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What To Do If You Get into A Car Accident With An Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

Posted by Michael Geller | Mar 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

Getting into an accident and suffering a serious injury as the result of a careless motorist is bad. Learning that negligent motorist has no auto insurance coverage or little auto insurance coverage makes the situation even worse. This discovery often raises important questions like, “Can I even pursue financial restitution for my harms and losses when I was injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist?” Another common question in this scenario is, “Who will pay for my medical expenses and reimburse me for my lost income?” These are perfectly valid questions that deserve an answer.

Unfortunately, thousands of people in and around Contra Costa County, CA find themselves in this exact situation each year. Why? Because a disturbingly high percentage of California motorists lack sufficient automobile insurance coverage. In fact, a report issued by the Insurance Information Institute (III) revealed California is ranked in the top 10 for the percentage of motorists lacking any automobile insurance coverage (approximately 16.6 percent of California motorists are operating on busy roads and highways with no insurance coverage).

If you were seriously injured in a collision caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver in Contra Costa County, California, The Geller Firm is here to help. We understand how difficult and stressful this situation can be and want to help ease your anxiety and pursue the financial restitution you are rightfully owed.

Is it Possible to Pursue Financial Restitution in the Wake of an Accident Caused by an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver?

The answer is…it depends. If you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may be eligible to pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses, but it depends primarily on whether you have uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage under your auto insurance policy.

UM/UIM Insurance Coverage - Required to Offer, Optional to Purchase

Under California law, every automobile insurance company is required to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (commonly referred to as UM/UIM coverage). If this coverage is purchased, it provides you with a pathway to pursue compensatory damages if you or a loved one was seriously injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. However, UM/UIM coverage is not mandatory for motorists to purchase in California.

As you may imagine, The Geller Firm strongly encourages motorists to obtain UM/UIM coverage since it can be extremely valuable to individuals harmed by negligent uninsured/underinsured drivers in and around Contra Costa County.

How UM/UIM Insurance Coverage Works

It is important to have a general understanding of how UM/UIM coverage works. Why? Because possessing a clear understanding of how your insurance coverage works will help you be better prepared in case you or a loved one winds up seriously injured in an accident caused by an underinsured or uninsured motorist.

Pursuant to California law, there are mandatory minimum coverage amounts for a UM and UIM provision in an auto insurance policy unless you waive coverage in writing. Specifically, if you decide to add UM/UIM coverage to your policy, the insurance coverage must provide at least $15,000 in coverage for every injured person and $30,000 for two or more injured people per accident (for each accident). Auto insurance companies are not allowed to offer any less in terms of coverage or less protection. You have the option to purchase a higher amount of UM/UIM coverage up to your bodily injury liability limits. Though, keep in mind that California law only enables a claimant to collect up to their maximum UM / UIM coverage under their insurance policy.

Another unique aspect of California insurance law is you are eligible to pursue compensatory damages via your UIM / UM coverage even if you were not driving a vehicle at the time of the accident. For example, if you were hit while walking down the street or riding a bicycle, you would still be eligible to pursue compensatory damages through your UIM / UM coverage.

Here are some examples of common types of compensatory damages pursued in the wake of an auto accident in or around Contra Costa County, CA:

  • Medical bills stemming from emergency care immediately after the accident
  • Medical bills for long-term care and treatment (e.g., surgeries, physical therapy, etc.)
  • Lost wages from being unable to work
  • Lost future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

When to File an Underinsured Motorist Claim Versus an Uninsured Motorist Claim

Underinsured motorist coverage is typically paired with uninsured motorist coverage, but what coverage should be used in what circumstance? Well, as mentioned earlier, it depends. In most instances, uninsured motorist coverage is used when someone was the victim of a hit and run accident. This is the scenario where the at-fault driver fled the scene of the accident leaving you with no other option but to file a claim through your own insurance policy.

In contrast, an underinsured motorist claim is commonly filed when the at-fault driver has an auto insurance policy, but the amount of available coverage is woefully insufficient.  For example, let's say the at-fault driver has the California state minimum auto insurance policy with only $15,000 in liability coverage. However, you have $100,000 in documented medical expenses and lost wages.  In this situation, you would likely need to pursue a claim for the at-fault driver's full policy coverage of $15,000 and then file an underinsured motorist claim with your own auto insurance policy.  For example, if you have $100,000/$300,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then you could potentially collect on the $15,000 in coverage from the at-fault driver and the remaining $85,000 from your underinsured motorist coverage.

Have Questions? Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in Contra Costa County, CA Today

As you can see, when a car accident occurs in or around Contra Costa County, CA involving a driver with little or no insurance, complex insurance issues could arise. This is why it is so important to retain the services of a skilled and experienced Contra County car accident lawyer. You owe it to yourself to have a knowledgeable lawyer advocating for your interests and who knows how to effectively deal with insurance companies and their tactics.

The Contra County car accident attorneys with The Geller Firm are ready and able to assist you in the wake of a serious automobile accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. The Geller Firm understands that this is a difficult time for you, which is why you should not “go it alone” and place additional pressure and stress in your shoulders by attempting to negotiate with an insurance company on your own. Let The Geller Firm take on that fight for you so you can focus on healing. Contact our firm today to schedule a free, confidential case review.

About the Author

Michael Geller

Michael Geller grew up in San Francisco, CA. He attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate studies, the City University of New York for his medical training, and Santa Clara University School of Law for his legal education.

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