I Was Involved in a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver in California
Per California laws, anyone who owns and drives a car must meet the financial responsibility laws. One way to do this is by carrying auto insurance. At a very minimum, vehicle owners and drivers must meet these limits:
- Bodily Injury Liability – $15,000 minimum per person and a minimum of at least $30,000 per accident
- Property Damage Liability – $5,000 minimum to cover damages to someone’s property
If you do not have this coverage, you can be ticketed when you’re pulled over for whatever reason. Plus, you cannot register a car without having appropriate insurance or placing a cash deposit with the DMV of $35,000, a self-insurance certificate, or a $35,000 surety bond with an approved bond company. When you register your car, the appropriate proof must be filed at the same time.
Those are the requirements, but there are no guarantees that everyone in the state follows them. The Insurance Research Council reported that 4.1 million California drivers lacked insurance in 2012. If a driver is caught driving without insurance, there are fines levied on the driver, and the loss of driving privileges will happen. That’s not enough to keep some people from risking it.
You could be in a crash with an uninsured driver. You might also be in a crash with a driver who stole the vehicle or a hit and run driver. If that driver is found, you may finally get insurance information. Until then, your uninsured driver coverage helps out. Despite this, it can be hard to figure out what to do next. If you’re in a crash with an uninsured driver, the cost of the damages will likely fall to you. What steps do you take to protect yourself when you’re in a crash with an uninsured driver?
Take Care of Yourself First
You have to take care of yourself first. If you’ve been injured, call 911 and get help. Not only do you want to have a paramedic examine your injuries, but you also want the police involved. A police report is an essential part of the evidence you’ll want when you’re trying to get restitution from the other driver.
Some of the most common injuries following a car crash are hard to diagnose. It’s easy to see a cut that needs stitches. A broken bone may need surgery or to be set and secured in a cast or splint. Head injuries, such as a concussion, are also common and harder to see. If you have a concussion, the severity of the head injury may not appear for a few hours. Whiplash is another hidden injury that can take days to appear. You want to have proof you’ve seen a doctor and know what symptoms to watch for in case you do have one of these common car accident injuries.
If you are sent to the hospital to have your injuries cared for, keep a file of medical bills, doctor recommendations, prescriptions, and follow-up care. Again, this helps build a strong case when it comes to getting the other driver to pay for your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses or losses related to your injuries.
Make sure you follow the doctor’s orders. If you’re instructed to take a full week off work, do so. You may feel better before the week is up, but you don’t want to go to work and strain healing muscles and joints. It’s best to get medical clearance from your doctor to prevent causing additional injury or reinjuring yourself.
Get the Other Driver’s Information and Accident Scene Details
If you can, while waiting for police, get witness names and contact information. Get the other driver’s name, contact information, and driver’s license number. If the driver claims to have insurance, get that information, too. If the policy’s expired or was canceled, you’ll at least have some information to provide to a car accident attorney and/or your insurance agent. Finally, you also want the make, model, and license plates of any cars involved in the accident.
Take pictures of the scene. Get photos of the cars, damages to nearby property, and any skid marks. Include photos or footage of signage that shows what traffic controls were in place, if necessary. You can ask if other drivers caught the crash in dashcam footage. If you have your own dashcam, save the footage and send an extra copy to yourself in case the police take the camera or card for evidence.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, this may not be possible. Do not let it stress you out. Police who come to investigate the crash will take photos, get all of the contact information you need, and collect names of witnesses. When you’re able, go to the police station to get the investigating officer’s name and badge number and a copy of the accident report.
Call Your Insurance Agent
You have one important question to ask. Ask your agent if you have uninsured motorist coverage. If you do have coverage, you use that to cover your losses and bills. Remember that you pay your insurance company a good deal of money each month. Do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions as you begin the process of filing a claim or figuring out what coverage you do or do not have.
When you purchase auto insurance, one of the options is uninsured motorist coverage. UMC is a smart purchase, but some drivers don’t realize the importance. You should see if you hold this insurance or if you signed a waiver and denied the coverage.
If you do have it, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage pays for injuries to you and your passengers. These limits are the same as your liability coverage. If you have $15,000 in coverage, up to $15,000 of your medical bills would be paid for using this coverage. What happens if the bills cost more than your insurance covers? You’ll be paying out of pocket if your health insurance won’t help. Otherwise, you must consider suing the other driver.
Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) pays a maximum of $3,500 to cover some of the damages to your car. Collision coverage is accessed first, so you may not need to access this coverage if collision covers the cost of your car’s repairs or replacement. UMPD only provides coverage if the other driver is known. If you were in a hit and run, uninsured motorist property damage coverage will not be used.
Ask your insurance agent for advice on what would and wouldn’t be paid under the uninsured insurance coverage. It may not be as much as you’d want. Don’t be surprised if the insurance company tries to minimize the amount you’ll get paid or deny some of your claims. It will help to have a clear idea regarding what funds are available if you have to rely on UMC. It may not be the news you were hoping to hear, but it’s going to help you have answers in hand when you call a car accident attorney for advice.
Call a Car Accident Attorney
Most importantly, call a car accident attorney to walk you through your options. You want an expert’s advice on what your options are. If you had to claim the damages against your insurance policy, it might drive up your premiums. That can seem very unfair when you followed the laws and someone else doesn’t.
The other driver could be forced to pay for repairs or replacement of your vehicle. The driver could be forced to pay your medical bills, lost wages, and other financial burdens. Your insurance company could be pushed into paying more than you were originally offered in a settlement. The best way to know your options is by talking to someone who understands the laws and how they apply to your case.
If you do sue the other driver to get money to pay your medical bills, damages, etc., you should know that you may not get the payment made in full. Courts may set up payment plans. That may not be ideal in your situation, so you have to talk to an attorney about your car accident. If there is a chance of freezing assets, it’s important to know. The lawyer’s experience will make a difference in this type of car accident case and how quickly you get the money you need to cover your bills.
CZR makes a few promises to you. We offer free consultations and are available 24/7. You do not have to pay us anything to discuss your case and find out what your best options are. If we agree you have a valid case and you hire us, you do not pay us unless we win. We take our fee out of your settlement or award. We’ll help you get your bills taken care of and your vehicle repaired or replaced. If you’ve been in a crash with an uninsured driver, call us immediately.
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