How to Deal with Uninsured Motorist Accidents In California
Updated: Apr 26
Find an attorney after an accident with a uninsured motorist.
What happens when an uninsured or underinsured motorists are involved in car accidents Being involved in a car accident is never a pleasant experience. At the very least, your car will be physically damaged and will need to be fixed or replaced. What's even worse is if you sustain a severe physical injury that necessitates hospitalization and results in missed income as a result of your failure to function while recovering.
However, being involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver can rapidly escalate a bad situation. It's unlikely that you'll be able to make a good personal injury claim against the driver because someone who doesn't have insurance isn't likely to have enough money to pay your damages if you win in court. So, what are your options for recouping your losses?
Laws on Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists in California
Individuals buy uninsured and underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist insurance plans in California as part of their car insurance. They're used if you're hurt in a car accident caused by a driver that either doesn't have insurance or doesn't have enough insurance to cover your expenses. Your own insurance provider issued over uninsured and underinsured claims. Despite their similarity, the policies are used in different contexts and obey slightly different laws.
UM Laws in California
Uninsured motorist policy covers almost all losses that the other driver's insurance company would have incurred if the other driver had insurance. It provides coverage for the driver as well as any passengers in the car. It can even protect you if you're in a hit-and-run crash, a bicycle-motor vehicle accident, or a pedestrian-vehicle accident.
Uninsured motorist compensation only covers expenses up to the amount of your UM/UIM insurance cap. So, if you paid $50,000 for uninsured motorist coverage, the insurance provider is only obligated to reimburse you up to that amount, regardless of the extent of your losses. If applicable, uninsured motorist coverage accounts for the following damages:
Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injuries
Pain and Suffering
Future Wages/Salary lost
Uninsured motorist plans, on the other hand, do not compensate for car harm or failure. Your crash coverage will generally cover this. Punitive damages, which are damages incurred by the other party as compensation for his conduct, are also not covered.
If the insurance firm treated the claim in bad faith, you might be able to recover punitive damages, but any compensation will be based purely on their conduct during mediation, not on the injuries you received as a result of the car accident.
If you make an uninsured motorist claim in California, the statute forbids the insurance provider from raising your premiums.
UIM Laws in California
Underinsured motorist compensation compensates you for the disparity between the losses and the other driver's insurance limits. When you're in a car crash with an underinsured driver, the other driver has insurance, but it's not enough to cover the expenses.
So, if the losses were $75,000 and the other driver's insurance just covered $25,000, you'd have to make an underinsured motorist claim with the insurance provider to cover the difference.
On the other hand, your insurance provider is just expected to pay up to the policy cap. This means that if your underinsured motorist liability cap is $50,000, your insurance provider will only pay you $25,000 in compensation.
If you and your insurance agent can't agree on reimbursement for your uninsured and underinsured insurance policy, you have no choice but to go to arbitration under California law. You cannot sue for damages under your uninsured/underinsured motorist plans in court. You can, however, file a lawsuit in court against your insurance provider for bad faith in negotiating payment after the arbitration is completed.
What Is The Difference Between Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
In the state of California, car owners are required to show financial responsibility for any vehicle they own in order to have compensation in the event of injuries to others or property harm.
The most popular approach for meeting this obligation is to purchase auto liability insurance. Fines, license suspensions, and car impoundment can be imposed on those who refuse to buy auto liability insurance. In addition to regular liability coverage, underinsured and uninsured motorist insurance may be purchased at an extra premium.
These plans protect accidents involving drivers who do not have liability insurance or who have inadequate coverage levels.
Insurance firms must provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to their policyholders (under Section 11580.2 of the California Insurance Code). You are not obliged to purchase it. You must expressly reject it and fill out a special form if you do not want to purchase it (or if the company does not want to sell it to you).
A California insurance provider will market a minimum uninsured and underinsured motorist policy for $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident (30/60). While this will seem reasonable when considering a manageable monthly premium plan, when faced with a large medical bill, $30,000 would quickly become insufficient.
When Do You Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Only if the following conditions are met will your uninsured and underinsured coverage kick in:
You've been in an accident with someone who doesn't have insurance.
You've been hurt, and the other driver's insurance is insufficient to cover the costs, despite the fact that your coverage limits are higher than his.
You were injured in a hit-and-run crash in which there was actual physical contact with the car, and a police report was filed within 24 hours.
Who Does My Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy Protect?
Even if they don't drive, the uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance will protect you, the designated insured, and any relatives who live with you. This ensures that you, your parents, and any children under the age of 18 are covered. If you live with an elderly parent, he or she is protected as well. Your home is also considered his or her legal residence while your child is away at college, so your student will be protected by your uninsured motorist policy.
How Much Will Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage Pay?
