An Uninsured Motorist Lesson for California Drivers

uninsured motoristsIf you watch television, you can’t help but see a lot of commercials. In recent years the insurance industry has stepped up their game in this area. Their commercials have become quite entertaining. I am not endorsing any one company over the other as an insurer however I do like to compare their commercials. I have to say I do love “mayhem” for Allstate. Actor Dean Winters does a great job as a teenage girl in a pink truck, a guard dog while your house is being burglarized and most recently snow on your roof. The people in the Midwest must really appreciate that one these days. Flo, the Progressive lady played by Stephanie Courtney is most annoying. She must be selling policies though because she has been on the air for a long time.

One of the most recent commercials for Farmers Insurance peeked my interest. It is the one featuring actor J.K. Simmons as Professor Nathaniel Burke. He is leading a group of new adjusters through the University of Farmers, each scene pointing out potential hazards that require insurance coverage. I was surprised to learn that they actually call their training center the University of Farmers! In one of the scenes Professor Burke states that one in seven drivers is uninsured. That must be a national figure because I have seen estimates that close to 25% of California drivers are uninsured. That is a scary statistic.

What’s even scarier is how this might affect you if you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and suffered personal injuries. There are a couple of ways this can play out.

Scenario #1 : You are injured in a car accident, the other driver is uninsured and at fault but you have uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy. In this case an uninsured motorist claim can be made against your own policy. As an Oakland personal injury lawyer, I have handled many cases like this and my clients were able to recoup their economic losses and get reimbursed for their medical expenses, and compensation for pain and suffering.

Under California law, your policy must include uninsured coverage unless you decline that coverage in writing. This is guaranteed by Insurance Codes section 11580.2 . All too often these days I see people decline that coverage as a cost savings. The old saying “penny wise and pound foolish” is really appropriate here.
NEVER DECLINE UNINSURED COVERAGE ON YOUR OWN POLICY. This coverage will protect you if you are injured in an accident in your own car, as a passenger in another car, as a pedestrian or bicyclist hit by an uninsured motorist.

I recommend you match the amount of uninsured protection with the amount of your liability protection. For example, if you have a $100,000/$300,000 policy, make sure your uninsured coverage is the same.

Scenario #2. You are injured in a car accident and the at-fault driver is uninsured. You only have liability insurance and have declined uninsured coverage on your own policy. You will not be able to recover. Therefore your medical care will depend solely on your own health insurance and if you are unable to work as a result of the accident or incur other out of pocket expenses you will not be able to recoup them, unless you can actually sue the other driver and collect against him personally–an unlikely outcome. More likely, the other driver will be without any assets or other means of paying a judgment.

It is against the law to drive without insurance and the adverse driver will most likely have their license revoked but that is of little consolation to you as you struggle to pay your medical costs and may be out of pocket for your economic losses. I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure you have adequate uninsured motorist coverage on your policy. Take the time right now to review your policy and make sure you have the appropriate uninsured insurance protection.

Resources:

One in Seven Drivers Have No Insurance, USA Today, September 12, 2011

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