Being in a car accident is never a pleasant experience, but it can be a complete nightmare when the other driver does not have insurance. Although drivers are required to have insurance in California, the California Department of Transportation estimates that nearly 15 percent of motorists on the road are uninsured.
If you were injured or your car was damaged during an accident with an uninsured driver, it is important to consult with an auto accident attorney to find out your legal options. There are two courses which you may pursue to be compensated for your losses: filing a claim against your own insurance company for uninsured motorist benefits or suing the uninsured driver for damages.
Filing an Uninsured Driver Claim
The easiest way to be compensated for injuries or damages for an accident with an uninsured driver is to seek compensation through your own insurance company by filing an Uninsured Motorist Coverage Claim. Many states now require Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) and although California currently does not, insurance companies must offer it and obtain a signed waiver if you choose not to buy.
UM coverage usually functions with the same limits as the liability coverage you have on your policy. The UM coverage will pay for medical bills, cover any lost wages and economic expenses as well as non-economic expenses, such as pain and suffering.
Essentially, UM takes over as liability coverage for the uninsured at-fault driver and you must negotiate a settlement with your insurer. Hiring an attorney to help you through the process is advisable, particularly if you have sustained anything more than a minor injury. Insurance companies typically require a signature from the uninsured driver stating they do not have insurance before paying you.
If you do not have UM coverage, you may still be able to receive some compensation from your policy.
- Collision Coverage – You can have your vehicle repaired under your collision coverage and the insurance company will pay for it. The company may or may not charge a deductible.
- Medical Payments Coverage – If you have medical coverage you may receive compensation for medical bills up to the limit of your policy. Typically there will be no deductible, though it is best to check your individual policy.
It is best to opt into UM coverage as it is very inexpensive relative to the protection you receive. Having it is well worth it, considering the expenses and hassle it helps you avoid with an uninsured driver.
Suing the Other Driver
If you do not have UM coverage and want compensation, the only other option is to file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver. This option is generally undesirable from a financial standpoint as uninsured drivers typically have very little if any, money available.
The court may set up a payment plan option for the uninsured driver if they are found to have some money. However, payments may be so small it would not be worth your or your attorney’s time, especially since any stop in payment would require a return to court. Running a credit check may reveal some assets in which case a lawyer might file a lien freezing the assets to carry out the lawsuit.
Consult an Attorney
Regardless of which action you choose to pursue, contacting an auto accident attorney is crucial. Call The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers to get a free consultation. Our lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you get the most compensation possible. We have offices in Temecula, Oceanside, Escondido, and San Diego, and always offer an initial consultation at no cost.