Over fifteen percent (15%) of California drivers do not have automobile insurance even though California Vehicle Code section 16020 mandates minimum financial responsibility to get behind the wheel.
This means that if you're in a car accident, there's a significant chance that the person who hit you does not have auto insurance to pay for the damage to your car, your medical bills, lost income, and the impact your injuries have had on your life.
I was rear-ended on the 55 Freeway in Costa Mesa a few years ago. It was a three car collision and I was the only driver out of the three of us who had auto insurance. Two out of three drivers were uninsured!
Fortunately, you may not be out of luck even if you're hit by an uninsured motorist. Many people have a type of coverage under their own automobile insurance policy called "Uninsured Motorist" coverage that protects them in case they're hit by an uninsured driver. And an uninsured motorist typically includes both someone who does not have auto insurance as well as a hit a run driver whose auto insurance you cannot identify.
To see if you have Uninsured Motorist coverage under your auto insurance policy, log onto your auto insurance account online, review your insurance "Declaration Page" which lists what is covered by your automobile insurance policy, or call your insurance company to find out.
Make Sure You're Adequately Covered
It's important not only to have Uninsured Motorist coverage, but to have enough of it so that it will actually help you. In California, the minimum required insurance policy limits to drive are only $15,000 per person/$30,000 per incident, and many people have those same limits for Uninsured Motorist coverage. This gives you some protection in case you're hit by an uninsured motorist, but not much.
To make sure there is money available in case you suffer a serious injury in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver, you should have at minimum $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, and I'd recommend going even higher than that.
How Much Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Cost?
Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is surprisingly inexpensive. Geico has a tool on its website which allows you to adjust your coverages and it will instantly show you what impact that change will have on your auto insurance premium.
The difference in cost between an uninsured motorist limit of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per incident and the maximum uninsured motorist limit Geico will sell me ($500,000 per incident) is only $28 every 6 months. So for less than $5 per month, you could receive half a million dollars if you're seriously injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver instead of $100,000.
The saddest part of my job as a personal injury lawyer is determining that there is no insurance or very little insurance available to compensate a person who suffered catastrophic injuries or lost a family member in a car crash. I recently spoke to a mother and father who lost their son who was in his early 20s in a motorcycle accident where the available insurance policy limits were only $15,000. No amount of money would bring their son back, but receiving only $15,000 after losing your son is a tragedy and a slap in the face.
Check your auto insurance policy and make sure you are well protected. You can't increase your uninsured motorist limit after you determine the at-fault driver was uninsured, so make sure you're well protected now.
Costa Mesa car accident lawyer Blaise Patzkowski is an advocate for the rights of people injured in car accidents, bike accidents, and pedestrian accidents in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and across California. Mr. Patzkowski has recovered millions of dollars for people injured in car accidents, including collisions where the at-fault driver was uninsured. If you or your family member was hurt in a car, bicycle, or pedestrian accident, please contact Mr. Patzkowski.
Disclaimer: The information here is general information that should not be taken as legal advice. It cannot be guaranteed to be accurate, current or complete. No attorney-client relationship is established between you and our law firm by reading this article. This article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer about the specific facts of your case.