You’re driving along minding your own business when someone blows through a red light and hits you. As a result, you suffer catastrophic injuries. Even worse, the driver was carrying the 15/30/5 minimum amount of auto insurance for bodily injury in California. Those numbers stand for $15,000 per injured person, $30,000 for all parties and $5,000 for property damage.
Given today’s extremely high medical costs, these amounts won’t cover much. Can you sue for more than the auto insurance policy limits? Yes, you can, but it’s not easy. However, your odds improve dramatically if you hire a law firm with experience litigating these complex personal injury cases. The Dominguez Firm has over 30 years of experience successfully handling underinsured motorist cases. Call us at 800-818-1818 for a FREE consultation to see if we can help you.
What follows is more information on your rights if you’re injured in an accident with an underinsured driver.
Are All Drivers in California Required to Carry Auto Insurance?
Yes. According to the California DMV, “insurance (also referred to as financial responsibility) is required on all vehicles operated or parked on California roads.” The DMV allows for other types of insurance besides traditional insurance policies. In total, the four accepted forms of insurance are:
- A cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV
- A self-insurance certificate issued by the DMV
- A traditional motor vehicle liability insurance policy, which is what most drivers carry
- A surety bond for $35,000 issued by a company licensed to do business in California
If someone is caught driving without car insurance in California they are subject to fines ranging from $100 to $250 the first time they’re caught. Their vehicle may also be impounded. If it happens a second time, they’re fined $200-$500 plus penalties and they also run the risk of having their vehicle impounded. These penalties can end up leaving the uninsured driver with a total fine of $1,000 to almost $2,000.
While an uninsured driver will be personally responsible for any damages they cause in an accident, an underinsured driver is different. They’ve shown personal responsibility by carrying auto insurance. Plus, carrying the minimum allowed is not illegal. These facts lead us to the next question.
Can I File a Lawsuit for More Than the Value of a Drivers’ Insurance Policy?
If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a car accident, your medical bills can easily climb into the tens of thousands of dollars in the first six months alone. Finding out the person who hit you carries the minimum allowed for injuries in California can be upsetting, especially at such a trying time. However, an experienced car accident lawyer can look at all of the options available to you:
- Does your own auto insurance policy include underinsured driver coverage? – Some people know they have uninsured driver insurance coverage (a must in Southern California, by the way), but they don’t know if they have underinsured driver coverage too. If you do, that will help make up the difference between the responsible driver’s coverage limits and your accident expenses.
- Were there multiple parties involved in your accident? – If the answer is yes, your lawyer can file claims against the other insurance policies to help put together a fair and just compensation amount for you.
- Does the responsible person have umbrella coverage? – Umbrella insurance provides additional coverage beyond what regular insurance offers. Typically, high-worth individuals carry this coverage, but anyone can have it. It protects them beyond their insurance policy limits. If the person who caused your accident injuries has umbrella coverage, your attorney can tap into it.
- Does the person who hit you have any assets? – Your lawyer may need to go after the defendant’s personal assets if you can’t answer yes to any of the first three questions listed above.
If none of the options listed above are possible, you may still have recourse, especially if the insurance company rejects your claim outright.
What if the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Refuses to Pay My Claim?
If the other driver’s insurance company flat out refuses to settle your claim for the policy limits even when your damages obviously exceed those limits, your attorney can file a bad faith claim against them. And if your case ends up going to court, a jury is allowed to award you damages in excess of the other person’s policy limits.
What Assets can My Attorney Go After?
Contrary to what you might think, the underinsured driver who caused your injuries doesn’t have to have a mansion and luxury vehicles in order for you to collect any damages from them. If they have any assets and/or a job, your attorney can go after them in several ways.
First, if they work, your car accident lawyer can have their wages garnished until they pay off all of the damages you’ve accumulated due to your accident injuries. This is done through a court order. Their employer will receive a notice and automatically deduct a set percentage from their paycheck every pay period. Generally, this is limited to about 25% of the person’s earnings per week.
