Did you know that 13 percent of drivers on the road do not carry an appropriate amount of car insurance coverage? In fact, many drivers do not carry car insurance coverage, at all. If you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver, it can become more difficult to recover the compensation you deserve. At the Law Offices of John Rapillo, our Orange County accident attorneys can help you get the money you need after an accident, even if the at-fault driver is underinsured. Call us today to learn more.
What Makes a Driver Underinsured?
In California, all drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of car insurance coverage for each vehicle that is registered with the state. Minimally-acceptable coverage includes:
- $15,000 for personal injury or death of one person
- $30,000 for personal injury or death of multiple people, and
- $5,000 for property damage.
These coverage amounts are intended to cover the costs that accident victims incur because of their physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. Drivers who do not carry minimally acceptable levels (15/30/5) are considered to be “underinsured.”
Drivers who carry no insurance coverage at all are considered to be “uninsured” drivers.
How Can I Protect Myself From Uninsured Drivers?
Insurance companies in California are legally required to offer all drivers the option of purchasing Uninsured Motorist Coverage. This policy, which drivers are encouraged to purchase, adds an extra layer of financial protection in the event that they are injured by an underinsured or uninsured driver.
While insurance companies are required to offer the coverage, drivers are not legally obligated to buy it. However, drivers must acknowledge, in writing, that they decline to purchase the additional coverage.
Recovering Uninsured Motorist Coverage Benefits
How does Uninsured Motorist Coverage work? If you are involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, your Uninsured Motorist Coverage will kick in. The level of protection it offers depends on the coverage that is held by the at-fault driver.
- Underinsured Drivers: When a driver is underinsured, your Uninsured Motorist Coverage policy can be used to supplement the amount(s) you receive from that driver’s insurance company. In most cases, your policy can be used to make up the difference in what you would have received if the other driver had purchased minimally acceptable coverage.
- Uninsured Drivers: When a driver is entirely uninsured, your Uninsured Motorist Coverage policy can cover amounts up to your own standard liability policy. In other words, you can recover Uninsured Motorist Coverage benefits up to the amount of your own car insurance coverage limits. If you purchased minimally-acceptable 15/30/5 coverage, your Uninsured Motorist Coverage will be capped at those amounts.
Just because your Uninsured Motorist Coverage can be paid up to your standard limit amounts, it doesn’t mean that you will recover that full amount. Your insurance company will thoroughly investigate your accident and determine what it thinks your claim is worth. Insurance companies do not like to pay out on claims because doing so hurts the bottom line. If the company can find a way to minimize the amount you recover, it will.
In order to make sure that your claim is valued properly, it is important to hire an attorney to conduct an independent investigation on your behalf. Your attorney will make sure that you are properly compensated for the harm you have suffered.
You may not always agree with your insurance company’s assessment of your injury and damages. If you want to contest the value they have placed on your claim, you have the right to request an arbitration hearing. Arbitration is essentially a legal proceeding that is conducted privately outside of court.
Instead of a judge, a neutral third party presides over the issue. This party, known as the arbitrator, listens to arguments by both sides (your attorney and the insurance company) and considers all relevant evidence and testimony. The arbitrator then makes a decision in the matter that is legally binding.
Arbitration can be tough to win if you are not prepared. Hiring an attorney who is familiar with the arbitration process, and the tactics used by insurance companies to limit payouts, will increase the odds of securing a fair settlement offer.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
You do not have to rely on Uninsured Motorist Coverage to get the money you need after an accident. In California, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages. This lawsuit can be filed against the uninsured driver and/or any other person who may be responsible for your accident and injuries. Anyone whose negligence causes you harm can be held financially responsible.
Other potentially liable parties include:
- Uber and Lyft drivers
- Orange County and/or the state of California, and/or
- Car manufacturers.
It is important to understand that there may be limits to the amount of compensation you can recover from an at-fault driver in a civil lawsuit. If the driver did not have the financial resources to buy appropriate car insurance coverage, they may not have the assets or resources to compensate you for your injuries. There have been cases where the injured party has won a lawsuit, but been unable to collect damages because a defendant is incapable of paying. When you are injured by an underinsured driver, your attorney will search for other potentially liable parties with deeper pockets to pay for (at least some of) your damages.
Steps to Take After Being Injured By an Underinsured Driver
Underinsured motorist claims can be incredibly complicated. Since the other driver does not have insurance (or does not carry minimally-acceptable coverage), getting the compensation you deserve can be more difficult. In order to make sure that your claim is valued properly and that you receive the money you deserve, it is important to take the following steps after an accident:
- See a doctor right away. Your doctor will ensure that all injuries are diagnosed and treated immediately, limiting potential complications and further damage.
- Get a copy of your medical report. This will help to establish a link between your accident and injury.
- Report the accident. Police must be notified immediately to ensure that your accident is properly documented.
- Don’t make a statement. Anything you say after an accident can be used to limit the amount of compensation you are awarded. Don’t say anything until you have consulted with an attorney.
- Refuse early offers. Insurance companies will want you to accept an early offer before you have time to speak with an attorney. These early offers won’t be enough to cover the full extent of your injuries, and will prohibit further legal action.
- Call a lawyer. If you want to recover compensation after an accident with an uninsured motorist in Orange County, hiring an attorney is the best thing you can do. Your attorney will fight to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries, even if the other driver is not covered by insurance.
Orange County Car Accident Attorneys
Have you been injured in an accident with a driver who is not covered by car insurance? At the Law Offices of John Rapillo can help you get the money you deserve. We can help you navigate an uninsured motorist claim and/or file a personal injury lawsuit for damages.
You have a limited amount of time to pursue damages, so call us today to request a free consultation and learn more.