Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
As a motorist in California, you want to be sure that you have the automobile liability insurance necessary to keep you and your family safe. Unfortunately, a huge number of drivers on California roadways are uninsured or underinsured. Dealing with someone who does not have adequate liability insurance coverage can be a disaster in cases where you were injured in a serious accident. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to provide you and your family with the coverage you need. It is always advisable that your automobile liability insurance covers at least, if not more than $100/300. It is also recommended that your insurance plan cover at least $10,000 in medical payments. Given that so many other drivers do not carry adequate liability coverage, you may consider purchasing underinsured motorist coverage (UM) coverage for yourself.
The Uninsured Motorist Act, in California, requires every automobile policy issued in California to include coverage to compensate insureds (or their heirs or legal representatives) for bodily injury or wrongful death inflicted by the owner or operator. Unless it is expressly waived, therefore, uninsured motorist coverage ("UM") is included in every policy. You may have minimum UM coverage of at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per occurrence.
It is recommended that you purchase as much UM coverage as you can. Providing you and your family with more than the minimum amount of UM coverage available can help to account for any medical bills and other expenses you may incur in the event that you are involved in an injury accident with an uninsured or underinsured party.
UM coverage extends to the "named insured" and his or her spouse, as well as residents of the same household who are occupants of the insured vehicle or "otherwise." The “otherwise” also typically extends UM coverage to a household member who is struck by an uninsured motorist while he or she is not in the covered vehicle.
UM coverage depends upon the other driver in the incident being at fault, because your own insurance carrier is taking on the liability of the party responsible for your accident. In the event that you disagree with your insurance carrier over the issue of legal liability, or the amount of damages you are entitled to in the case, you do have the right to demand arbitration under the terms of your insurance policy.
*Damages are the amount of money the insured accident victim is legally entitled to recover from the uninsured motorist at fault in an accident.
UM coverage must also include “underinsured” motorist coverage. As is the case with UM coverage, underinsured motorist coverage can be waived by the policyholder; however, it is never recommended.
Underinsured motorist coverage kicks in only in the event that the liable driver's policy limits are less than the UM policy limits of the accident victim. The liable driver's portion of the victim's policy would be applied in this case to make up the difference in coverage. For example, if the insured driver sustains injuries amounting to $40,000, and the negligent driver carries statutory minimum coverage amounting to $15,000, then the accident victim's own UM coverage may cover the difference of $25,000.
Even though underinsured motorist coverage typically only comes into play when the negligent driver's policy limits are less than those of the claimant's, certain exceptions do exist. The Law Offices of William C. Bibb specializes in complex insurance cases, and has the experience necessary to help clients achieve the maximum amount of damages possible.
What to do if the Other Driver does not have Insurance
As with other accidents:
-- Always accept emergency transportation to the hospital if needed. Many types of serious injuries can take hours and even days to present symptoms. Beyond that, the nature and severity of your injuries cannot be fully understood unless or until you receive proper medical attention.
-- Immediately seek medical attention for any and all injuries. Having documentation that you received medical care, in addition to having medical records outlining the nature and severity of your injuries, prevents an insurance adjuster from questioning your medical condition. If necessary, the Law Offices of William C. Bibb can place you in contact with a medical physician and/or specialist.
-- Inform your own automobile insurance carrier of the accident.
-- Once you have completed the initial report with your own insurance company, let your personal injury attorney take the reins. I know exactly how to deal with insurance adjusters, and am here to be your legal representative and the voice throughout the claims process.
-- Allow me to handle all communications with insurance adjusters. Inadvertently downplaying the nature or severity of your injuries can have serious impact on your case. Insurance adjusters are also eager to offer accident victims quick settlements in order to avoid paying full damages later on. Do not fall for their tricks.
-- Always obtain the police report. As your attorney, I will immediately investigate the accident incident, and will conduct interviews with the attending police officer/s and witnesses of the accident. Having the police report helps to facilitate the investigation process.
-- Reviews your Declaration Sheet to determine your level of medical coverage and policy limits. It is important to know whether or not you have “medical payments” coverage.
-- It is equally important to determine the liability limits of the other driver as well as your own liability coverage. As your attorney, I will examine your policy limits for personal injury and wrongful death claims, along with analyzing the coverage of the liable party.
-- If the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, you must file the required SR-1 Form with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of an accident resulting in property damage to either vehicle in the amount of $500, personal injury, or wrongful death. If you file the SR-1 Form within one year of the incident, you can still use the DMV database to determine whether the other driver was uninsured at the time of the accident. In order to initiate arbitration with your own insurance carrier, you must be able to prove that the at-fault driver doesn't have any insurance coverage. One way to do this is for the DMV to provide you with a “Certificate of No Insurance” upon your submission of the SR-1 form. Another option is to have your attorney obtain a “Declaration of Uninsured Motorist” from the liable party. Your attorney can obtain this information by filing a lawsuit against the liable driver if needed. Successfully illustrating that the driver at fault in your injury accident case did not have insurance coverage becomes more challenging as time goes on. That is why accident victims are always advised to secure sound legal representation as early as possible.
Your own insurance carrier will only consider covering your injury claims after all policies and liability linked to the at-fault driver or vehicle have been exhausted. Evidence of the liable driver's policy limits, as well as evidence showing that he or she wasn't working for another party with insurance coverage, will be required by your insurance carrier. We here at the Law Offices of William C. Bibb are willing and able to do the legwork in such cases, following complex insurance law guidelines to achieve the best results possible.