Uninsured motorist compensation is easy to understand. Your UM/UIM policy will cover the bills if the other driver does not have insurance, up to the limits of the policy you bought.
What to do if you're in a car crash with a driver who isn't insured
Following a collision, Californians with uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage must take several steps to defend their right to file a lawsuit. In general, it would be appropriate to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver within two years of the incident, seek insurance claim arbitration, or reach a reasonable settlement. Recovery is only feasible if the at-fault driver is found to be uninsured or if the at-fault driver's underinsured motorist insurance has a higher policy cap than the at-fault driver's liability policy.
Accident victims' insurers are entitled to a refund for sums paid out by the at-fault driver's own policy under California law. As a result, before a victim can get money from his or her underinsured motorist insurance, he or she must prove that the other driver's policy limits have already been paid. The victim's insurance provider would pay the difference between the number and the victim's own coverage cap.
Some uninsured and underinsured motorist plans allow policyholders to file claims while walking, driving a rental car, or riding a bicycle.
The policyholder's passengers and those driving their vehicle with his or her permission could be covered. If the at-fault party is not found, hit-and-run incidents are usually handled as uninsured motorist coverage claims. In all of these cases, the support of an experienced, competent California car accident lawyer can mean the difference between monetary recovery and continuing financial uncertainty for victims.
Is it possible to sue an uninsured driver for damages caused by a traffic accident?
When an uninsured driver causes a major accident, the resulting severe injury, rising treatment bills, lost jobs, and other types of loss can put whole families on the verge of bankruptcy. When an insurance claim is not settled quickly, claimants may need to consider filing a lawsuit.
Despite policyholders' years of loyal, on-time premium payments, insurance firms are infamous for their refusal to pay the fair value of claims. They chose to reject legitimate allegations based on the victims' inability or reluctance to fight back.
Regrettably, a carrier's attempt to postpone a claim resolution or participate in especially egregious strategies designed to frustrate policyholders is far too common. A devoted California uninsured motorist injuries lawyer can be an invaluable ally. Pursuing a bad-faith claim against such an insurance provider could result in damages far beyond the policy limits.
Excess and Umbrella insurance
Umbrella and excess liability insurance plans, in general, offer substantial liability coverage over and above primary insurance limits. In certain cases, the extra coverage is much more extensive than the primary regulation. With the same face number, umbrella and excess policies can be written very differently. It's always a good idea to read the policy to see what's covered.
The distinction between umbrella and excess liability coverage is often blurred, despite the fact that they are technically separate types of coverage. The coverage area of excess insurance was historically limited to that of the primary policy. Umbrella policies also cover activities that would otherwise be excluded from the primary policy's scope. In these cases, the umbrella policy can step down or drop down to fill in the primary policy gaps.
Policies that offer supplementary insurance coverage may be provided by a separate insurance provider than the primary policy's issuer or broker. As a result, obtaining a "policy face sheet" for the primary policy isn't the end of the journey. A thorough investigation and discovery of Umbrella and Excess insurance are needed. In addition, the policy terminology must be carefully scrutinized.
Non-Owned Auto coverage under Commercial General Liability (CGL)
Employees driving vehicles in the course and scope of jobs are often included in Commercial General Liability (CGL) schemes, either because it was introduced automatically or because they demanded it for a nominal extra premium (for example, a Non-Owned Auto Rider).
If the CGL policy does not provide auto coverage, the wise client advocate may inquire more into whether the business owner requested the coverage and if it was actually provided. Examine if the insurer or agent made an error in the coverage offered versus the coverage expected by the employer. If you have a policy, make sure the carrier was aware of the claim. Insurers are liable for both their own mistakes and the actions of their agents operating under ostensible authority.
If a liability error occurs, examine why the insurer made the error and then abandoned the insured in their time of need. Regrettably, insurers have a tradition of dumping their insureds in such conditions.
Since the insurer walked away and asserted no coverage, the small business insured faces insolvency if it is forced to protect and indemnify itself.
If a small company needs to sue its insurer for coverage while still paying for its protection in a third-party case, it sinks even further. Insurers often take advantage of this duress by bargaining with the insured to withdraw any liability claims. One way to avoid being caught between a rock and a hard place is for the insured to delegate liability to an agent and/or insurance provider, as mentioned later in the article.
Reasonable Coverage Expectations
Accepting a defendant's insurance company's liability policy coverage denials without further investigation may be a costly error. In certain cases, you may counter the insurer's failure to uphold contract by claiming that the policyholder's fair expectations require coverage.
With California case law governing the law of fair expectations in mind, the policy should be investigated. If a policy has uncertainty, coverage can be found. When policy provisions and/or exclusions are vague, uncertainty arises. In general, uncertainty exists when the vocabulary used is capable of more than one rational interpretation, one of which resulted in publicity. According to the cases, the reasonableness of an insured's expectations of coverage is a legal issue based solely on the policy terminology.
