How Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Claims Work in California
Our attorneys can guide you through the process
Getting in a car accident is already one of the worst days of your life. Finding out that the other driver doesn’t have insurance, or has only limited coverage, feels like a punch in the gut when you’re already reeling. Through no fault of your own, you may not be able to get fully compensated for your injuries. What can you do?
You don’t have to deal with this situation alone. The Swanson Law Group has the experience and resources to handle complex uninsured and underinsured motorist claims in California. Our legal team will carefully review your situation and find your path forward.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection in California
In California, the only type of insurance motorists are required to carry is liability insurance. The minimum requirements are $15,000 for injury to one person per accident, $30,000 for injuries to multiple people in one accident, and $5,000 for property damage. While that’s fine for minor accidents, a significant injury can easily exceed those requirements, especially if you need surgery or are unable to work for an extended period.
As such, if you are hit by a motorist who only has the minimum insurance – let alone a motorist who has broken the law and doesn’t have insurance at all – their liability insurance alone may not provide the compensation you need. In principle, it’s possible to go after the at-fault driver’s assets, but in practice, that only works if there are assets to take, and drivers who don’t have insurance usually don’t have significant assets either.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM) stands in for the other motorist’s liability insurance if they don’t have it or supplements their liability insurance if it isn’t enough. UM/UIM also protects you if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver who is never found; after all, an unknown motorist is uninsured by default.
You are not required to carry UM/UIM in California, but the insurance company is required to offer it to you, and if you choose to decline it, you must do so in writing. We highly recommend carrying this coverage; it’s usually quite inexpensive, and the few dollars you might save in premiums are a drop in the bucket compared to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it might be worth if you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Your legal options in an uninsured motorist case
If you have uninsured and underinsured motorist protection, your car accident claim moves forward in much the same way as any other car accident, with your insurance company simply standing in for the other driver’s insurance. California uses a fault-based system for car accidents, so you still must prove that the other driver’s negligence was responsible for your injuries and that you sustained losses as a result of that negligence.
If you don’t have UM/UIM, we’ll investigate your insurance policy to confirm that the insurance company offered you this insurance as they are required to do by law, and that you really did decline it in writing. If they didn’t follow the process, we may be able to compel them to cover your accident. We’ll also investigate to see if there are other sources of compensation. The at-fault motorist may have been covered under a family member’s or employer’s policy, or a third party, such as a vehicle manufacturer, may have been partially responsible for the accident.
This can be a lengthy and factually intensive process, but we put in the work to research all available coverage and coordinate benefits to maximize your recovery. The key is to get an experienced car accident attorney involved as soon as possible. If you were hurt by an uninsured or underinsured driver in California, contact us today to discuss your legal options. We will do everything in our power to help you find a path forward.