Because California is a tort state, negligent drivers are financially accountable for the damages they cause in accidents. The victims of these accidents usually seek compensation by bringing a third-party claim against the insurance company of the liable party.
California requires passenger-vehicle motorists to carry liability insurance for both bodily injury and property damage. That doesn’t mean, however, that all drivers maintain an active policy.
For this reason, it is advisable to buy uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, as well. While not mandatory, UM coverage is generally worth the investment. If you are struck by a driver who doesn’t have the coverage to compensate you for the damages, you may be able to file a claim under your own UM coverage.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common scenarios in which uninsured motorist coverage might apply:
1. You Were Hurt by an Uninsured Motorist While Driving a Covered Vehicle
If you were driving one of the vehicles that’s on your policy when you were struck by an uninsured motorist, you should be able to file a claim with your carrier. Standard UM coverage will reimburse you for applicable medical expenses up to your policy’s bodily injury limit. It may also reimburse you for lost wages and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
2. Your Passengers Were Hurt by an Uninsured Motorist While Riding in a Covered Vehicle
UM coverage typically applies to passengers in the policyholder’s vehicle, as well. If you were transporting anyone else when the wreck occurred, they may seek compensation from your insurer, too. It is important to remember, however, that the total combined payout that you and any other claimants recover will be capped by the policy’s bodily injury limit per accident.
For this reason, it is wise to purchase as much coverage as you can comfortably afford. Should disaster strike, you’ll be glad you make the investment, especially if you or someone you love sustains a catastrophic injury. Living with a spinal cord injury, for example, can cost more than $1 million in direct expenses alone during the first year.
3. You Were Hurt by an Uninsured Motorist While Cycling
If you were struck by an uninsured motorist while cycling alongside traffic, the resulting damages will probably add up fast. Because they lack crumple zones, bikes provide no protection whatsoever in forceful impacts. As such, bicycle accidents tend to cause severe injuries and, consequently, significant losses.
Thankfully, you may be able to recover funds for all the damages associated with your injuries by filing a claim with your own carrier. Generally speaking, uninsured motorist coverage extends to policyholders who are hurt in traffic accidents through no fault of their own, even if they’re not operating the insured vehicle at the time. In other words, injured pedestrians can also file a claim under their UM coverage.
How Does Underinsured Motorist Coverage Differ from Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage, or UIM, is similar to uninsured motorist coverage. Instead of applying when the liable party lacks a valid policy, however, it bridges the gap between his or her available coverage and the total damages the claimant incurs.
If the at-fault motorist has $50,000 in bodily injury liability per person, for example, but you incur $60,000 in medical expenses and lost wages, you could file a claim under your own UIM coverage to make up the difference. As long as your policy limit exceeds $10,000, you may be able to obtain compensation for 100 percent of your damages through both claims.
Should I Purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage for Property Damage?
Both UM and UIM provide coverage for bodily injury. In the event of a wreck, though, you’ll inevitably incur property damage, as well. For this reason, it’s wise to purchase uninsured motorist coverage for property damage (UMPD) alongside UM and UIM.
As long as you can identify the motorist who struck you, UMPD coverage should reimburse you for the necessary vehicle repairs up to the policy’s limits. If you were the victim of a hit-and-run, though, your UMPD coverage may not apply. And if you have collision coverage, your UMPD policy may only cover its deductible, and then the actual collision coverage would handle the repairs.
Should I Hire an Attorney If I’m Filing a Claim with My Own Insurance Provider?
Even if you are bringing the claim against your own insurer, it is still advisable to consult a lawyer before speaking with the claims adjuster. At the end of the day, insurance companies and accidents victims have competing goals. Whereas the former wants to protect their bottom line, the latter wants to recover the funds needed to put their life back together.
A resourceful attorney can handle all dialogue and negotiations with the insurance company. Your lawyer can gather evidence, approximate a fair settlement, and help you pursue the highest payout possible.
Call (562) 206-1939 Today for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Car Accident Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were seriously hurt in a collision with an uninsured motorist, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks to determine the most strategic way to proceed. Michael D. Waks has been representing the injured and their families for more than 30 years.
With a commitment to pursuing the most favorable outcomes possible on behalf of his clients, Michael D. Waks has recovered numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts. To schedule your free consultation with a Long Beach car accident lawyer, reach out on our website or dial (562) 206-1939.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
It’s always wise to be prepared for all eventualities. If you drive or cycle in traffic regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a car accident at some point. By printing our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf and storing a copy in your glovebox or pannier, you’ll always have a checklist on hand to help you document the scene. Download it HERE for free.