The Uninsured / Underinsured Driver Dilemma Don’t Be A Victim Twice!

As a personal injury attorney for more than three decades I have handled many car accident cases in which the at fault driver either no insurance or inadequate insurance. This happens more often then you probably realize.

In the United States an estimated 14% of drivers do not carry liability insurance. In California it is estimated that 25% of drivers do not carry liability insurance. Chances are roughly one in four that a driver is uninsured. California is not alone, the states with the highest percent of Uninsured Motorists are as follows; Mississippi 26 %, Alabama 25 %, New Mexico 24 %, Arizona 22 % and Tennessee 21 %. According to the Insurance Research Counsel, in the United States 40% of all vehicles 15 years or older that are uninsured.

California Law requires “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.”

California requires all drivers must show financial responsibility for any vehicle that they own, in case of injury to other people or damage to their property. Most people show financial responsibility by buying auto liability insurance.

In California if you do not have auto liability insurance, you can be fined, your license may be suspended, and your vehicle could be impounded.

Under California law, the minimum insurance limits for a standard auto policy are Bodily Injury Liability Limits of $15,000 for the death or injury of any one person. And a total of $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in any one accident. This coverage applies to injuries caused by a negligent driver. As well, California law requires a minimum of $5,000 for damage to the property of other people. This pays for damage cause by a negligent driver to someone else’s car, or to objects and structures that have been damaged.

With 25% of drivers in California uninsured and many with minimal limits (underinsured) what can you do to protect yourself and your family?

I recommend that you purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) / Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM), this coverage protects/covers you if you are in an accident with a driver who does not have any liability insurance (uninsured) or has inadequate coverage (underinsured). Insurance companies in California must offer you this coverage. If you choose not to buy it, which in my opinion is a big mistake, you must sign a waiver given to you by the insurance agent or insurance broker.

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage pays for injuries to you and any person in your car when there is an accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. The limits should be the same as your liability coverage limits, frankly the higher limits the better. On the other hand Underinsured Motorist coverage covers you and any person in your car who has suffered bodily injury if you are in an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for damages. However, the available coverage is the amount of your coverage, less the underinsured drivers policy limit. For example if you have a $100,000.00 UM/UIM policy limit and the other driver has coverage of $15,000.00, there would be an additional $85,000.00 coverage available through UIM for bodily injury claims.

The causes of people driving without insurance or inadequate insurance are diverse. But you must take proper steps to protect you and your family, purchase liability insurance for yourself including Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist coverage. By limits that are reasonably sufficient to protect others and you and your family. You may find the California Department of Insurance Handbook on Automobile Insurance informative and interesting.

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