Los Angeles is currently experiencing an epidemic of hit and run accidents with nearly 50% of all police-reported incidents involving a driver leaving the scene, far higher than the national average of just 11%. Part of this epidemic is the high number of uninsured drivers on the roads. California is among the top ten states in terms of uninsured/underinsured motorists with up to 25% of drivers lacking adequate car insurance.
What Happens if You Don’t Have UIM/UM Coverage?
What can you do if you are involved in a car accident and the other driver fled the scene or has no liability insurance? What if you are riding a bike or walking across a crosswalk and you are the victim of a hit-and-run or struck by a driver without insurance?
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident or the at-fault driver in an accident has no insurance or inadequate insurance, you have little recourse if you do not have UIM/UM coverage. While the other driver is liable for your damages and you have the right to pursue compensation, drivers who do not have insurance are unlikely to have any assets worth pursuing except in rare cases in which their policy simply lapsed. In fact, research by Zooomr, a Los Angeles car leasing service, shows 21% of uninsured drivers cite an inability to afford premiums as the reason for lacking insurance.
Even if you go through the trouble and expense of filing a lawsuit and successfully getting a judgment against the other driver, you are unlikely to recover any compensation in these cases. It’s even possible to win a judgment against someone who does have some assets but find they have filed for bankruptcy protection, in which case you still get nothing.
How Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works
Uninsured and underinsured (UIM/UM) coverage is a valuable form of protection against hit and run accidents and collisions involving drivers who don’t have enough coverage to compensate you for your injuries and damages. If you are involved in an accident with a driver without insurance, without enough coverage for your damages, or you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, UIM/UM coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance policy to recover the compensation you need.
Uninsured (UM) motorist coverage works to pay compensation when the other driver does not have sufficient liability coverage. UM coverage pays for most of the items that the other driver’s insurance company would have covered, including:
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity/loss of future income
- Medical expenses, both current and future
- Pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional distress
This type of coverage usually does not cover property damage, towing fees, and punitive damages.
UM coverage can cover you in many cases. If you do not have auto insurance, you may be covered as the passenger in someone else’s car if the owner has UM coverage. You may even be covered if you live with a relative who has UM coverage or you are a pedestrian and a relative in your household has UM coverage.
Underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage is very similar to uninsured (UM) coverage, although it works a bit differently. This type of coverage kicks in to pay the difference between the liability coverage the other driver has and your actual damages. As an example, if you suffer $35,000 in damages as a result of the accident but the at-fault driver only has $15,000 in liability coverage, your policy will pay the remaining $20,000.
You can choose the policy limits when you purchase UIM/UM coverage, but it’s typically limited to your standard policy liability limits. UIM/UM coverage is a very affordable and easy way to protect yourself against the very real risk of being involved in an accident with someone who does not have the coverage to compensate you.
Contact a Los Angeles Uninsured Accident Lawyer
If you choose to file a claim after you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, a personal injury lawyer can still help you to protect your best interests and seek a fair offer from the insurance company.