Your personal injury lawyer may also go after the defendant’s car(s) and savings. If they have any property, they can also try to obtain damages through that. And finally, even valuable items in a safety deposit box such as jewelry are fair game.
If I’m Injured in an Accident, Does My Health Insurance Pay Anything?
If someone else caused your car accident injuries, they are legally responsible for any medical bills you incur. Unfortunately, the driver who caused your injury will rarely be in a hurry to pay up. That leaves you with several choices:
- If you have health insurance of any kind, including Medicare or Medi-Cal, yes, you can use them to pay your medical bills until your case is resolved.
- You may also look to see if your homeowner or rental insurance policy covers medical expenses due to an auto accident.
- If you have no medical insurance, you can receive medical care through a lien. The Dominguez Firm can refer you to our network of medical providers who provide medical care on a lien basis. They receive payment from your final verdict or settlement amount, so you pay nothing upfront.
When the other driver’s insurance company adjuster does call with an offer, do not take it right away. Instead, call The Dominguez Firm immediately. Insurance companies are businesses. Their goal is to make money, not pay out large settlements. Instead, let our award-winning personal injury lawyers handle your claim for you while you concentrate on getting better.
What Happens if I Got Into an Accident With a Company Car?
If you got into an accident with an underinsured driver while driving a company car, then your employer is responsible for any injuries you suffer due to your accident. Since the great majority of employers carry uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage, you should be covered for your injuries. This holds true regardless of whether the employee works for a private company, municipal, state or federal agency.
Note that all of the above only holds true if you were driving the car while carrying out your work duties. For example, if your accident happened on a weekend when you were on your way to the beach, you wouldn’t be covered, unless you had to use the company car to perform certain work tasks that day too.
I May Have Been Partially to Blame for My Accident. Can The Dominguez Firm Still Help Me?
Yes. California is a comparative negligence state. That simply means you can share part of the responsibility for your accident and still sue the other driver for your injuries. A court will determine your final percentage of blame for the accident and subtract that percentage from your final verdict or settlement. So if you won $500,000 but were assessed 25% of the blame, your final settlement amount would be $500,000 – $125,000 (25%) = $375,000.
One word of advice. Before you assign or take any blame for your accident, call The Dominguez Firm and go over the facts of what happened with us. After an accident, it’s common for drivers to be disoriented or in shock. Your version of what happened might not be correct. This is especially true if you were knocked unconscious and had to be rushed to an emergency room. Instead, let our award-winning attorneys and in-house investigators piece together your accident to get to the bottom of what exactly happened that day.
The Underinsured Driver Who Hit Me Was an Undocumented Immigrant. Can Your Firm Help Me Anyway?
As long as the driver who hit you had car insurance, it doesn’t matter whether they were undocumented immigrants or not. Here in California, their immigration status is irrelevant when it comes to your accident injuries.
On the flip side, if you’re an undocumented immigrant who was injured in a crash with an underinsured driver The Dominguez Firm can help you too. And you don’t have to worry about deportation or any other negative action against you. In fact, your immigration status can’t be used against you or even brought up at any point during your case.
Call the Auto Accident Lawyers at The Dominguez Firm
The Dominguez Firm has been helping accident victims throughout Southern California for over 30 years. In that time, we have successfully handled complex cases involving underinsured drivers, multiple defendants, and accidents where liability was in question.
We are a full-service law firm with our own award-winning car accident lawyers, in-house investigators and the resources to take your case to trial if needed. Many other personal injury law firms can’t do the same. The insurance companies and their lawyers are well aware of this. This gives you, our client the kind of leverage the other firms can’t offer.
If you’re worried about the cost of hiring a personal injury attorney, know that The Dominguez Firm works on a contingency basis. That means we receive payment from a percentage of your final settlement or verdict. You don’t have to stress out over upfront or hidden fees when you hire us. And in the unlikely event we aren’t able to obtain any compensation for you, you owe us nothing. In other words, if there is no recovery, there is no fee!
You have nothing to lose and so much to gain from hiring The Dominguez Firm for your underinsured motorist accident claim. Call us today at 800-818-1818 for a free consultation. We can travel to your home or hospital at a moment’s notice.