According to the most recent available statistics, there are nearly 23 million licensed drivers in California. Approximately 15 percent of them are driving without auto insurance even though it is required by law. Thousands more are under-insured, which means they have the minimum amount of required insurance, but it may not be enough to cover your losses in a serious auto accident.
If you are in a crash with an uninsured motorist (UM) or under-insured motorist (UIM) , your own insurance may cover you if you opted to purchase UM/UIM coverage with your own policy. The law does not require you to have this coverage, but your insurer is required to offer it to you. If you decline uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, you must sign a waiver confirming you were offered the coverage but chose to decline it.
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, report the accident to the police and to your insurer as soon as possible. The at-fault driver may show you proof of insurance, but you may find out later the coverage had lapsed.
In order for your uninsured motorist policy to cover you, the accident must not have been your fault. If you were not at fault, your UM policy will pay for your damages up to your policy limits. It is also important to note that UM covers you, passengers in your vehicle, and your family members even when they are pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists and hit by an uninsured motorist.
Uninsured Motorist: Hit-and-Run Driver
Your UM policy may cover you if you are involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver if you follow strict legal requirements:
- The hit-and-run driver must have had physical contact with your car or with you if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist. If a driver cuts you off, forces you to swerve and run into a tree, even if there are a million witnesses who confirm it was the hit-and-run driver’s fault, your uninsured motorist coverage will not cover your loss because there was no physical contact with your car.
- You must make a police report about the accident.
- You must report the accident to your insurer within 24 hours of its occurrence. This law is strictly enforced. Wait 23 hours and you will be okay. Wait 25 hours and there will be no coverage.
Under-insured motorist coverage applies in a completely different circumstance: when the at-fault driver’s coverage is not sufficient to cover the amount of your damages. If you are severely injured, and the driver who caused the accident only has the minimum insurance required by law, your expenses may exceed the amount of the coverage. If so, you may make a claim under your own UIM policy which, if the other driver was at fault, will be available to make up the difference up to your policy limits. Your own policy will not make any payments until the policy limits of the UIM driver have been exhausted.
Also, for under-insured motorist coverage to apply to a loss, the limits of your own UIM coverage must exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits. Thus, it is a good idea to get under-insured motorist coverage that is greater than the lowest offered by your auto insurance company.
Collecting for your damages under your UM or UIM policy may be difficult. A personal injury attorney knows what to do. Contact us at The Aslanian Law Firm, PC at (626) 345-7210 for a free consultation to see how we can assist you with your claim.