| Read Time: 6 minutes | Personal Injury

People who drive without insurance, otherwise known as uninsured motorists (UM), are those who operate motor vehicles without having insurance to pay for injuries or damages resulting from motor vehicle accidents in which they were at fault. This happens despite laws in most places that require drivers to have insurance.

In California, your auto insurance policy typically includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UMC/UIM) unless you specifically opt out in writing. This coverage comes into play in certain situations where another driver is responsible for an accident but lacks adequate insurance to compensate you.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage kicks in if the at-fault driver has no insurance, doesn’t carry enough to cover your medical expenses and damages, or if they hit-and-run, leaving you without recourse.

If you have been in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, contact the uninsured motorist attorneys at Roberts Personal Injury & Car Accident Lawyers. We will help you navigate the sometimes confusing process of getting compensation for your injuries.

I Was Injured in a Car Accident with an Uninsured Driver – What Do I Do?

In California, it’s a legal requirement to have what’s known as “15/30/5” liability insurance, the minimum amount of insurance you need must cover:

  • $15,000 for each person’s bodily injury or death
  • $30,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident (for everyone in the other vehicle)
  • $5,000 for property damage (like repairs) to the other vehicle

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), citing a 2023 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC)  about one out of every seven drivers  – or 14% of all motorists – are uninsured.

Furthermore, California ranks among the top 10 states with a high number of drivers who don’t have insurance. And even more concerning is that the basic car insurance required in California might not be enough to cover serious accidents.

So, what do you do if you’re hit by someone without enough insurance? 

That’s where UMC/UIM coverage comes in handy. It stands for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. With this, you can still get compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages, car repairs, and even pain and suffering.

When it comes to drivers, there’s a key contrast between being uninsured and underinsured. An underinsured motorist has some liability insurance, which can help cover part of the costs if they’re at fault in an accident. On the other hand, an uninsured driver either lacks any liability coverage entirely or has insurance that won’t pitch in to cover the victim’s losses.

To help you grasp the ins and outs of uninsured/underinsured auto insurance, our team of California accident lawyers breaks it down for you below:

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) is like having a shield against the unexpected. It’s an insurance policy that steps in to protect you when the at-fault party in an accident doesn’t have insurance or flees the scene, leaving you with the bill.

In California, where the highways are as diverse as the Golden State itself, UM coverage is your trusty sidekick, ensuring you’re not left high and dry when the unexpected happens.

UMC consists of two parts: 

  1. Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI)
  2. Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD)

These coverages kick in to compensate you for your injuries or vehicle damage, up to the policy limit, when the at-fault party can’t or won’t pay. 

In California, having UMC is typically mandatory unless you specifically opt out in writing. This means you’re likely covered unless you’ve made a conscious decision not to be.

By having UMC, you’re not only protecting yourself financially, but you’re also easing the burden on health insurers and government programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal. It’s a way to ensure that you’re not left high and dry if someone else can’t fulfill their responsibilities on the road.

What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) kicks in if your damages after a car accident are more than what the at-fault driver’s policy covers. UIM pays you the difference between your total damages and the at-fault driver’s policy limit (up to your policy limit, of course).

Note that your UIM payment gets reduced if you have other insurance sources that can cover your losses, such as:

  • Your workers’ compensation insurance if you were on-duty;
  • The at-fault driver’s employer’s insurance (if they are liable under respondeat superior );
  • The vehicle manufacturer’s insurance (if they are liable under product liability);
  • Med-Pay (Medical Payments Coverage), which is optional insurance you are advised to carry

Like UMC coverage, UIM coverage is a mandatory part of your car insurance policy in California unless you sign a written waiver. It is highly recommended, since the minimum automobile insurance required in California is often too low to cover damages for all but minor fender benders.

Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage in CA?

Yes, while uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is not required by California law, it is mandatory for car insurance policies unless you sign a written waiver specifically opting-out of this coverage.

Without UM coverage, you could be left holding the bag for repairs, medical bills, and other expenses.  

What Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Include?

Now that we’ve established why UM coverage is a must-have, let’s explore what it actually includes. From fender benders to full-blown collisions, UM coverage steps in to support you when unforeseen events occur on the road.

