• JC Serrano

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.


los angeles personal injury attorney

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

  • Lost Wages

  • 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.


UM IUM motorist accident insurance attorney

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.