Like everywhere else, California requires any operator of a motor vehicle to have liability insurance. The statutory limits are $15,000 for one person injured in an accident, $30,000 maximum for two or more people injured in an accident and $5,000 of property damage coverage. That’s not much coverage at all, and uninsured motorist insurance (UM) and underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) aren’t required in California.
Take a look around you next time that you’re on the freeway. Nearly 15 percent of the drivers around you are uninsured. Another 15 percent are underinsured. If one of them causes an accident with serious injuries, your medical bills and lost time from work are going to put you in a big hole quickly. That’s what uninsured motorist insurance UM and UIM are for. When you’re injured in a crash at the fault of an uninsured or underinsured driver, you’re covered through your own insurance.
Who is covered?
UM and UIM don’t just cover you. Most policies cover you and any resident of your household who is a blood relative. It covers all of you as pedestrians or bicyclists if you’re injured through the fault of an uninsured or underinsured driver. It’s likely that your policy even covers you if you’re injured through the fault of a hit-and-run driver.
What kind of damages do UM and UIM cover?
Most UM coverage won’t pay for property damage. That’s what collision coverage is for. UM insurance is for purposes of bodily injury. It covers:
- Ambulance and paramedic bills
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Any permanent disfigurement
- Any permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a normal life
Your insurer won’t be happy
When you make a UM or UIM claim, it’s against your own insurer. You’re not going to be in good hands or with a good neighbor though. Your insurer steps into the shoes of the driver who caused your accident, and it treats the claim as if it was his or her insurer. After all of those years of loyalty and premium payments, you’re insurance company is going to show you its teeth. You’ll be treated with utter disdain, just like any other person making a claim against it. You’ll be needing a quality attorney with a background in both insurance law and personal injury. Don’t worry about your premium going up though. It’s against the law in California for an insurer to raise your premium rates if you’ve been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault.
Underinsured motorist coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage is triggered when you’ve exhausted the liability coverage of the person who caused the crash. For example, if a driver had only $15,000 of liability coverage, and you suffered $65,000 of bodily injury damages, your UIM coverage is triggered. That $15,000 is deducted from your $65,000 of damages, and that leaves you with an additional $50,000 of coverage.
What if my claim doesn’t settle?
Your insurance company is going to want to pay you as little as possible or nothing at all on your UM or UIM claim. That’s another reason why you’ll want quality representation. Your contract of insurance will spell out how disputes with the insurer are to be resolved. With UM and UIM claims, that’s usually by arbitration.
UM and UIM claims are complex, and you’re dealing with a contract that the insurance company wrote. Somebody has to keep it honest, and that would be us. Contact us right away about the injuries that you or a family member suffered in a UM, UIM or hit-and-run crash for a free consultation and case evaluation. We want to maximize any compensation that you receive.