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Do you have the auto insurance coverage you need? You might need more coverage than you think.

In the state of California, drivers are not required to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, but any California personal injury lawyer will insist that you have it.

You’re about to learn why accident attorneys will tell you that uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage are so imperative.

HOW MANY DRIVERS ARE UNINSURED?

Auto insurance statistics for California offer some disturbing numbers. The state’s Department of Transportation reports that almost fifteen percent of the motorists in California – one out of seven – have no automobile insurance coverage whatsoever.

That puts everyone at risk. Collisions involving uninsured drivers happen every day in every part of California.

What is your recourse if you’re injured in California by a negligent motorist who is without any insurance – and without any way to compensate you if you’re injured?

It’s important to know your options. Uninsured drivers are uninsured for a reason – they don’t have the funs. That also means their vehicles probably receive less maintenance, which makes uninsured drivers even more likely to be involved in collisions.

AFTER A CRASH WITH AN UNINSURED DRIVER, WHAT’S YOUR FIRST STEP?

If you’re injured in a collision with an uninsured, negligent driver, summon medical attention immediately for yourself and for anyone else who may be injured in the crash.

Even if you feel perfectly healthy, have a healthcare professional examine you within 24 hours after any traffic accident. You may have sustained a latent or hard-to-detect injury – and you may not even realize it.

You also need an immediate medical exam for legal reasons – to document the cause and extent of any personal injury or injuries.

If you have in fact been injured in southern California traffic because another motorist was negligent, arrange at once to discuss your legal rights and options with a personal injury attorney.

If the driver who injured you was uninsured or underinsured, what happens next will depend almost entirely on the provisions of your auto insurance policy and the limits of your coverage.

HOW DOES UM AND UIM INSURANCE WORK?

Although California does not obligate a driver to buy UM or UIM coverage, auto insurance providers are required by law to explain and to offer UM and UIM coverage to every policyholder.

When you buy auto insurance in this state, if you prefer not to have UM and UIM coverage (a bad choice, by the way), you’ll sign a document stating that you’re electing to turn down coverage that includes:

1. Uninsured motorist (UM) injury coverage: Coverage for your own injuries and your passengers’ injuries if those injuries are caused by an uninsured, negligent, at-fault motorist.

2. Underinsured motorist (UM) injury coverage: Additional injury coverage if you’re injured by a motorist who has auto insurance – but not enough to cover your total damages.

3. Uninsured motorist property damage: You may need additional property damage coverage if the driver who collided with you is uninsured, or you may already have sufficient collision coverage.

UM and UIM auto insurance covers you if you’re injured by a negligent, at-fault driver who has insufficient coverage or no coverage at all.

WHY IS UM INSURANCE COVERAGE SO IMPORTANT?

Remember, one in seven California drivers has no automobile insurance of any kind, so UM and UIM insurance is one of the smartest purchases that any California motorist can make.

What makes UM coverage such a good idea? One reason is that suing an uninsured motorist is almost always an empty gesture. If someone’s broke, it doesn’t matter what a judge or a jury might order that person to pay you.

If you’re injured in California by a driver with no insurance, you’ll have to look elsewhere for compensation. With UM and UIM coverage, you can look to your own insurance company and policy.

After a California traffic crash, a victim will usually submit an injury claim to the negligent driver’s auto insurer, but if that driver has no coverage or not enough coverage, you can submit a claim based on your own policy – if you have UM and UIM coverage.

WHAT IF YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY MISHANDLES YOUR INJURY CLAIM?

But sometimes, and even if an injured driver has UM and UIM coverage, an insurance company will try to avoid paying an injury claim.

While most insurance professionals are candid and helpful, there are still some shady insurers in California who may try to deny your claim. The company might claim that you weren’t really injured, or that you were at fault, or even that “your check is in the mail” when it isn’t.

That’s one of several good reasons why an experienced injury lawyer should handle your injury claim – and any negotiations or discussions with any insurance company – from the very beginning.

WHAT AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE DOES CALIFORNIA LAW REQUIRE?

All California motorists should clearly understand that operating any uninsured motor vehicle is against the law in this state. The state compels every driver to carry these minimum insurance coverage amounts:

1. for one individual’s injury or death: $15,000
2. for multiple injuries or deaths in a single accident: $30,000
3. for property damage: $5,000

These are the minimum amounts set by state law, but drivers who can should carry additional coverage, particularly UM and UIM coverage.

IS THERE A PENALTY FOR DRIVING WITHOUT AUTO INSURANCE?

A California motorist must produce proof of legal insurance coverage if he or she is involved in a crash that results in injury, death, or property damage exceeding $750. Without proof of insurance, a California motorist:

1. may be fined
2. may receive a one-year driver’s license suspension
3. may have his or her vehicle impounded

A second California traffic accident without automobile insurance can trigger a four-year driver’s license suspension.

If you are driving without auto insurance in this state, stop reading, contact an auto insurance provider right now, and buy the insurance you need to be compliant with the law.

HOW CAN AN INJURY ATTORNEY HELP YOU?

If you are compliant, and if you’re injured by a negligent and uninsured driver, don’t even speak to your insurance company except to inform the company that you have been in an accident.

Don’t make any statement, sign any document, or agree to any settlement before you’ve consulted an auto accident attorney.

If you’ve been injured, you should speak to that attorney as soon as you’ve been seen by your doctor or another healthcare provider.

A skilled personal injury attorney can protect your rights, explain your options, and fight for justice on your behalf.

If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in California, compensation is your right. Exercise that right. A good accident attorney can help.

By: On Behalf of The Firm

Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell strive to give back to our community and produce positive results for our clients. Our office is located in the heart of Pasadena, we offer free consultations and can't wait to help you!