If you’re like most Californians, then you wouldn’t pass up the chance to reduce your monthly bills. But lower auto insurance rates typically translate into higher financial risk. Although purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage will increase your insurance rates, it may help you avoid financial ruin if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
In some states, UM/UIM coverage is required for all drivers, but California is not one of them.
According to the California Department of Insurance, insurance companies are obligated to offer UM/UIM coverage to all drivers who apply for a policy. But drivers can choose to pass on this coverage by signing a waiver.
What Should I Do After A Car Accident With An Uninsured Driver?
After any accident, your first step should be to call the police and, if necessary, request emergency medical assistance. Even if nobody was seriously injured, you should still contact the police so an officer can create an accident report.
Don’t forget to record the contact information of all drivers involved. Even if the at-fault motorist was uninsured, if there were other drivers involved in the accident, be sure to write down their insurance information.
You should also write down the contact information of any eyewitnesses and take pictures of property damage, injuries, skid marks, and traffic signs. You will then want to report the collision to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Don’t forget to visit a doctor immediately after the collision. Even if your injuries do not seem that serious, getting a medical evaluation will put you in a better position to file a claim if you decide to do so.
What Are My Options For Recovering Compensation After An Accident With An Uninsured Driver In California?
There are several ways to recover compensation after an accident with an uninsured driver in California. Besides the UM/UIM coverage that we described earlier, you may also be able to recover compensation from:
- Collision Coverage – If you have collision coverage, it can help pay for repairs to your vehicle.
- Medical Payment Coverage – Medical payment coverage will help cover your healthcare bills.
- Lawsuit – Another option you have after a wreck with an uninsured driver is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Unfortunately, most uninsured drivers do not have the money or assets to pay for the damages they cause in accidents. It is also important to note that if you filed a claim against your UM/UIM policy and you then filed a successful lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you may not get full compensation from your own insurance carrier.
What Are The Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements In California?
The minimum liability insurance requirements in California are:
- $15,000 for injuries to one person;
- $30,000 for injuries per accident; and
- $5,000 for property damage.
As you may suspect, these limits are often not enough to cover the damages incurred in a car accident. It’s a good idea to buy more than the minimum liability coverage and to purchase the same amounts in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
If you are caught driving without the minimum required insurance in California, the penalties include vehicle impoundment, a fine, and a penalty assessment fee. Combined, the fine and penalty assessment fee can cost up to $720 for a first offense and up to $1,800 for a subsequent offense.
While UM coverage isn’t a requirement in California, it’s worth considering for the added peace of mind and financial security. After all, every time you climb behind the wheel, you’re at risk of being involved in a collision with an uninsured driver.