In general, ambiguities and complexities in an insurance contract are resolved in the insured's favor. 'While we specifically construe all provisions, conditions, or exceptions that appear to restrict liability strictly against the insurer..., strict construction does not imply strained construction.' We should not rewrite a policy under the guise of strict construction to bind the insurer to a danger it did not foresee and for which it has not been compensated.'
The simple sense a layman would normally apply to the terms used in an insurance contract is to be construed, and the policy is to be construed as a whole, with each clause aiding in the understanding of the others.
In certain cases, communication from the agent to the insured provides a more expansive understanding of the policy than the policy form's terminology. When it comes to transmitting laws, agents often use template cover letters. These cover letters can provide policy details that vary from the policies that are actually enclosed. Cover letters for business-liability packages can make incorrect references to auto coverage or exclusions.
The insurance company's policy face sheets do not list one or more exclusions that the company uses to refuse coverage. A thorough examination of the policy records, the insurer/insured/agent correspondence, or interviewing the broker could result in substantial additional coverage in any of these situations.
Failure to notify customers of policy limits and exceptions
The contract of insurance governs the quasi-fiduciary obligations owed by an insurer to its insured. Any insurance contract contains an implicit covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which forbids an insurer from doing something "to deprive the insured of the benefits of the policy."
As a result, before an insurer can rely on exclusions to restrict coverage, exceptions, exclusions, and restrictions that affect the degree of coverage an insured can reasonably anticipate under a policy must be brought to the insured's attention "clearly and simply."
Whether the insurer or its agent deceived the insured about the exclusionary language in the original policy, the company will not be able to rely on such exclusions to absolve itself of the obligation to first protect and then indemnify the insured in the case of a lawsuit made against it.
The vicarious liability of the insurer
In certain cases, the insurer's agent's overt errors may be blamed on the insurer, resulting in a vicarious liability tort action toward the insurer.
Under respondeat superior, an insurer, like any other employer, is vicariously liable for its workers and other agents' tortious actions in the course and nature of their jobs. As a result, the insurer, as a principal, "may be vicariously liable for its agent's torts whether the insurer ordered or allowed the agent to conduct the tortious actions, or if the insurer ratifies acts it did not originally authorize."
In addition, an insurer will be held responsible for its (the insurer's) agent's inability to warn an insured of restricting language in an insurance policy, according to agency principals.
In most cases, the agent has binding authority to:
Advertise insurance plans and solicit business on behalf of the company
Clarify policies and coverage requirements on behalf of the company
Negotiate, plan, and send insurance applications on behalf of the company
Receive premium money from insureds on behalf of the company and distribute its policies to its customers.
As a result of the doctrines of real or ostensible authority, the corporation is bound by its agent's representations, acts, or omissions. As a result, the insurer could be held liable if its agent failed to inform its insureds of the restricting or exclusionary clauses' insurance policy. In short, the insurer may be held responsible for the insurer's agent's negligence inputting and/or managing the policy, resulting in a lawsuit for damages that you and your UM/UIM accidents attorney can use to replace policy coverage.
Furthermore, suppose the agent/negligence insurer's resulted in an underinsured policy. A disgruntled insured could file a lawsuit for damages against the agent and the insurer based on "breach of the obligation to deliver what's promised."
Failure to deliver what was promised is a breach of duty.
This is a common scenario in which an insured requests a specific form or scope of coverage and assumes representations gave it with the insurer/representative, insurer's only to discover the hard way that the coverage limits requested were not what the insured got. In these cases, the coverage always falls well short of the loss.
The "failure to deliver the agreed-upon coverage" cases are based on the principle that a difference in information can place an affirmative obligation of disclosure on the insurer or its agent, the failure of which will subject the insurer to tort liability.
An insured should be able to rely on an agent's representations of coverage without independently checking the accuracy of such representations by reviewing the applicable policy requirements unless there is any notice or warning. This is especially true in light of an insured's reluctance to begin reviewing the policy terms; especially because even the courts have recognized that few (if any) terms of an insurance policy can be clearly and fully interpreted by people who are not trained in insurance law.
An insurance provider has an "obligation to obtain the insurance sought by an insured with a fair consideration, caution, and judgment." As a result, in California, it is well-founded that an agent's failure to provide the agreed-upon compensation can be considered actionable negligence and the proximate cause of an accident.
To summarize, a good UM/UIM motorist accidents lawyer will look at whether the insured had requested further coverage and whether the insured's insurance limitations are actually stuck with are the result of an error or failure to properly advise.
Insurance for trucking accidents
There is a range of specific insurance options to consider in an accident involving a traditional "big rig" vehicle. These involve looking at "cab (or tractor)" coverage, "trailer" coverage, and "cargo container" or "van" coverage. Different parties also own the tractor, trailer, and freight van.
