Although having auto insurance is legally required in California, an estimated 15% of registered vehicles in the state are completely uninsured and countless others are underinsured. These uninsured motorists place a financial burden on the rest of the drivers on our roads, forcing law-abiding drivers to pay the price for accidents caused by uninsured motorists. So, what can you do to protect yourself against uninsured motorists?
Armed with the knowledge that a large number of drivers do not have insurance and thus will not be able to pay in the event of an accident, one thing that you can do is to purchase your own insurance coverage for this precise circumstance. Purchasing “uninsured motorist coverage” as part of your own insurance policy will allow you to recover the expense of an accident when the other driver doesn’t. This type of insurance coverage kicks in when the other driver doesn’t have insurance or in the event of an accident caused by a hit and run driver. In addition to protecting against drivers who are completely uninsured, you can also purchase “underinsured motorist coverage”, which provides recovery when the other driver has some insurance but not enough to cover the full costs of the accident. When you purchase auto insurance, your company should present you with both of these options. Without this specific type of coverage in your own policy, it is possible that your collision coverage could be used to pay for damages.
If you are the unfortunate victim of a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, then you should make sure to get as much information about the other driver as possible. This means writing down their name, drivers license number and contact information, including address and phone number. You should also record the license plate numbers of all the vehicles that were involved in the accident. In addition, you should write down the name and contact information for any witnesses who saw the accident. Finally, make sure you call the police and get a copy of the police report for your records.
There are also a few things that you should not do if you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist. While it is okay to tell the other person what types of insurance you have, avoid telling them how much insurance you carry. Do not accept any money from the other person or you may forfeit your right to file claims in the future. Do not agree to simply forget about the accident.
If you have been the victim of an auto accident involving an uninsured motorist, it is likely that your first–and maybe only–source of recovery will be your own insurance company. Recovering from the other party may unfortunately involve taking legal action against them. While successful recovery is not impossible, it is more difficult.