Being injured in a car accident is bad enough, but finding out the at-fault driver is uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) makes things even worse. This scenario happens daily in California, where the rate of uninsured motorists is higher than the national average. And if you live in the Los Angeles area, be aware the city ranks first in the nation for the number of uninsured drivers. This translates into over 16% of all drivers in LA and doesn’t even take underinsured drivers into account. Given all of this information, understanding your rights and the necessary steps to take is crucial.
In this guide, we’ll break down what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. We’ll cover essential topics such as, what types of car insurance coverage you should have, what to do immediately after an accident with an UI or UIM and how a personal injury attorney with experience handling car accident claims involving uninsured and underinsured drivers can help.
What Are the Car Insurance Requirements in California?
Before we delve into the specifics of dealing with UI and UIM, let’s look at the insurance requirements mandated by the state of California. All drivers must have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum liability limits. These minimums are:
- Bodily injury liability: $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident
- Property damage liability: $5,000 per accident
This means that someone with the minimum liability limits can cover up to $15,000 in bodily injury damages to one person, $30,000 in bodily injury damages to multiple people, and $5,000 in property damage per accident.
One important note: uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is not automatically included in car insurance policies in California. Without it, you could be on the hook for all of your accident expenses in an accident with an uninsured driver. If the driver who hit you was underinsured, the limits outlined above are woefully inadequate should you suffer serious injuries.
Certain injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or spinal cord injuries can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs over the person’s lifetime. You can file a claim for the $15,000 limit, but if you don’t have UIM coverage, you’d be on the hook for the remainder of your medical expenses.
We strongly recommend having the following optional forms of car insurance coverage, especially number 3:
- Collision coverage: This helps pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident, regardless of who is at fault.
- Comprehensive coverage: Pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged due to theft, vandalism, fire, or other covered perils.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: This helps pay for your medical expenses and other damages if you are injured in an accident caused by a driver who does not have insurance or who has less than the state’s minimum liability limits.
Should I Accept an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver’s Offer to Pay for My Expenses Out-of-Pocket?
At The Dominguez Firm, we strongly advise against accepting an out-of-pocket offer from an uninsured or underinsured driver following an auto accident. While the offer may seem tempting, especially when you’re facing mounting medical bills and property damage costs, it can put you in a vulnerable position and jeopardize your chances of receiving fair compensation.
Here are several compelling reasons why you should not accept an out-of-pocket payment:
- Underestimating the Full Extent of Damages: This is arguably the most important reason. Determining the true cost of your injuries and losses can be complex and requires expertise. Without professional assessment, you can easily underestimate the value of your claim, leaving you with a huge financial burden.
- Unreliable Promises of Payment: Even if the driver appears financially capable, there’s no guarantee they will honor their promise to pay. Accepting an out-of-pocket settlement limits your recourse if they renege on their agreement.
- Waiving Legal Rights: By accepting an out-of-pocket payment, you may inadvertently waive your legal rights to pursue further compensation. Personal injury lawyers understand the complexities of personal injury law and can protect your interests more effectively.
- Unforeseen Future Medical Expenses: If your injuries require ongoing medical care, an out-of-pocket settlement may leave you financially unprepared for future treatment costs. The money from a personal injury claim settlement or verdict can provide a safety net for long-term medical needs.
Instead, hire an experienced car accident attorney who knows and can fight for your rights.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My UI or UIM Accident Claim?
Since your car insurance company will be handling the bulk of your claim, you may wonder whether you need a personal injury lawyer. The short answer is yes.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. They will do everything they can to pay the least amount possible for your claim, even if you are their customer. This is especially true in UI and UIM cases, where the insurance company may have little incentive to settle fairly since they can’t go after the other driver’s insurance. Instead, let your personal injury lawyer deal with the insurance company on your behalf.
Here are just a few of the reasons why you should hire a lawyer to handle your UI or UIM claim:
Insurance companies will try to lowball you. No matter how severe your injuries or how much coverage you have, insurance companies will always try to offer you the least amount of money possible. They do this because they know most people don’t have the time or resources to fight back.
Insurance companies will treat you differently if you have a lawyer. When you have a lawyer on your side, insurance companies know that they are dealing with someone who knows the law and will not be taken advantage of. As a result, they will be more likely to negotiate in good faith and offer you a fair settlement.
A lawyer can handle all paperwork and negotiations for you. Dealing with an insurance claim can be time-consuming and stressful. That’s compounded if you’re recovering from serious injuries. A personal injury lawyer can handle all aspects of your case for you, so you can focus on getting better.
A lawyer can help you get the maximum compensation you deserve. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to value your claim and will fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle your UI or UIM claim on your own. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today to get the help you need.
