In California, a large number of drivers on the road are uninsured or under insured. This creates a legal risk for other motorists, who are left without financial recourse in the event of an accident. Read on to learn more about alternative ways to recover damages in situations involving uninsured/under insured motorists.
Car Accidents Involving Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
According to the estimates of the Insurance Research Council, roughly 14% of drivers in the United States are uninsured, posing a significant legal risk to others on the road. Of all the states, California tops the list for number of uninsured drivers.
California law requires that all drivers purchase a minimum of $15,000 liability insurance. Despite this requirement, however, many drivers simply do not have liability insurance.
What sort of risk do uninsured drivers pose? In a typical car accident situation involving a defendant-driver who is covered by sufficient liability insurance, the plaintiff’s damages (medical treatment, wage loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.) – assuming that the personal injury claim is successful – are recoverable. By contrast, in an accident involving a defendant-driver without insurance coverage, the plaintiff’s damages are not easily recoverable. Plaintiffs who find themselves suing an uninsured defendant-driver for their injuries will have to find alternative means of recovery. Let’s first address the issue of underinsured motorists.
Under insured Motorists
Both under insured and uninsured motorists present a significant damages recovery risk to plaintiffs. Unlike uninsured motorists, under insured motorists do have insurance coverage, but their coverage is than the total damages.
For example, suppose that a defendant-driver has the minimum liability insurance required in California: $15,000. You are injured by the defendant in a car accident, and your total damages are roughly $50,000. Though the defendant-driver was “insured,” you cannot recover your full damages amount from the insurance company because the defendant driver only has $15,000 in liability coverage.
Underinsured motorists allow for some damages recovery, but such recovery is generally insufficient. As such, plaintiffs determined to recover-in-full will have to seek alternative means for doing so.
Alternative Means for Recovery
Fortunately, plaintiffs are not necessarily without recourse in situations involving an uninsured or under insured motorist.
Personal Uninsured or Under insured Insurance Coverage
Instead of relying on the defendant to have insurance coverage, you should purchase specialized uninsured motorist (UM)/under insured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage through your own insurance provider. With UM/UIM coverage, if you find yourself in an accident with an uninsured or under insured driver, then your UM/UIM coverage will kick in and pay out up to your UM/UIM policy limits what you would have received had the defendant-driver been sufficiently covered. And if you are not at fault for an accident, your premium will not increase if you file a UM or UIM claim with your own insurance company.
If the defendant does not have insurance (or has inadequate insurance coverage), then you may be able to reach into his or her personal assets to satisfy your damages. This is often a pointless exercise, however, as it is rare for a defendant with significant personal assets to have no insurance or insufficient insurance coverage. If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, seek the consultation of a skilled personal injury attorney to assess your claims and move forward with the process of litigation. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Irvine car accident lawyer today.