Do I Need a Lawyer If I Do Not Have Car Insurance?
When you are involved in a car accident in California, the best position you can be in is to have car insurance. Not only does it insulate you from personal financial liability, but it can provide a lawyer for your defense and even cover your losses if you suffer an injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
If you do not have car insurance, you are still always better off being represented by one of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers. Here are some factors to consider.
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As a potential plaintiff
Are you likely to be the plaintiff or the defendant in a lawsuit? This is not always clear-cut; one driver may be entirely at fault or more than one driver may be partially to blame. An injured driver who is not at fault will typically be able to recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance without relying on his own insurance. But if the other party is uninsured, then the injured driver may be entitled to recover compensation under his own uninsured motorist coverage. If you are injured as a driver and not at fault but neither you nor the at-fault driver has insurance, recovery options may be limited.
As a potential defendant
The two most valuable features of an auto insurance liability policy are the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify. The duty to defend means the insurance company will hire a lawyer to defend the insured against claims arising from an event covered by the policy. The duty to indemnify means the insurance company will pay the losses for which the insured is legally liable, up to the policy limits and in accordance with the policy terms.
Without liability insurance coverage, a driver will need provide for his own defense and will be personally liable for the damages he has caused. If you are driving without car insurance and cause an accident, a plaintiff may be able to obtain a judgment against you. This can lead to garnishment, foreclosure, or other collection consequences.
Dangers of driving without insurance
Under California financial responsibility laws, car insurance or a substitute such as a cash deposit with the DMV is required for all vehicles operated or parked on California roadways. For private passenger vehicles, auto insurance policies must meet the minimum coverage stated in the statutes, which is currently $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 in property damage. Drivers who do not do not meet the financial responsibility requirement can have their vehicle registration suspended, receive a citation, or have the vehicle impounded.
If you are driving without insurance and someone else causes an accident, you may very likely still be caught. Under California law, it is necessary to file a traffic accident report, SR-1, with the Department of Motor Vehicles for any accidents that occur on CA streets, highways, or private property if the accident resulted in death or property damage of at least $1,000. The report must be filed within 10 days of the accident, regardless of fault. If you do not list insurance information on the form, your license will be suspended.
Uninsured motorist claims in California
If you were at fault and the other driver files an uninsured motorist claim against his own insurance policy, that is not the end of the story. Sometimes the insurance carrier will pay the claim and be on its way. However, when an insurance carrier pays money owed by someone else (such as the negligent uninsured driver), it retains a right of subrogation. This gives the insurer the right to sue the negligent party for any amount that the insurer paid because of the negligence.
Often when a driver is uninsured, it is a sign that he does not have money to chase through a subrogation lawsuit. This is not always the case, though. If there is a chance you could become the target of a subrogation lawsuit, it is important to talk to speak with a Southern California personal injury attorney will know what to look for to protect your interest.
The issues that arise in a traffic accident usually fall well outside the scope of experience of most people. If you have been involved in an accident, call one of our Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Law. With locations conveniently located in Los Angeles and across Southern California, we strive to meet you where you are and fight for your rights.