Here are some additional benefits of hiring a lawyer for your UI or UIM claim:
- Lawyers have the experience and knowledge to navigate the complex legal system
- Lawyers can help you understand your rights and options
- Lawyers can protect you from unfair insurance practices
- Lawyers can help you get the best possible outcome for your case
If you were injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. Reputable personal injury law firms work on a contingency basis. This simply means they receive payment from a percentage of your final settlement or verdict amount. You don’t have to pay any upfront legal fees or worry about out-of-pocket expenses. In short, you can and should hire a personal injury lawyer for your UI or UIM accident injury claim.
Does Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover Pedestrians and Bicycle Riders?
If you have UI and UIM coverage, you are most likely protected if you’re injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver while riding a bicycle or walking. One caveat; review the specifics of your insurance policy to understand the limits and conditions of your UM and UIM coverage. Policy limitations can vary, and some policies may have exclusions or specific conditions that apply to pedestrians or cyclists.
What Steps Should I Take If I’m Hit by an UI or UIM?
Here are the steps to take immediately after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
- Prioritize Safety: Your safety comes first. If possible, move to a safe place and check yourself and others for injuries.
- Seek Medical Attention: Even seemingly minor injuries need attention. You could have dangerous internal injuries and not know it. Also, some injuries may not show up immediately. It’s crucial to seek medical help promptly.
- Call the Police: Call 911. If you can’t do so, have someone call for you. A police report is a vital piece of evidence.
- Get information: Only take steps 4 and 5 if you’re well enough to do so. Take photos of the license, registration and license plate of the driver involved. Don’t forget to get the contact information of any eyewitnesses, including their full names, email addresses and phone numbers.
- Document the Scene: Take pictures of the accident scene, including vehicle damage, the surrounding area and anything that might have contributed to the accident.
- Consult a Car Accident Lawyer: Reach out to a car accident lawyer experienced in dealing with uninsured or underinsured motorist claims. They can guide you through the process and ensure your rights are protected.
Take step 6 immediately. Waiting can greatly hurt your claim. There are several reasons for this. For one, defense attorneys will question why you waited and whether your injuries were actually caused by your accident. Second, vital evidence will be lost if you wait.
Can I Sue the Driver Who Hit Me Directly?
You can, but it’s probably not practical. If the driver doesn’t have car insurance or poor coverage, they probably don’t have the money to cover your losses, even if you win the lawsuit. There are rare instances, however, where the UI or UIM does have assets worth pursuing. An experienced personal injury lawyer can investigate the driver’s financial situation and advise you if pursuing a claim directly against them is worthwhile.
What Happens if I’m Injured in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
We’ve prepared an entire page on this topic, which you can find here. It provides extensive information on your options and how our personal injury attorneys can help if you’re injured in a hit-and-run accident.
What Compensation Could I be Entitled to for My UI or UIM Car Accident Injuries?
If you were seriously injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your damages. Economic damages compensate you for your financial losses, while non-economic damages compensate you for your emotional losses.
Medical expenses make up the biggest part of an accident victim’s economic damages, but there are also other possible damages under this category.
- Medical expenses: This includes the cost of your doctor’s visits, hospital stays, medications, surgeries and other medical treatments.
- Lost wages: If you can’t work due to your injuries, you can recover your lost wages.
- Lost earning capacity: If your injuries have reduced your ability to earn a living in the future, you may be able to recover compensation for your lost earning capacity.
- Property damage: If your car was damaged in the accident, you can recover the cost of repairs or replacement.
Non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for the emotional toll your accident injuries have had on your life. These damages can include:
- Pain and suffering: This includes physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: If your injuries have impaired your ability to enjoy life’s activities, you may be able to recover compensation for your loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium: If your injuries have affected your relationship with your spouse, you may be able to recover compensation for your loss of consortium.
California has no cap on how much can be awarded in non-economic damages, which means it usually makes up the bulk of an accident victim’s final settlement or verdict.
How Are My Damages Calculated?
The value of your damages will depend on the severity of your injuries, the extent of your financial losses, and the impact of your injuries on your life. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you calculate the value of your losses and ensure that you receive the full compensation you deserve.
Contact the Experienced UI and UIM Accident Attorneys at The Dominguez Firm Today
If you were injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, call The Dominguez Firm today for a free consultation at (800) 818-1818. As a full-service law firm, we have the resources to thoroughly investigate your accident, provide quality legal representation and fight for the maximum compensation you’re legally entitled to for your injuries. UI and UIM accident cases are complex.
Don’t hire just anyone. Let the experienced litigation attorneys at The Dominguez Firm help you find justice.
My experience was good. They made sure to kept me in the loop and made sure to let me know what was going on the whole time. My mom has used other attorneys and this experience was beyond better. I would definitely recommend them!
— Ashley Magana
The attorneys were always available and answered my questions. I would recommend them to anyone. Zoe is the best!
— Janet Salazar
My experience with The Dominguez Firm and the attorneys was really good. They were very informative and always returned my calls.
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