Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage California

January 17, 2022
Estimated Percentage of Uninsured Drivers in 2015

In California, one out of every four accidents involves an uninsured or underinsured motorist (UMC/UIM). Nationwide, one out of every eight drivers is uninsured. You may be left wondering what happens if the driver who hit you doesn’t have insurance coverage. Or who’s responsible if you’re the victim of a hit and run.  Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects you financially from irresponsible drivers.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is used when an at-fault driver doesn’t have enough, or any, liability coverage. UMC could save you from having to pay even if you’re involved in a hit and run. UMC usually costs a bit extra to add to your policy in certain states with more uninsured drivers.

Let’s say you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Generally, you’d file a claim with the liable driver’s car insurance company, get your car repaired, and recoup compensation for any lost wages or medical expenses via settlement or trial. 

What happens when the driver that causes your accident doesn’t have car insurance or doesn’t have enough of it? Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage will help protect your finances if you’re involved in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. If you’re unsure about the limits of your coverage, speak to an experienced car accident attorney in your California community today.

California UMC Law

According to California Vehicle Code § 16020,  “All drivers and all owners of a motor vehicle shall at all times be able to establish financial responsibility and shall at all times carry in the vehicle evidence of the form of financial responsibility in effect for the vehicle.”

This means you must show financial responsibility for any vehicle that you own, especially in cases involving injuries and property damage. If you do not have auto liability insurance, you may be fined, have your license suspended, and your vehicle impounded.

UMC and UIM coverage is optional insurance coverage in California but can be added to your policy. California law requires that all auto insurance providers offer UMC/UIM coverage. 

California law requires all drivers to maintain a minimum coverage limit, but California has more uninsured drivers than any other state. The “15/30/5” minimum coverage limit means that if an insured driver is at fault for an auto accident, the insurer will pay up to:

  • $5,000 for property damage or collision coverage
  • $15,000 for bodily injury coverage or death 
  • $30,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident to all people in the other vehicle combined

Many California drivers cannot afford the minimum coverage and have demonstrated an unwillingness to pay steep insurance premiums. This leaves the financial burden of paying for damages after a car accident with private health insurers, out of pocket, or through government programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Uninsured drivers have fewer assets in general. So if an uninsured driver has injured you, you may feel as though you’re unable to collect damages from them for medical costs, lost wages, car repair bills, pain and suffering, and other losses. 

California, and many other states, are attempting to remedy this situation by allowing insurers to offer uninsured motorist coverage. Speak with an auto accidents claim professional in your community right now for a free consultation.

How does underinsured motorist coverage work?

More than two-thirds of all California drivers pay for insurance. However, many choose the minimum amount of coverage. These amounts are usually inadequate in cases of serious accidents, especially when there are many occupants with multiple injuries. 

Under-insured motorist coverage treats the other driver as uninsured for damages above the at-fault driver’s policy limits. Private health plans and government programs will pay medical costs after a car accident regardless of whose fault the accident was, but these policies may not cover your rehabilitation services, pain and suffering, and property damage. 

UMC/UIM coverage allows plaintiffs to recover compensatory damages from their insurance company after an accident that is not their fault. Speak with a California UMC attorney today about your options. 

How much UMC/UIM is enough?

In California, car insurance providers generally offer customers uninsured/underinsured policy limits equal to a driver’s liability policy limits. Let’s say a driver has purchased 50/100 limits for accidents that they cause; then, they can typically purchase 50/100 policies for accidents caused by other uninsured motorists. 

In California, a driver may not collect more for injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist than the amount of the insured’s policy limits. However, in some states, uninsured motorist policies cover all of the damages caused by underinsured drivers.

Umbrella Policies

California umbrella policies offer extra coverage for motorists. If a driver wants more insurance than the maximum UMC available, then they must purchase an umbrella policy. Umbrella policies can be inexpensive and cover excess losses under any insurance policy carried at the maximum available limits.

It’s imperative to discuss your needs with your insurance broker or a car accident legal professional near you. Our California car accident attorneys understand how a hit and run accident or an accident with an uninsured motorist can be stressful. We are here to help you understand your coverage options. 

Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage Differences

Uninsured motorist insurance protects you when you’re involved in an accident with an at-fault driver without liability insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage policies payout when you’re involved in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover the medical expenses caused by the accident. 

Typically, at-fault driver’s insurance pays for all damages up to their policy limits. Then your underinsured motorist coverage covers the excess amount up to the limits you’ve selected.

Types of Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, like its liability counterpart, generally comes in two types: of coverage: bodily injury and property damage.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury is designed to cover you and the people in your vehicle for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering when you’re involved in an accident caused by someone who doesn’t have insurance or enough insurance.

Uninsured motorist property damage and underinsured motorist property damage coverage protect your car if someone hits you and doesn’t have insurance or enough insurance. These policies cover the property damage you face in the aftermath of an accident. 

Some states require these coverages and automatically include them for each vehicle on the policy. In other states, where uninsured motorists’ coverage is available but not required, you have to add these policies separately. 

Stacking Your Insurance Coverages

If you have more than one car insured on your policy, you may be able to “stack” your uninsured and underinsured bodily injury coverages. Keep in mind that stacking is not allowed in every state, so speak with our experienced car accident attorneys about your coverage options and recuperating your losses. 

When uninsured and underinsured motorists’ bodily injury coverage is stacked, your selected limit is multiplied by the number of cars. Imagine you’re a California driver with UMI limits of $50,000/$100,000. If you add a second car to your policy, stacking could increase your limits to $100,000 per person, $200,000 per accident.

Keep the following in mind when shopping for the right insurance policies for you and your family: 

  • You can purchase the UMC from the same insurance company that you already have for your liability coverage. Some insurers offer discounts for choosing multiple policies and may be able to save you some money on premiums.
  • Uninsured motorist insurance only provides coverage when you are not at fault for the accident.
  • You do not have to be driving the vehicle for uninsured motorist insurance to cover your injury. You will be covered when you are injured by an uninsured driver whether you’re walking or riding a bike. 
  • If you’re in an accident, you must file a police report if you cannot locate the at-fault driver. You should definitely contact the police in hit and run situations. 
  • According to the California statute of limitations, uninsured motorist claims must be filed with your insurance company within two years of the accident.

Uninsured motorist claims can be complex, so you must hire a skillful uninsured motorists coverage attorney to walk you through the process.

Free Consultation with a California Car Accident Attorney

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates’ No Win, No Fee Promise minimizes all risk for victims. If you do not win your case, then you do not owe us attorney fees. This means that we will work even harder to ensure your claim is successful, and we alleviate the financial burden of worrying about how you’ll pay for your representation. 

To put an experienced team of legal professionals to work on your uninsured motorist’s accident case, call 714-898-4444. We will not charge a fee to evaluate your case or give you useful information about your options for bringing a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Our motorcycle accident lawyers assist crash victims in Orange County and all Southern California locations. Our Orange County car accident lawyers will treat your case with the care, compassion, and dedication needed to ensure that you feel secure and your case is handled with the highest level of professionalism.

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