A "freight forwarder," who works as a cargo travel/booking agent, may have put together the trip and some of the equipment. Each of these is covered by insurance (or should have). One goal of insurance is to cover against liability claims, including personal injury litigation. Another objective is to ensure freight, which is usually accomplished by "inland marine" or similar cargo policies.
If the owner or operator of a "cab (or tractor)" "part" causes the damages, the "part" is likely to be protected by their liability policy. If the cab does not have a liability policy, or whether it is inadequate for the accident, and there is no separate fault by the owner/operator of the "other" parts, the question becomes whether the policies of any (or any) of the different parts are responsible for the driver's mistake. The trailer's insurance is the first place to look. It may be held liable under either California's permissive user law or interstate trade insurance regulations.
Insurance for freight forwarders
Liability insurance may also be in operation for freight forwarders. They could be held liable for their actions in organizing the transportation, including likely choosing the rig's driver. An injured party should investigate whether or not a freight forwarder was involved and what insurance coverage is available.
A third-party liability policy and/or a contingent auto liability policy are examples of policies. For example, when someone is injured during freight forwarding operations by contract employees arranged by the freight forwarder, a contingent auto liability policy can be liable to pay for damages.
An abandoned insured may agree to let a plaintiff obtain a court-entered judgment in exchange for a separate assignment of rights and a promise not to enforce the judgment against the insured's properties. A denial of coverage that turns into a judgment assignment combined with a covenant not to enforce eventually leads to follow-up litigation in the form of an assigned breach-of-contract and bad-faith lawsuit. The insurance firm would also attempt to raise objections to the right of assignment and the fairness of the "judgment" with some predictability.
In California, insurers' challenges to a claim assignment are usually focused on charges of complicity between the claimant and the tortfeasor in securing the verdict. In most cases, the insurers argue that the claimant and the tortfeasor-defendant (it's insured) agreed to allow an excessive judgment in return for the assignment.
The most suspect decisions are those reached by stipulation, but even those reached after a court trial may be questioned. "Where the insurer tortiously declines to defend, and the insured suffers a default judgment. As a result, the insurer is liable on the judgment and cannot depend on retrospect that a subsequent complaint creates non-coverage," it has been stated.
Courts have long held that an insured who its liability insurer has abandoned is free to reach the best possible settlement with the third party complainant, which could include a stipulated judgment with a covenant not to enforce. The insurer would be bound by such an arrangement as long as it is fair and free of bribery or conspiracy.
What Damages Am I Entitled To Recover?
For personal injury cases in California, there are two types of coverage: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refers to financial losses. Others have referred to it as "out-of-pocket" spending. Such instances are as follows:
Hospital bills (experts will need to calculate what may be needed for long-term care)
Future Earnings lost
Treatments for rehabilitation
Non-economic losses are "intangible losses". It has little to do with money or observable wealth, but it is likely to have far-reaching implications for the person. It's often referred to as "Human Losses."
Anguish (Mental and Emotional)
Lost Enjoyment of life
Punitive Damages (Pain and Suffering)
Even the most severe injuries necessitate evidence of suffering and pain. This can be done in a variety of ways:
Plaintiff testifies to the duration and seriousness of their discomfort and difficulties following the crash
This testimony is confirmed by your appointed physician, as well as family and friends
Proof of plaintiff's expenses (medical and financial)
There are no set parameters, except that the pain and suffering damages awarded must be equal or rational. The jury is told that there is no set standard and that they must decide "a fair amount based on the evidence and your common sense" in Jury Instruction CACI 3905A.
Do lawyers specialize in UIM cases?
You may bring a personal injury lawsuit for a number of reasons. If a person or corporation is to blame for the accident and injury, you are entitled to compensation for medical costs, negligence, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Negotiating with an insurance company or another agency can be time-consuming and difficult.
Owing to a lack of experience valuing cases, you might be able to secure a lower payment than the accident and injuries deserve. Using a personal injury lawyer's services will assist you in securing the compensation you are entitled to.
The following issues will be discussed with you by your uninsured motorist lawyer:
Obtaining all incident information, including accident reports, photos, and video, as well as eyewitness testimony.
If the case concerns a corporation or another entity, your legal team must collect safety documents.
Assuring that a qualified medical professional examines the medical records.
To calculate the total damages, your personal injury lawyer will consult medical and economic experts.
Negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance firm and all parties concerned, or, if appropriate, taking the case to trial to ensure you are reasonably paid.
We can refer you to a California Attorney.
Make sure to get the damages and insurance claims you are entitled to. A personal injury lawyer will prevent you from agreeing to unfair compensations from parties who wish to lose as little money as possible. Free initial consultations are available via 24/7 live chat at 1000Attorneys.com.