver double-check their UM and UIM coverage.
What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage pays for your property damages and bodily injuries when an uninsured driver causes a vehicular accident that hurts you. If you are not at fault in the car crash, you can file a first party claim with your own insurance company under your UM coverage. Once you prove that the other driver caused the auto accident without insurance, your UM coverage pays for your damages up to the policy limit.
Car wrecks can cause tremendous bodily and emotional harm. Injuries include bruising, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, organ damage, and connective and soft tissue injuries. Car crash victims can experience temporary and permanent disfigurement, multiple surgeries, long recovery periods, rehabilitation, and debilitating emotional distress and mental anguish.
The costs of car accident injuries are high. A victim’s damages include direct costs such as medical bills and indirect costs such as diminished quality of life and emotional distress. Given the severity of injuries that can follow a car accident and the associated costs, drivers should purchase as much UM coverage as they can afford.
What is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage?
Insurance policies only pay up to their limits. Even if damages total $800,000, if an at-fault driver’s policy is only for the California liability insurance minimums, the victim will receive no more than $20,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance. $15,000.00 for personal injuries and $5000.00 for Property Damage.
A car accident victim always has the option of filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover against the driver personally. Unfortunately, as already mentioned, drivers who lack insurance or who only carry the minimum required insurance often also lack financial means—they don’t have any money to pay, even if a court order says they owe the money.
UIM coverage applies if the victim’s damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits. If the victim’s UIM has higher limits than the at-fault driver’s policy limits, the victim’s UIM will pay up to that policy’s limit.
Let’s say that Joe has $15,000 in bodily injury liability insurance and hits Jane, causing $75,000 in damages including medical bills not covered by insurance, physical therapy, emotional distress, and lost income. Jane has $100,000 in UIM coverage. After Joe is found to be the at-fault driver, his insurance company pays $15,000 toward Jane’s injuries. Jane’s auto insurance UIM policy pays the remaining $60,000. In contrast, if Jane only has $15,000 in UIM coverage, she would only recover a total of $15,000. That would be paid from Joe’s insurance policy. Since Jane’s UIM limit does not exceed Joe’s policy limit, her insurance would not kick in.
As with UM insurance, drivers should buy the highest amount of UIM they can afford. UM and UIM coverage are part of the same purchase.
How else can UM and UIM policies help in an auto accident without insurance?
UM and UIM covers the policyholder and family members covered under the policy in any auto accident without insurance or with too little insurance. Situations covered by UM and UIM include the following:
- A hit-and-run accident where the policyholder is driving any car (his own, a friend’s, a rental) and is the victim
- Any auto accident while the policyholder or family members are passengers in a vehicle
- Collisions while the insured and family are riding bicycles
- Pedestrian accidents where the insured and family members are victims
For UM and UIM to cover these situations, another driver of a motor vehicle must have caused the auto accident.
How Can A Long Beach Car Accident Attorney Help?
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
Many accident victims are devastated to learn that their bills and lost wages won’t be covered after an auto accident without insurance. They might have been hurt in a hit-and-run accident, or they might have been hit by a driver carrying the minimum insurance but causing maximum damage.
Car accident victims in these situations need to explore all possible options for recovering damages. With 35 years of experience representing car crash victims, I know the pros and cons of different options, based on the victim’s specific situation.
Your injuries are personal to me, so I do everything I can to ensure you obtain all the compensation you deserve. I have represented many victims injured in an auto accident without insurance. I don’t stop fighting until we have exhausted every option for maximum recovery for your injuries.
You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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