While driving is an inherently risky activity–indeed, there are millions of car accidents reported in the United States each year–liability insurance is designed to offer some peace of mind. Because drivers are required to carry such insurance in the state of California, drivers can rest assured that if they cause an accident, they won’t be personally liable for damages, and if they are harmed in an accident, coverage will be available to cover their costs.
But what happens when a person is involved in an accident with a party who, in violation of the law, does not carry insurance?
At the law office of the Levinson Law Group, our car accident attorneys are familiar with the car accident claims process, including situations involving accidents with uninsured drivers. If you have questions about what happens to an uninsured motorist in an accident or what to do when an uninsured motorist hits you, we can help. In the meantime, refer to the following information about uninsured and underinsured motorist cases:
Why Having Insurance Matters
First, it’s important to review how the claims process works in California and why having car insurance is so important.
Unlike no-fault states, in which those who are involved in a car accident turn to their own insurance companies for compensation after a crash and are barred from bringing a claim against the insurer of the other party, California follows a traditional tort liability system. This means that when a driver causes an accident, that driver is responsible for damages that are sustained to the other party. In order to recoup compensation, the injured party can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance, or file a claim directly against the at-fault driver. In either case, damages will likely be paid through the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy.
If the driver does not carry liability insurance, a serious hurdle will be presented in the recovery process. First, the driver may be held personally liable for damages, which means that they may have to pay for damages to the victim out-of-pocket. However, in the event that the at-fault party does not have the personal assets to pay for a victim’s losses (as is very common), the victim will have to live without any compensation. This is a lose-lose situation for all involved.
Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage Can Help
Rather than running the risk of relying on the at-fault driver’s liability insurance to cover your injuries, only to learn that the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, it is strongly recommended that you purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage at the time your auto policy is activated.
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. Often referred to as UMBI, this type of coverage pays for injuries to you and any of your passengers if you are in an accident caused by an uninsured driver.
- Uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD). Unlike UMBI, which pays for medical expenses and injuries caused by an uninsured driver, UMPD pays for damage to your vehicle or other property caused by an uninsured driver.
- Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). Sometimes, an at-fault driver carries some insurance coverage, but not enough to fully pay for the damages sustained. If you are in an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for your losses, UIM coverage can help to make up the difference.
As a note, purchasing medical payments coverage can also help to pay for your injuries regardless of fault after a crash. Talk to your insurer about all possible coverage types.
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What Happens to an Uninsured Motorist in an Accident?
Driving without car insurance in California is a serious offense. In fact, if a person is involved in an accident in California and they do not have insurance, they could face up to a four-year license suspension. Of course, they also face the civil costs – liability for causing an accident and paying for the damages sustained to others. However, as stated above, if the uninsured party does not have the financial means to pay for damages, then even if they are found liable, filing a personal injury suit to recover compensation may prove futile.
What to Do Immediately Following an Accident with an Uninsured Driver
If you are involved in an accident, it is important that you stop your vehicle, ensure everyone in your car is safe, call 911 for medical help if necessary, and report the accident to the police. You should also exchange information with the other driver. If you learn that the other driver is uninsured, here’s what you should do:
- Get the driver’s name, driver’s license number, car make and model, registration information, and license plate number;
- Tell the police that the other driver does not have insurance when you are filing your report;
- Take pictures of all damages and any evidence related to the crash, such as skid marks, the position of the vehicles, and more;
- Call your insurance company to report the accident – make sure you tell them that the other driver does not have insurance; and
- Call a lawyer – claims involving uninsured drivers tend to be more complicated – having an experienced attorney on your side who is familiar with this claim time can be very helpful and may improve the outcome of your case.
Our Uninsured/Underinsured Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
No one wants to be in an accident with an uninsured motorist. While California law requires insurance coverage, negligent and lawless drivers continue to operate their vehicles, creating a hazard for others on the road.
If you are struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you can count on our lawyers to help you. We will explore all available insurance options, help to negotiate with your own insurance company, and will do everything possible to maximize your compensation amount.
For your free consultation, please call our team at the Levinson Law Group today. You can dial us directly, or tell us more about your accident and injuries using the contact form on our website.