17 Jun What to do if you’ve been involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver
Overview: Dealing an accident with an insured driver and the aftermath of suffering a personal injury.
Car accidents are no fun. Injuries are no fun. And, even worse, suffering an injury from an accident with an uninsured driver is definitely no fun. This guarantees a lot of confusion and frustration to an already stressful situation.
Drivers in the state of California are required to carry car insurance. In usual traffic incident circumstances, the at-fault driver has insurance that pays for damages and takes care of injuries. All monetary and healthcare damages removed through the other insurance carrier are no longer an issue when the driver at fault has coverage.
But we know all too well that following the law doesn’t always happen. As such, there are numerous uninsured drivers on the road today (nearly 15 percent according to the California Department of Transportation).
When an uninsured driver causes an accident, the victim of the crash may have questions about what to do and how they can recover compensation. So let’s consider some important information regarding uninsured driving that can help you.
A driver is operating their vehicle illegally if they don’t carry the following insurance types:
Bodily Injury Liability
In order to register a vehicle in the state of California, motorists are required under law to carry $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $5,000 in property damage liability coverage per accident.
Property Damage Coverage
California’s minimum insurance coverage for property damage is $5,000. Property damage coverage minimums apply only to the accident victims’ property and not the vehicle of the driver at fault for the wreck.
Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payments coverage is optional in California auto insurance contracts. Purchasing medical payments coverage, known as MedPay for short, covers medical expenses you suffer in an accident, including a collision with an uninsured motorist. Insurance companies limit MedPay based on the amount of coverage you purchase. MedPay is no-fault insurance. Your insurance company must reimburse you under MedPay even if you caused the accident.
Related article(s): What Should You Do If You Were Hit By an Uninsured Driver in California?
What to do (and not do) when hit by an uninsured driver in California
If you are hit by an uninsured driver, you should proceed with the claims process as if you were hit by a driver with insurance.
Do get the other driver’s information* if you can while waiting for police. This includes the other driver’s name, contact information, and driver’s license number.
Do get additional accident scene details such as the make, model, and license plates of any cars involved. Take pictures of the scene, the cars, damage to nearby property, and any skid marks. Include photos or footage of signage that shows what traffic controls were in place, if necessary.
Do report the accident to the police. All accidents should be reported, even minor ones, as a police report is an essential part of the evidence you’ll want when you’re trying to get restitution from the other driver.
Do inform your own insurance company of the accident.
Do seek medical care. Even if you are worried about how to pay for care, it is still important that you seek it. You have to take care of yourself first. If you’ve been injured, call 911 and get help.
Do seek vehicle repairs. While you may have questions about how to pay for your car if the other driver isn’t insured, you should still seek vehicle repairs, especially if doing so is necessary for your daily transportation.
Do call a lawyer. A lawyer can guide you through what to do and not to do after an accident, and can start building your case immediately.
Don’t admit fault. No matter what you do, never admit fault. This can be used against you.
Don’t agree to reaching a settlement without a lawyer. Never accept an uninsured driver’s offer to merely pay for your damages out of pocket unless this offer is reviewed by an attorney.
Don’t assume the worst — there may still be compensation available. When you meet with your attorney, they can guide you through other avenues of compensation.
*If the driver has an insurance policy that’s expired or was canceled, get that information. You’ll at least have some information to provide to a car accident attorney and/or your insurance agent.
Can you file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver?
As we stated above, you want to treat an accident with an uninsured driver as if you were hit by a driver with insurance. However, when it comes to filing a claim, things can get a bit complicated. Here’s why.
California law does allow parties injured in a car accident to sue the person who caused the crash but, an accident with an uninsured driver could be tricky for a couple reasons, linked primarily to monetary concerns:
(1) An at-fault driver who is uninsured may face penalties imposed by the state of California for their failure to obtain insurance, but these penalties will not offer you — a driver or passenger harmed as a result of their negligence — any compensation for your injuries.
(2) While you may maintain the right to file a lawsuit for damages directly against the driver, if a driver doesn’t have insurance, this is often an indication that they will not have the financial means to pay your claim. While this is one option for recovery, it may not be the best one 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 that it would not be worth your or your attorney’s time, especially since any stop in payment would require a return to court.
Your best option when dealing with an uninsured driver accident is to speak with a California personal injury attorney about your rights and how to preserve them.
You have two years from the injury date to file a personal injury claim and three years to file a property damage claim. You may relinquish valuable rights to recover damages if you do not pursue every avenue of recovery.
Related article(s): What To Do When Hit By an Uninsured Driver In California