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Uninsured Motorist Coverage in California

Uninsured Driver Accident Attorneys

Involvement in an auto accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist in California can leave victims wondering how they will secure the financial resources they need to recover. Injuries stemming from such events can be devastating, and the financial burdens that follow can quickly mount. Fortunately, Los Angeles car accident attorney Sean Salamati is prepared to help victims navigate the insurance carrier labyrinth to obtain maximum compensation.

By one estimate, more than 16% of motorists in California are uninsured. Insurance companies that offer liability coverage also provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to protect against losses you might suffer in an accident with an uninsured motorist.

You are entitled to waive and decline that coverage. However, the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Salamati Law encourage all California drivers to pay the extra premiums. It may well be your primary source of compensation when you are in a car crash with an uninsured driver.

How does uninsured motorist coverage work?

In the State of California, it is necessary for vehicle owners to demonstrate financial responsibility in relation to any vehicle they possess, in order to provide coverage in the event of injury to others or damage to property. Auto liability insurance is the method most commonly utilized to meet this duty. Those who fail to purchase auto liability insurance may face fines, license suspensions or the impounding of their vehicle. In addition to standard liability coverage, it is also possible to pay additional premiums to obtain underinsured and uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Such polices offer coverage for accidents involving drivers who lack liability insurance altogether or who have insufficient coverage levels.

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?

  • Insurance carriers must offer prospective policyholders uninsured/underinsured coverage.
  • Those who do not purchase the coverage must sign a waiver.

How much can I get from an uninsured motorist claim? 

 If an uninsured motorist is at fault for your car accident and you carry that coverage, you can recover compensation for your injuries up to the limits of the policy. The minimum coverage required by California law is $15,000 per person for injuries and $3,500 for property losses. However, many California motorists carry insurance with higher limits–which will determine how much you can get from an uninsured motorist claim.  

 If you do not know or understand your policy limits, confer with an experienced California car accident attorney, who can explain your specific coverage and advise you on the optimal uninsured motorist coverage you should carry. 

Uninsured v. underinsured motorist coverage

It is important for California motorists to understand the differences between uninsured and underinsured coverage. An uninsured motorist bodily injury policy is designed to pay for harm done to the policyholder and any passengers in the event of an accident with an at-fault uninsured driver. The limits of such a policy will be identical to the policyholder’s existing liability coverage limits. An underinsured motorist insurance policy will cover a certain amount of costs incurred in relation to bodily injuries suffered in an accident with a driver with insufficient insurance to pay for the entire loss.

Uninsured property damage coverage is designed to pay for damage done to the policyholder’s car when involved in an accident with an at-fault uninsured motorist. This type of policy will have an upper limit of $3,500, and will only be paid if the uninsured driver responsible is in fact identified. Standard collision coverage may provide equivalent coverage.

What to do in case of a car accident with an uninsured driver

Californians who have secured uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage need to do several things following a crash in order to protect their right to file a claim. Generally speaking, it will be necessary to file suit against the at-fault driver within two years of the event itself, request arbitration of the claim with the insurer or arrive at an acceptable settlement. It is important to note that recovery is only possible if the at-fault driver is in fact found to be uninsured or if the underinsured motorist policy owned has a larger policy limit than the liability policy held by the at-fault driver.

California law provides that the insurers of accident victims receive a credit for amounts paid out by the at-fault driver’s own policy. Thus, before a victim will be able to secure additional funds from his or her underinsured motorist policy, it will be necessary to show that the other driver’s policy limits had already been paid. Once this occurs, the victim’s insurance carrier will pay the difference between that amount and his or her own policy limit. Compensation may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Damage to property

Some uninsured and underinsured motorist policies provide that claims may be made when the policyholder was on foot, driving a rental car or riding a bicycle. Coverage may also be available to the policyholder’s passengers as well as individuals driving his or her vehicle with permission. Hit-and-run events are typically handled as uninsured motorist coverage claims when the at-fault individual is not identified. Under all such circumstances, the assistance of an experienced, knowledgeable car accident lawyer in Los Angeles can make the difference between monetary recovery and ongoing financial uncertainty for victims.

Can I sue an uninsured driver for car accident damages?

When an uninsured driver’s negligence results in a serious accident, the profound injuries, escalating medical costs, lost wages and other categories of loss can place entire families on the brink of collapse. When prompt settlement of an insurance claim proves elusive, it may be necessary for victims to explore the option of filing a lawsuit.

Insurance companies are notorious for their reluctance to pay the fair value of claims, despite policyholders’ years of faithful, on-time premium payments. Relying on victims’ inability or unwillingness to mount an aggressive battle, they choose to deny perfectly valid claims. Sadly, it is also frequently the case that a carrier will attempt to delay a claim settlement or engage in particularly egregious tactics designed to frustrate policyholders. When this happens, a committed Los Angeles uninsured motorist accidents lawyer can be an invaluable ally in the fight for justice. Pursuit of a bad-faith claim against such an insurance company may yield damages well in excess of ordinary policy limits.

What is the average uninsured motorist settlement in California? 

The average settlement for a California car accident claim is roughly $24,000. Settlements for uninsured motorist claims will be in this range as well. However, this average does not reflect the individual aspects of any single accident. There are more than 147,000 accidents every year, and many of those accidents lead to claims and settlements far above the average. The specific value of your claim will reflect your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other elements of your injuries and losses. 

Uninsured motorist accident lawyer Los Angeles

As if an auto accident was not unsettling enough, such situations can be made all the more frightening when an uninsured or underinsured motorist is to blame. Victims are left to worry about how their medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages and other losses will be compensated. Fortunately, personal injury attorney Sean Salamati is prepared to provide the aggressive advocacy needed to hold negligent drivers and recalcitrant insurance carriers accountable. To learn more about your legal rights following such an accident, call 213-674-2959.

Contact Us at Salamati Law in Los Angeles 

We can help you recover the largest available damages award to compensate for the losses and injuries you suffer in a California accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Call our Los Angeles offices for a free consultation. We work on a contingency basis, so there are no upfront legal fees. 

Uninsured and underinsured motorist claim resources

  1. California Department of Insurance, Automobile Insurance Information Guide, http://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/105-type/95-guides/01-auto/auto101.cfm
  2. California Insurance Code, Section 11580-11589.5, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=ins&group=11001-12000&file=11580-11589.5
  3. USA Today, Uninsured Drivers, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-09-11/uninsured-drivers/50363390/1
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