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With more than 386,000 total lane miles in California, residents of this state rely on their vehicles to take them to work, school, and all the adventures this region has to offer. Unfortunately, with more vehicles on the roads, there are often more accidents. Equally unfortunate is that more than 16 percent of the drivers operating motor vehicles on the roadways of California are doing so without insurance.
If an uninsured driver injured you, you can still sue them. However, for the reasons discussed below, your case will likely be a lot more complex. An experienced car accident lawyer can explore your legal options and seek the maximum compensation available in your case.
What is the one factor that most impacts the value of a car accident claim? Is it the severity of the injury? The clarity of liability? The income of the injured party before the accident? Those are all indeed factors that can affect the value of your claim.
The most important factor of all, however, is sometimes how much insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance pays nearly all car accident settlements and awards.
California requires most drivers to purchase an auto liability policy with coverage of:
The main reason why drivers drive without insurance is that they can’t afford it. The average driver in California pays around $256 a month—or $3,076 a year—for insurance. There is, however, a low-cost auto insurance program offered by the state available for drivers 16 and over who have a good driving record, drive a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less, and meet income eligibility requirements.
Other reasons for uninsured drivers include:
If an uninsured driver injured you, remain on the scene to exchange contact information with the driver as required by law.
The information that the law requires drivers to exchange with one another after an accident includes:
The driver is also required to provide the name of their insurance carrier and policy number, which they will be unable to do. Collect as much information as possible, and be sure to provide your information and take pictures of the damage of both vehicles, if you can. If your injuries prevent you from exchanging information with the other driver, you should seek medical attention. In all likelihood, the police report of the accident will contain the necessary information.
Normally, when it comes time to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of a car accident, your attorney would send a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This package details the accident and shows the expenses you incurred, along with the full value of your claim and a demand for payment. The insurance provider then can either choose to admit to their insured’s liability and process the claim, deny the claim and provide notification to the claimant along with a reason for the denial, or offer a settlement. A settlement is a sort of compromise, where the insurance company admits to liability but offers to pay less than the value of the claim.
While you do not have an insurance company to send your demand to, you do have three potential options to consider, as described below.
California allows those injured in car accidents to use the civil court system to seek compensation from uninsured drivers for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts they incurred. To do so, you must file your claim in court within two years of the accident.
The difficulty in suing an uninsured driver is not in filing a claim against them or even in obtaining a judgment in your favor if the facts of the case warrant it. The difficulty, rather, is in collecting your award, as many uninsured drivers cannot afford to pay for injury expenses out-of-pocket. You might collect the debt by garnishing the at-fault party’s wages, which can only happen if the at-fault party remains employed and their employer doesn’t pay them in cash.
Suffice it to say: attempting to collect compensation from an uninsured driver is often a long and difficult task.
If you purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, this is often the easiest way to obtain compensation after an accident. However, insurers don’t generally offer this coverage with standard policies in California, but as add-on coverage.
The two incidents that qualify for coverage under this policy include:
Other types of add-on insurance coverage that you have in your policy can also help provide compensation for your expenses, such as personal injury protection (PIP) or Med-Pay policies. Additionally, if you have health insurance coverage from your employer, that can also assist with the medical expenses associated with your injury.
An experienced car accident lawyer might file a first-party claim against your own insurance company in addition to helping you file a third-party claim against an at-fault party’s insurance policy. Many individuals believe that because they seek compensation from their own insurance company, they will meet with immediate compassion, loyalty, and quick service. Unfortunately, insurance companies are no more willing to pay the claims of their insureds as they are to pay third-party claims. An experienced attorney can help make this process easier for you.
California follows a pure comparative negligence system. This means that more than one party can contribute to an accident, with each party taking responsibility for compensating a portion of the claim according to the percentage of liability they bear.
One of the services a car accident attorney can assist you with is determining all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can provide your compensation. Just because the registered owner of the car did not have insurance, perhaps another liable party does.
Examples of other parties who could be potentially liable for your accident include:
Let’s say an uninsured driver injured you. You provided your information to the driver as required by law, and now the driver says that you caused the accident and wants compensation through a claim on your policy. Can that happen?
Yes. In California, uninsured drivers can file a third-party claim on your insurance policy. When this happens, your insurance company will investigate the claim just as they would with any other claim and—if they determine that you were liable—will pay the uninsured driver.
However, the police will undoubtedly learn about the driver’s lack of insurance and the driver may face consequences for driving without insurance. Additionally, the insurance provider will contact you to get your side of the story and obtain any other evidence you gathered, such as photos of the damage to each vehicle.
Posted in: Car Accidents
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