What happens if the driver who hit me has little or no liability insurance?
The loud sounds of metal twisting, glass shattering, and people screaming are over. You survived a car accident that wasn’t your fault. But you’ve suffered personal injuries in the accident as well as property damage to your car. Man, that other guy is going to pay for all of this, you think.
Well, think again. Not every driver has insurance, or enough of it.
If the amount of your damages exceeds the amount of the other driver’s insurance, you are facing an underinsured motorist claim. And if the driver had no insurance at all, you will need to pursue an uninsured motorist claim if you hope to collect any compensation.
When you are injured in an automobile accident through the negligent or reckless actions of another driver, you’re entitled to recover compensation through a personal injury suit for your current medical bills related to the accident, anticipated future medical expenses and/or rehabilitation costs, property damage, current lost income, anticipated lost future income or diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.
Each state has regulations regarding the minimum amount of liability and property damage insurance a motorist must carry. In California, drivers are required to carry “15/30/5” insurance. That means liability insurance for the injury or death of passengers of $15,000 for one passenger or $30,000 for two or more passengers, plus a $5,000 minimum for property damage claims. Those minimal coverage amounts could easily be wiped out in a day or two where serious personal injuries or death occur. So, what is an injured victim to do?
If the victim purchased underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage, their own insurance carrier will pay the difference so long as it does not exceed the victim’s liability insurance coverage. So if you have a liability policy of $100,000, and UIM coverage but the insurance company of the person who hit will only pay $15,000, your UIM policy will pay the difference of your damages, up to a total of $85,000. Valuing your total damages is a very complex process and requires the expertise of a personal injury attorney.
But what do you do if the person who hit you has no liability insurance policy at all or the vehicle qualifies as uninsured?
While it’s against the law, it’s also a common reality for people to drive without insurance. Other situations deemed to be “uninsured motorists” may include stolen vehicles, excluded drivers, unknown hit-and-run drivers, and cars insured by companies that go out of business during the claim period. If you’re unfortunate enough to be hit by such a driver, you will be stuck paying your own medical and property damage bills if you didn’t purchase your own uninsured motorist insurance policy.
When the driver who hit you has no liability insurance, your own uninsured motorist policy will kick in and pay the damages in accordance with the terms of the policy. There are two types:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (“UMBI”) coverage will cover you and your passengers for bodily injuries not to exceed the amount of your personal liability insurance policy.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (“UMPD”) insurance covers up to $3,500 in property damage (but only in cases where the driver at fault is found.)
If you can show the other driver was at fault and wasn’t insured at the time of the accident, your uninsured motorist coverage can save you from financial disaster. But you need to act quickly or may waive your right to assert your claim. Be wary of insurance companies offering fast settlements that may not be in your best financial interest. It’s important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after any automobile accident, but especially one involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
If you or a family member has been involved in a car accident, pedestrian accident, or hit-and-run accident with or without an uninsured or underinsured motorist, the attorneys at J&Y Law Firm can help. Call us at 888-806-6722 for a free consultation.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, The J&Y Law Firm has 21 locations throughout Northern and Southern California and represents clients throughout the state and nationwide.