Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Barry P. Goldberg has seen time and time again the devastating effects of collisions caused by uninsured and underinsured drivers. According to the Insurance Research Council, as many as one in eight drivers on the road in the United States are driving even without the most basic insurance. In California, and in particular areas, the percentage is much higher. There are estimates that 2-4 million drivers are on the road in California without liability insurance!
Although California requires liability insurance under the “Financial Responsibility Law,” this provides little refuge from the many drivers who either fail to abide by the law, or only obtain the most minimum liability coverage required. So—-you have to insure yourself and your family.
- Just what is so special about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage anyway?
Any collision while driving can result in multiple injuries, where damages could include medical bills, recovery for pain and suffering, as well as lost wages. Uninsured and underinsured motorists pose a serious danger to drivers in California because they are often unable to reasonably pay for any injuries they negligently inflict on other drivers. As a result, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is your best protection. “Uninsured motorist” (UM) coverage protects persons owning such insurance from negligent drivers who operate a vehicle without insurance, while “underinsured motorist” (UIM) coverage provides additional coverage only after the underinsured’s policy is exhausted, and only if the UIM coverage exceeds the amount the underinsured’s carrier pays in liability.
- No Uninsured Motorist Insurance? —-Good Luck!
So what happens if you do not have UM/UIM coverage, and you are injured in an accident where no fault of the accident is attributed to you? In the instance of an Uninsured Motorist, your only recourse may be to seek recovery of your injuries through the courts, and even if successful in obtaining a favorable judgment, the Uninsured Motorist may be insolvent and unable or unwilling to pay. If the driver at fault is an Underinsured Motorist, then your recovery will be limited to the amount of liability insurance the Underinsured Motorist purchased.
Complicating things is that the required minimum liability coverage mandated in California is only $15,000, per claimant. This minimum was established in 1974—-and has never been raised! In fact, California has the lowest minimum requirements in the entire United States.
If you or someone you know has been in a significant accident, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage is likely to be implicated. It is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney that knows and understands the nuances of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist law. (A special thanks to Matthew Stearns, J.D. for contributing to this Article.)