The minimum car insurance requirements in California are $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability coverage, and only $5,000 for property damage liability coverage. These requirements haven't changed in over 35 years. Nowadays, this isn't a lot of money, but I don't know what it's going to take to get the California legislature to increase those limits. One would think the insurance lobby would want them increased so that they could charge higher premiums, but I'm not sure who they're protecting anymore.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Work In California, And Do Most People Actually Have It?
Since the legislature has refused to increase auto liability coverage for the last 35 years, it is important to obtain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in California. Many drivers in California carry only the minimum limits, which are $15,000 per person and 30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability. Underinsured motorist coverage would pay the damages above and beyond the minimum limits as long as the underinsured coverage is more than those limits, because the injured party's insurance company that carries the underinsured policy gets a credit for insurance paid by the party at fault. For example, if someone only had $15,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage but received $15,000 per person from the at-fault driver's insurance, that would be offset against their coverage of $15,000 and they would end up with zero underinsured motorist benefits. I believe the California legislature should do away with that offset because most people have no idea how it will affect them.
How Common Are Accidents Involving Uninsured Or Underinsured Drivers In California?
In my practice, 10 to 15 percent of cases involve an uninsured driver. It's definitely worth it to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in California. However, it depends on a couple of factors. One is the premium for that kind of coverage and whether or not it's worthwhile for the amount of coverage that the driver would be purchasing. It also depends on whether or not the driver has other coverages that would apply. For example, if someone has medical coverage on the policy, health coverage through health insurance, or disability benefits to cover lost earnings, then it might be less important for them to have uninsured motorist coverage. The only thing these individuals would be missing out on is pain and suffering damages, which they would otherwise be entitled to receive through the uninsured motorist coverage. Many people just want medical coverage and lost earnings coverage.
What Are The First Steps A Person Needs To Take After They've Been Injured In An Accident Caused By An Uninsured Driver In California?
In California, it is required that a police officer either go to the scene of an auto accident to write a report, or that the parties involved in the auto accident make a report at the police department. In order for uninsured motorist coverage to apply, this should be done shortly after an accident. It should be noted that the California statute provides that there must have been contact between the vehicles involved; this prevents people from saying that a phantom vehicle caused them to crash and adds to the level of proof required to make an uninsured motorist claim. Someone who's been involved in an auto accident should notify their own insurance company of the incident and injury as soon as possible. They may want to first contact an attorney who can give them advice on how to proceed with the case. Most law firms, including ours, offer free consultations.
If You Make A Claim For Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Can You Still Pursue A Claim Or A Lawsuit Against The Uninsured Driver That Caused The Injury In California?
If a driver has already made a claim for uninsured motorist coverage, they would need to receive permission from their insurance company prior to pursuing a lawsuit against the uninsured driver. Failing to do this would prejudice their own insurance company's right to seek a recovery for any benefits that they pay on the uninsured motorist policy.
Under California law, one of the requirements for underinsured motorist coverage is that the claimant receive the policy limit of the at-fault driver. In order to receive that policy limit, the at-fault driver's insurance company is going to require a full release to be signed, which means the claimant will not be able to pursue the at-fault driver for any additional compensation; further compensation would only be available through underinsured motorist coverage.
For more information on Auto Accidents In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (760) 721-8182 today.