Underinsured drivers are estimated to be 20% to 50% of all motorists in California.
An “underinsured” motorist is a driver that has liability insurance, typically the state minimum, but that amount of insurance is insufficient to pay for either the property damage or bodily injury damages, or both, inflicted on you and your family for his negligent driving. In determining whether you were hit by an underinsured motorist, California law requires that both the liability insurance of both the driver and the owner of the negligent vehicle be compared to your Uninsured Motorist policy limits. Accordingly, it is critical that your lawyer immediately determine if the negligent vehicle is owned by someone other than the negligent driver.
If the liability insurance for the negligent vehicle is less than the Uninsured Motorist coverage that you carry, it is considered an “Underinsured Motor Vehicle” pursuant to California Law. The California Insurance Code automatically incorporates Underinsured Motorist Coverage into every California automobile policy that carries Uninsured Motorist coverage. You probably have Underinsured Motorist insurance and were not even aware of it! At the Injury Law Professionals, we have been shocked by how many “so-called” personal injury attorneys either did not know or does not understand how the underinsured motorist statute and laws operate.
California Underinsured Motorist coverage is triggered after the liability limits of the negligent vehicle is exhausted. It is critical in every Underinsured Motorist case that your attorney attempt to obtain the negligent vehicle’s liability limits as soon as practical. This will inevitably involve a “policy limits” demand. A proper “policy limits” demand requires legal skill and judgment wherein the negligent driver’s insurance company is given a limited and specific opportunity to pay the inadequate liability limits according to certain specific terms; 1) reliable disclosure of the available liability policy limits; and 2) actual payment of that liability limits. This must be done at the earliest opportunity in order to take full advantage of California’s Underinsured Motorist Laws.
Once the negligent driver’s insurer verifies and actually pays the liability policy limits, it is critical to make an effective demand to your insurance company for the underinsured motorist benefits. It is the custom of our office to immediately demand underinsurance arbitration as an alternative to the insurance company paying the underinsured motorist benefits. That way, no time is lost and you have taken the next step towards finalizing the case even if your insurance company unreasonably refuses to pay for a fair settlement beyond the negligent driver’s liability policy limits.
Arbitration of Uninsured Motorist cases and Underinsured Motorist cases is mandatory if there is disagreement as to the value of the claim. Most underinsured arbitrations can be completed within 90 days after receipt of the negligent driver’s liability policy limit. As an expert in uninsured and underinsured motorist law, and after handling hundreds of arbitrations, Barry P. Goldberg is well equipped to obtain great results, promptly, in most cases.