What happens if you get hit by an uninsured driver?
Whether you are breezing down an LA freeway or pulling out of your driveway when it happens, a car accident derails your day and can possibly impact life for years to come. The situation is even more complicated when the driver that hit you is uninsured.
An accident with an uninsured driver can flip-flop the relationship you have with your own insurer. Instead of supporting you in an attempt to obtain compensation from the at-fault party, in an uninsured motorist claim, your carrier becomes the adversary who seeks to minimize your compensation. Understandably, it is in your best interest to have an aggressive and experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer by your side.
Difficulty in collecting from an uninsured driver
Under California’s liability laws, the party whose negligence caused an accident is responsible for the losses it causes. Ideally, that driver has insurance that complies with the legal requirements and it is adequate to cover both your property damage and the financial losses caused by injury.
When the other driver is uninsured, this does not mean they are not responsible for the accident but it does mean that you do not have a reliable way to obtain the compensation due. Financial recovery would instead entail filing a lawsuit against the driver and enforcing a judgment. If the driver did not have adequate funds (which is likely when they were driving without insurance) then you may need to take action like foreclosing on a home. Even this may be unproductive; if the driver was not intoxicated at the time of the accident, the debt may be dischargeable in bankruptcy.
To avoid this unfortunate situation, it makes sense to instead pursue an uninsured motorist claim.
Understand your auto insurance policy
In California, all vehicles driven or parked on the state’s roadways are required to be covered by valid automobile insurance that protects other drivers from the policyholder’s liability. Under the state financial responsibility laws, auto insurance companies are also required to offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage with each policy, though the policyholder has the ability to reject these optional coverages.
If you are struck by an uninsured driver, you need to have UM coverage available under your policy in order to collect under your own policy. If you opted out of this coverage when you obtained the policy, it could have a disastrous effect on your financial situation. Speak with your insurance agent if you do not have a current copy of your insurance policy and discuss the terms of coverage with a California car accident lawyer.
Comply with state laws and policy requirements regarding notice
It is important to understand that an insurance policy is a contract so not following the terms is considered a breach that could lead to denial of coverage. A standard feature in auto policies is a notice provision. To comply, you must notify the insurer of an accident in a reasonable amount of time. While it may be debatable what amount of time is reasonable, the company needs to have time to get involved and investigate the claim. Unnecessarily delaying reporting the accident could lead to the company trying to deny coverage.
This is not the only reporting requirement. The California Department of Motor Vehicles requires drivers – whether or not they were at fault, to file a report, Traffic Accident Report SR 1, within 10 days of the accident. The report is required if property damage is more than $1,000, or if someone was injured or killed.
Filing a UM claim
One of the most disheartening aspects of an uninsured motorist claim is being put in an adversarial position across from your own insurance carrier. Instead of fighting the other driver’s insurance carrier for you, your own carrier will be the party arguing that your damages are minimal or that you had pre-existing injuries that lessen the value of your claim.
This complicated relationship is much easier to navigate when you trust a personal injury attorney to advocate on your behalf. This puts an experienced attorney at the helm, handling the communication, negotiation, and litigation so you can focus on recovery.
Understanding your rights in Southern California
You need to act quickly after an uninsured driver accident in California. The team at Ellis Law understands the process and proudly advocates for those who have been injured by someone else’s negligence.
If you have been injured, speak with a Los Angeles car accident lawyer at Ellis Law today. Consultations are free and confidential. We never accept a fee up front; we only get paid when you do. Contact our Los Angeles office or one of the many other offices we have conveniently located around Southern California.