Oakland Hit and Run Accident Shows Need for Uninsured Motorist Coverage

policyImagine traveling down Highway 880 in the evening and having a car speeding at 100 m.p.h. crash into you and then attempt to flee the scene. That’s exactly what happened to a pregnant woman and her child in Oakland on April 20, 2011. Motorists reported seeing a 2005 Mercedes speeding at over 100 m.p.h. crash into the woman’s car causing it to rollover. The driver of the speeding vehicle then fled the scene, but was later apprehended by the California Highway Patrol.

The odds that this hit and run driver was uninsured are high. Statistics show that there are over 1.3 million uninsured drivers in California alone. Fortunately, you can do something to protect yourself against the uninsured driver.

California law requires that insurance companies include uninsured motorist coverage with every automobile insurance policy sold in the State. The only exception is where the person buying the insurance agrees in writing not to purchase the uninsured motorist coverage.

  • So how does uninsured motorist coverage work?

It applies to any accident where the at fault driver carries no liability insurance. It also applies to hit and run accidents, where the at fault driver has not been caught. What many people do not realize is that their uninsured motorist coverage will even protect them if they are in a bicycle accident or are injured as a pedestrian by an uninsured driver.

  • What is covered by uninsured motorist?

An insured can recover all damages for personal injuries that he or she would have been able to recover against the at fault party up to the full amount of their coverage. This includes compensation for medical expenses, past and future, loss or earnings, past and future, loss of earning capacity, and for pain and suffering associated with one’s injuries.

  • How much is covered?

The insurance company is liable for all damages up to the limits of the insurance coverage. By California law, the minimum amount of coverage for uninsured motorist is $15,000.00/$30,000.00. This means that the most the insurance company would pay out on any uninsured motorist claim would be $15,000.00 to a single individual, or $30,000.00 for the entire claim if more than one person were injured in the automobile accident. $15,000.00 is a very low amount of coverage. Therefore, I would strongly encourage people to obtain uninsured motorist coverage in much larger amounts to protect themselves fully in the event that they are injured by an uninsured driver.

  • Bad Faith Insurance Tactics:

Your insurance company owes you a duty of good faith and fair dealing to settle your claim promptly and fairly once liability is clear. This means that your insurance carrier has to pay you full compensation for all of your injuries and economic losses. What can happen, unfortunately, is that some companies will try and low ball their own insured with unfair offers, or delay in paying claims promptly.

As an Oakland uninsured motorist lawyer, I have represented many clients over the years who have had tremendous battles against the own insurance companies, who refused to pay what the client was legally entitled to. In a recent case involving a Tracy hit and run driver, the insurance company tried to argue that my client’s car was not hit by a hit and run driver, and that the client was making a fraudulent claim. After two years of litigation, the insurance company ended up paying my client the full policy limits of $250,000.00. A second lawsuit was then brought against the insurance company for bad faith in the way it delayed and unfairly defended the claim. The insurance company then ended up paying an additional $250,000.00 to my client to settle the bad faith claim.

If you have been injured in a hit and run car accident, or by an uninsured driver, you should be fully aware of all of your rights against your own insurance company. As with any personal injury claim, you should know all of the do’s and don’t of dealing with insurance companies and adjusters to avoid making a critical mistake which can deflate the value of your claim.

Resource:

Oakland Tribune, Two arrested after violent I-880 hit-and-run crash near Oakland, April 20, 2011

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