No matter how carefully you drive, accidents happen. You can’t control every factor around you, such as road conditions and other drivers. The State of California requires that everyone who operates a vehicle must have proof of financial responsibility, such as automobile liability insurance. However, studies by the Insurance Research Council have shown that as many as 1 in 7 drivers are uninsured. Car insurance is supposed to help cover the costs of medical and repair bills, but what happens when there's an uninsured driver involved?
California Insurance Requirements
There are liability insurance requirements for all private passenger vehicles in California. The minimum requirements follow a 15/30/5 arrangement by covering:
- $15,000 for injury or death of a single person.
- $30,000 for injury or death of multiple people.
- $5,000 for property damage.
An at-fault driver is liable for any claims that exceed these numbers. It’s important to choose the right insurance policy for you when deciding whether or not to stick with the minimum requirements. The California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program provides a source of relatively cheap insurance.
If you want another option, there are other sources of proof of financial responsibility, such as:
- $35,000 cash deposit to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
- $35,000 surety bond from a company licensed for business in California.
- A certificate of self-insurance from the DMV.
Uninsured Drivers and Non-Economic Damages
Uninsured drivers in California are barred from receiving compensation for non-economic damages when he or she is the victim of a motor accident. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Decreased Quality of Life
- Loss of Wages
The only exception to this rule is if the at-fault driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and was convicted of a DUI.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you are in a collision with an uninsured driver, there are several possible ways to receive compensation:
- Collision Coverage
- Medical Payments Coverage
- Health Insurance
- File a Lawsuit
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Although you are not required to have Uninsured Motorist Coverage in the State of California, it comes as an option with most insurance. It will help pay your medical bills, economic expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages in the case of an accident with an uninsured driver. Uninsured Motorist Coverage takes the place of the liability coverage that should have been the at-fault driver’s responsibility. The coverage often has the same limits as regular insurance, but you should check your policy to make sure.
In California, up to 70% of all auto accidents are caused by an uninsured driver. Yet the insurance industry continues to advise their insured members to purchase inadequate uninsured motorist coverage. For many policies, the additional premium for adding $1,000,000 in uninsured motorist coverage is minimal. If you are injured in a car accident due to the negligence of the other driver, that driver will most likely not be uninsured or have a minimum insurance policy.
Bottom line: Get substantial Uninsured Motorist Coverage on your auto insurance policy. It may cost you as little as $30 to $50 dollars per year. It is the best investment you will make, and your insurance company probably won’t tell you about it without prompting.
Making a claim with Uninsured Motorist Coverage is different than a normal claim. Your relationship with the insurance provider changes. You must negotiate a settlement as if you were dealing with another person’s insurance. Because of this, it is a good idea to have an experienced personal injury lawyer represent you in this situation.
The process of filing an insurance claim involving an uninsured driver can be complicated and stressful. Insurance adjusters may underestimate the value of compensation you deserve for injuries and damages. If you are looking to negotiate with an insurance provider after an automobile accident or have other questions concerning a personal injury case, call Dan Higson today. And make sure you get Uninsured Motorist Coverage on your auto insurance immediately!
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