The only good car accident is one that doesn’t happen. However, there are plenty of factors that can make a crash worse. For example, the last thing you want to find out after being hit by another driver is that they are an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Accidents involving these drivers are often significantly harder to recover from. However, you have options for receiving the financial compensation you need after your crash. Here’s what you need to know about underinsured and uninsured motorists in California and how to recover damages for your losses.
Who Are Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists?
Car insurance offers important financial protection for drivers and other road users. That’s why many states require drivers to have some kind of insurance on their cars. It’s supposed to insulate both owners and accident victims from the excessive costs of a crash.
The problem is that not every driver actually carries insurance. There are a couple reasons why someone may not be covered by insurance, such as:
- They neglected to renew their policy
- They are illegally driving an unregistered car
- They are violating the terms of their insurance policy, such as driving for a rideshare company without notifying their provider
In these cases, there is no insurance cushion between the driver and financial liability for the accidents they cause.
Furthermore, some drivers have insurance, but it’s not enough to cover the costs of an accident. For example, California requires all motorists to have state-minimum coverage of $15,000 for injury or death of one person, $30,000 for harm to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage. However, there is no legal obligation to have more coverage.
It should be easy to see how a single accident could exceed those limits. A crash that causes you a permanent back injury could make you unable to work, in addition to generating lifelong medical bills. In this situation, the driver who hit you was underinsured for the accident they caused.
Whether someone is uninsured or underinsured, the end result is the same. The motorist is directly liable for at least some of the losses they caused in the crash. Unfortunately, drivers without appropriate insurance are unlikely to have the means to pay damages. Even if they are ordered to pay you the damages you’re owed, you may never receive them in full.
What Happens in Uninsured and Underinsured Car Accidents?
If you’ve been hit by a driver without enough insurance, two factors will determine the outcome: liability and your own insurance coverage.
Liability matters for a few reasons. California is a strict comparative liability state, which means more than one party can share responsibility for an accident. The liable parties will divide their financial obligations based on how much they contributed to the crash.
If the underinsured motorist is 100% liable for your injuries, you will likely exceed their policy’s coverage. However, if they were on the clock when they hit you, their employer may assume some or all liability for your injuries. That reduces the risk of hitting the insurance cap since businesses must get significantly more coverage than individual drivers. Additionally, companies are more likely to have the assets to cover your bills even if you exceed their coverage.
Meanwhile, your insurance coverage matters because you may have a policy that protects you against these types of accidents. This type of policy is known as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and it exists explicitly to cover your costs if the liable party’s policy isn’t enough. If you have not already gotten hurt in an accident, you should confirm whether you have uninsured/underinsured coverage as soon as possible. If you don’t have it, consider upgrading your policy for additional protection.
How to Seek Compensation for Underinsured Car Accident Injuries
After an accident, you must determine your policy coverage, the other driver’s coverage, and liability. You can learn about the first two while filing the standard insurance claims after the crash. When you notify an insurer about an accident, you can also request a copy of the policy in full. Read through it carefully to determine the full amount of coverage you’re eligible for and any circumstances that are not covered.
The question of liability is often much more difficult. Insurers do not want to pay claims if they can avoid doing so, regardless of their policies. As such, providers will often attempt to assign liability to the party which leads to them paying the lowest amount possible. Unless the situation is extremely clear-cut, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to confirm liability.
The most effective way to handle these claims is to work with an experienced car accident injury attorney. Your attorney will provide counsel and:
- Establish the potentially liable parties
- Understand the terms of all relevant insurance policies
- Collect evidence regarding the accident, including police reports and eye-witness testimony
- Keep track of your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage
- Communicate and negotiate with the insurer according to California law
- Document any instances of bad faith insurance practices
- Advocate on your behalf during settlement talks
- Represent you in court if the insurer refuses to settle
With your lawyer’s help, you have a significantly better chance of receiving the damages you’re owed, even if the driver who hit you was technically underinsured.
Empathetic and Experienced Legal Counsel for Underinsured Car Accidents
If you’ve been hurt in a car crash with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you deserve expert help. At Fiore Achermann, we are dedicated to advocating for clients who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in California car accidents. We are proud to represent our clients and pursue full compensation for their injuries from all liable parties. Schedule your consultation with our San Francisco and Oakland-based vehicle crash attorneys, Jennifer Fiore, Sophia Achermann, and Alexandra Hamilton, to discover how we can help you with your complex car insurance claim.