Here’s a breakdown of what UM coverage typically includes:

  • Medical Expenses: Injuries sustained in an accident can lead to hefty medical bills. UM coverage helps foot the bill for medical expenses resulting from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
  • Property Damage: From dinged-up bumpers to totaled vehicles, accidents can wreak havoc on your vehicle. UM coverage steps in to cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
  • Lost Wages: If you’re unable to work due to injuries sustained in an accident, UM coverage can help replace lost wages, ensuring you’re not left high and dry while you recover.
  • Pain and Suffering: Accidents can take a toll not just physically, but emotionally as well. UM coverage may include compensation for pain and suffering resulting from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

How to Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage in California

Now that you understand the benefits of UM coverage, you’re probably wondering how to get your hands on this invaluable protection. Fortunately, obtaining UM coverage in California is as easy as a Sunday drive down the coast – without the traffic. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Contact Your Insurance Provider: Reach out to your insurance provider to inquire about adding UM coverage to your policy. They’ll be able to walk you through the process and help you determine the coverage limits that best suit your needs.
  • Review Your Policy: Once you’ve added UM coverage to your policy, be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully. Understanding what is and isn’t covered will ensure you’re prepared in the event of an accident in Modesto or anywhere in California.
  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any changes to California’s insurance laws and regulations to ensure your coverage remains up-to-date and compliant.

What Is the Uninsured Motorist Claims Process?

If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it’s important to inform your own insurance company. They’ll handle the claim through your uninsured motorist coverage. 

Here’s how it typically works: You submit your claim to your own insurance company. According to the California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations , they’re supposed to jump on it, investigate thoroughly, and try to settle it fairly.

You’ll provide them with your medical bills, repair costs, and any lost wages, along with a request for compensation for your pain and suffering. Your insurer will then either settle with you or agree to arbitration, which is a simpler way to resolve disputes. 

You’re entitled to seek all the damages you would from an uninsured driver. If your claim isn’t resolved within a year, you can insist on arbitration to get things sorted out. If your insurance company drags their feet or doesn’t handle your claim fairly, you might have a case for taking legal action against them for acting in bad faith.

Now, if you and your insurer can’t see eye to eye on how much your claim is worth, your policy might say you have to take it to arbitration instead of going to trial. In arbitration, a neutral third party, often someone like a retired judge or a seasoned attorney, listens to both sides and makes a decision.

Whether you end up in arbitration or a trial – both of which can be pretty complicated legally – it’s a smart move to have a lawyer representing you.

What Is the Average Uninsured Motorist Settlement in California?

Many times, when there’s an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim, things get sorted out without having to go to court. But, if you’re wondering how much you can get from an underinsured motorist claim in California, the amount you receive from your Underinsured Motorist (UIM) claim hinges on what’s left of the damages owed after the other driver’s policy pays out. 

For example, let’s say your damages tally up to $70,000, and you’ve already maxed out the $50,000 from the other driver’s policy. In this case, you can potentially claim up to $20,000 from your own policy.

Remember, you can’t claim more damages than you can substantiate, even if there’s additional coverage in your policy. If you believe you’re entitled to more compensation, you’ll have to substantiate it to your insurer. Getting assistance from an experienced car accident lawyer in Stockton is highly encouraged if you find yourself immersed in this process.

Typically, UIM policy amounts kick off at the same level as the minimum coverage required in the state. Insurers might also impose their own restrictions on coverage amounts based on their internal guidelines and your driving history.

Talk With a California Uninsured Motorist Coverage Lawyer Near You

If you or a loved one were injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist, we are standing by, ready to help get you the compensation you deserve. At Roberts Personal Injury & Car Accident Lawyers, we only take cases we are confident we will win. 

With our “No Fee Guarantee” you can fully pursue your case without the financial burden of high retainer fees. When you become a client of our no win no fee law firm in California, you will not pay anything upfront. A portion of your settlement will be applied toward your fees upon completion.

Contact us online today or call us at (209) 488-5327 if you would like a 100% no-cost, no obligation consultation with one of our top-rated accident attorneys near you in Stockton or Modesto.

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