What Happens if I Get Hit by an Uninsured Motorist?
Under any circumstance, a car accident is not the most pleasant experience. Despite drivers being required to have auto insurance in California, the situation quickly becomes a nightmare when the other driver is uninsured.
According to the California Department of Transportation, an estimated 15% of drivers travel the roads as uninsured motorists. As a result, you are left dealing with the cost of physical injuries and property damage.
This raises so many questions. You wonder whether being compensated for your injuries is even possible. Is the protocol after an accident the same as when the other driver has coverage? Should you hire a car accident attorney?
These are valid questions that require honest answers. After all, you were the one responsible enough to follow the law and carry auto insurance. Yet, the negligence of an uninsured driver choosing to get behind the wheel creates a headache for every person involved in the accident.
Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is one way to ease complications. Basically, you are covered for losses by filing a claim with your insurance company.
The Importance of Uninsured Motorist Coverage in California
Every resident who buys auto insurance coverage should consider the importance of purchasing additional coverage. No one plans for an automobile accident, but you also cannot predict when one may happen. Uninsured motorist coverage offers some peace of mind if an uninsured driver ever hits you.
Essentially, UIM insurance acts as liability coverage when an uninsured driver is at-fault and you have to reach a settlement with your insurer for a personal injury and/or a property damage claim.
In some cases, your insurance company may pay both you and any passengers for losses. The maximum amount depends on how much coverage you purchase for an uninsured motorist plan. In other cases, an insurance company may also fight against paying what you deserve.
Typically, before paying you the insurance company will want a signed statement from the uninsured driver that they do not have auto insurance. If your injuries are more than minor, hiring an experienced attorney can help you get through this process.
Nevertheless, uninsured motorist coverage becomes a safety net when you are injured during an accident with a driver who does not have auto insurance. This type of coverage also extends if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist.
Types of Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Coverage for being in an accident with uninsured motorists is something insurance companies routinely offer. If you choose not to buy UIM coverage, you will need to sign a waiver stating you declined the coverage.
If on the other hand, you decide this is the right thing to do, you will have several coverage areas to help you feel protected on the road.
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury
This type of coverage will pay for injuries sustained by you and any passengers in your vehicle after an accident with an at-fault uninsured driver. Limits will be the same as the coverage limits in your liability policy.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage
Damages to your vehicle are covered under this policy when an uninsured driver caused the accident. The policy limit is $3,500 and only pays out when the uninsured motorist is identified. If you have collision coverage, you may not need to add UMPD.
How Much UIM Coverage Should You Purchase?
If you are considering the value of buying uninsured motorist coverage, deciding how much you need is the next decision. California allows you to have the same coverage against uninsured motorists as when the accident is your fault. Those amounts are a good place to start.
For example, if your liability coverage that protects you when you cause an accident is $100,000, you can also purchase $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. However, the minimum UIM coverage is $30,000 per injured person.
For multiple people in the same accident, the amount is $60,000. Purchasing less requires a written agreement from you.
The up to $3,500 for uninsured motorist coverage for property damage is not payable in a hit-and-run accident.
Steps to File a Claim
When you are the victim of an accident with an uninsured driver, any personal injury or property damage could raise concerns about financial ruin. Therefore, the steps you take to file a claim after the accident are crucial.
In fact, this is the case even if the drive has insurance. Still, gathering strong evidence in an uninsured motorist accident may prove more difficult. Nevertheless, follow these important steps to build the best possible case.
Step 1: Report the Accident
Call the police to report the accident even if the uninsured motorist flees the scene. An officer can investigate the immediate aftermath and write an accident report.
Step 2: Gather Evidence
If you are physically able, take photos of damages to your vehicle. Also, take pictures of any visible injuries on either you or your passengers. Write down everything you remember about how the accident occurred. Collect any other information you feel is relevant.
Step 3: See a Physician
Make sure to get your injuries checked as soon as possible after the accident. Seeing a doctor helps to ensure your injuries are treated and there are no serious lingering complications. Additionally, your doctor’s visit creates a record of the injury you sustained. Such details are useful for your attorney to establish cause for your personal injury.
Step 4: Call a Car Accident Attorney
Getting the money that you need and deserve after an accident with an uninsured driver can be a difficult experience. Hiring a car accident attorney that knows state laws to handle your case may increase your chances of recovering the money you deserve.
Keep in mind that you can always contact your insurance company and demand a settlement once you learn the other driver is uninsured. You can submit medical bills, wage loss statements and property damage bills along with a demand for pain and suffering.
Of course, if you endured severe injuries or just feel overwhelmed about the entire situation, you can hire an attorney to handle the process on your behalf. An attorney who understands the nuances of an uninsured motorist claims process will work to get more recovery than the insurance company may offer.
What Happens to Uninsured Drivers?
No matter their reason, people who decide to drive in the state without auto insurance face the “No Pay, No Play” rule. Basically, this regulation reduces how much compensation they may receive after an accident.
These drivers are not allowed to seek non-economic damages such as pain, suffering and anguish after a collision. The financial cost of these damages is not set and is often a large part of an auto accident settlement.
Compensation Owed to Uninsured Drivers
The same “No Pay, No Play” regulation does not prevent uninsured motorists from seeking some type of compensation after an accident. If you are the one who causes the accident, you might still be held liable for economic damages sought after a collision.
Economic damages that might be payable to uninsured drivers covers:
- Lost wages
- Vehicle repair
- Medical expenses
Why Hire a Car Accident Attorney
Deciding to hire an attorney after a car accident means you get an experienced advocate on your side. Any type of accident can be filled with uncertainty, physical pain and financial distress.
Even with uninsured motorist coverage, you may not have enough to recover all of your losses. After the accident, you file a first-party claim that may seem easy to handle personally. To be fair, you are working with the insurance company that you chose to protect you and your property.
However, your insurance company may not willingly act on your behalf to make sure you receive a just settlement under UIM coverage.
Legally, the insurance company can pursue the uninsured driver. However, the chances of recouping what they pay you are slim. This means they have an incentive to pay out the minimum or nothing at all.
The insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will work to protect the company’s bottom line. Without warning, they could decide to deny coverage or refuse to pay all that you are owed for the damages.
An aggressive, experienced car accident attorney in California to represent your interests gives you an advantage. They will compile documentation that supports the strength of your claim and fight for the largest settlement possible.