The Insurance Research Council revealed that 1 in every 8 drivers in the US did not have auto insurance in 2015.
The same study also revealed that the state with the highest number of uninsured drivers was Florida, with 26.7% of its drivers not have any form of insurance. Florida was followed by Mississippi, New Mexico, Michigan, and Tennessee, while Maine had the lowest number of uninsured drivers at just 4.5%.
In the case of Sacramento, California, you might be surprised to know that a considerably large portion of the population doesn’t have car insurance.
Under normal circumstances, when you have an accident, and the other party is at fault, their auto liability insurance coverage pays for any damage to your health and vehicle.
But what if the other driver doesn’t have auto insurance? Will you still be able to claim the compensatory payments?
Many motorists believe that they have full coverage that will cover the costs in every situation where the other party is at fault. Unfortunately, that’s not true. No matter whose fault it was, you may not be able to claim the damages if you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance.
Let’s find out what uninsured motorist coverage is and how it works.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) is an additional provision on a car insurance policy that provides coverage for claimed damages when the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance or if their insurance policy expired before the accident occurred. A driver is also uninsured if they hit you and take off, creating a hit-and-run situation.
California is one of those states in which uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) are bundled together. The uninsured motorist provision also becomes effective in the case of underinsured motorist liability coverage. Meaning the at-fault driver does carry auto insurance, but its liability limit isn’t sufficient to cover your damages fully, or the limit is less than or equal to that stated by your underinsured motorist coverage.
We know that the minimum UM/UIM coverage under California law is $15,000 (if not removed). Suppose that you got hit in Sacramento, California by a motorist, who is at fault, and you need $90,000 in compensation; however, the motorist’s insurance policy carries only $15,000 UM/UIM coverage, and your policy contains $100,000 or more in UM/UIM coverage. In this case, after exhausting the underinsured motorist’s $15,000, your UM/UIM coverage will come into play and pay for the rest of the $75,000 you need.
To bring everything together, if you were involved in an accident in which the other driver, who was at fault, runs away after hitting you, carries an expired auto insurance policy or that with an insufficient liability limit, or has no car insurance policy at all, purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is the only way to receive payments for any damages suffered.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) in California
In California, the UM/UIM coverage mandated by law, but it will be in an auto insurance policy by default unless you decide to request a waiver. The UM/UIM motorist coverage in California requires at least $30,000 of coverage for each injured person and $60,000 if multiple people are injured.
If there’s a waiver or written agreement to remove the UM/UIM coverage from the policy, the uninsured liability coverage can be brought down to $15,000/30,000 or removed altogether. While you have this option, it is never recommended to waive the UM/UIM coverage.
What Damages Does UM/UIM Cover?
Under an auto insurance policy, UM/UIM coverage typically covers three groups at varying degrees.
You and Your Family
You and your family enjoy the broadest coverage. The group includes you (or the person under whose name the policy is insured), your spouse, other family members, and any of your relatives who live with you. In a large number of situations, the UM/UIM coverage will pay to almost any possible extent when there’s contact between the uninsured or underinsured at-fault party and you or your household relatives. In essence, your family or household relatives will be subject to the same extent of coverage as you.
The second group includes your non-household relatives and friends who were getting in or out of your car or were present in the vehicle when the accident occurred.
However, the scope of coverage for this group is narrower. For instance, consider a situation in which you, your spouse, and your non-household relatives were biking on separate bikes each when an uninsured motorist hits and injures your group. You and your spouse will be covered under your policy, but your non-household relatives (or friends) will not be.
This group gets the narrowest coverage under the UM/UIM provision in an auto insurance policy. The group includes any service provider or caregiver who is entitled to recover for loss of services resulting from an injury caused by an uninsured motorist. The coverage carefully takes into account whether the UM’s conduct was the proximate cause of the provider’s damages.
How to File an Uninsured Motorist Coverage Claim
After the accident, the police should arrive and investigate the crash. If the law enforcement officer finds out that the at-fault driver doesn’t carry auto insurance, they will inform you. However, if the police don’t arrive soon enough, or if it’s a hit-and-run situation, gather as much evidence as possible.
For instance, look around for potential witnesses and ask them for their names, contact numbers, and addresses. If any of them agrees, try to get a written or recorded statement then and there. Also, capture images of the scene and, if possible, try to get the at-fault motorist’s license plate number.
As you file the claim with your insurance company, provide all the evidence you have. The company will investigate the case on its own and will contact you for any other information that they need. After investigating the incident, the company may cover the damages to the maximum of your UM/UIM coverage. If, however, the company thinks there is not enough evidence to support your stance, it may deny your claim.
If your insurance company agrees to settle your claim, they will require you to submit the receipts or bills from medical treatments received and any vehicle repair. The insurance company may still deny the claimed amounts if it believes that the costs shown are unnecessary or unrelated. If you think your insurance company has been unfair in denying your claims, the case will go to binding arbitration.
It’s pretty disheartening when someone faces serious bodily injuries and isn’t able to recover just because they don’t have uninsured motorist coverage on their auto insurance policy. In Sacramento, California, you it’s a good idea to drive with uninsured motorist insurance. Ask your insurance agent about adding this option to your auto liability coverage.
Even if you do have this option already, a mere $15,000 (which is the minimum), can be too low to pay for treatments involving severe injuries. You should ask your insurance agent how much it costs to increase it to a hundred thousand dollars or more.
If this situation has happened to you or someone you know, it’s always best to seek the assistance from an aggressive accident attorney in Sacramento. The insurance companies are not on your side. The law offices of Phoong Law Corp can help you get the settlement you deserve to recover for your losses. Don’t let insurance companies stonewall you. Call today for a free case evaluation. We charge no fee unless you win.