What do I do if the Person who hit me Doesn't Have Insurance…
Or Doesn't Have Enough Insurance?
As most of us know, California law requires that every driver have liability insurance. This means that if you get hit by someone driving a car, they are supposed to have some insurance. The trouble is that the law only requires very small insurance limits of for liability insurance. The minimum requirements are: 15/30/5. This is a maximum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in bodily injury coverage and only $5,000 in total property damage coverage. This means that any serious accident would probably not be covered by the minimum limit requirements. And, this assumes the other driver was actually insured at all.
So, let's talk about how this plays out in real life. You get into a moderate traffic collision, the police come and call an ambulance to take you to the hospital. A tow truck tows your car away and you miss a couple days of work because of your headache and sore back and shoulders. The MRI at the hospital shows no broken bones but you feel like you were just hit by a truck, because you were. Only this truck, a 2002 Ford F-150 only had minimum liability coverage.
Your 2015 Toyota Camry was t-boned and has frame damage. The repair estimate is $8,900. You will need to rent a car to get to and from work and run your normal errands. The insurance company for the car that hit you is slow to return your calls and says they are "investigating" coverage because the person with the insurance policy is not the person who was driving the truck. And, they know there will be a "limits" problem because you have more property damage than they have coverage. The other carrier encourages you to get your car repaired through your own company but you have a $1,000 deductible and have already missed two days of work and need to rent a car.
Frustrated and nearing desperation, you call me. I first ask you a couple questions: Did you have liability insurance and a valid license at the time of the accident? Yes. Did you have uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your policy? Yes. What are the limits of the UM/UIM coverage? I don't know. We get a copy of your declarations page and find out your underinsured motorist coverage is 30/60 or more and we are set.
There may be some short term bad news, but the rest of the news is good. We may have to advance the deductible amount to get our car fixed, but we will almost always get that back from the other side in the end. Next, by having our insurance carrier fix our car, we can use the other side's policy to pay for a rental car, and our deductible. Our carrier will then sue the other side to get paid back down the road, so we don't need to deal with that and we are not stuck with their measly $5,000 to fix our car. What is best is the bodily injury limits are now doubled with our UIM coverage. Remember, just because we have a claim and our insurance company pays out money that does not mean our insurance rates will go up. When we are in an accident which is not our fault, our rates don't go up. If our uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage pays out, our rates don't go up. If we use our collision coverage to fix our car, our rates don't go up. We only get "rated" for an accident when the accident is 51% our fault.
So a couple months have gone by, your car is fixed, your neck and back are feeling better and you are just about done with physical therapy and your back to your normal life. What happens now? What happens now is I gather up all medical records, bills, chart notes, wage loss proof, rental bills and any other out of pocket expenses like parking, prescriptions, damaged property, etc. I submit all documents to the other insurance company and begin to negotiate a bodily injury settlement for your accident.
Let's assume we have an ambulance bill for $1,500; a hospital bill for $2,000; doctor bills totaling $600; therapy bills of $3,500 and another $650 in car rental and other incidentals. That's around $8,250 in total bills. With that amount in bills we make a demand for the other side's entire policy of $15,000. They begrudgingly write us a check for $15,000, but we are still not happy.
Next, we make a demand on our own insurance policy's underinsured motorist coverage. We demand another $15,000 because that is all that is left on the table. We ultimately negotiate a settlement with our carrier for $12,000 additional dollars and our total settlement is $27,000. Now I go back to all medical providers and negotiate settlements with them. I will likely be able to reduce all medical bills by at least 33%. This means that of our $27,000, we only have to pay back around $4,200, and the balance of $22,800 is remaining. You will have to pay your lawyer out of that fee, but the moral to the story is that underinsured or uninsured motorist claims can be even better than claims where the other side has a large insurance policy.
In the mean time, call your insurance agent and make sure your have underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage and make sure it's coverage which is higher than 15/30. Mine is 250/500, the same as my liability limits.
If you or someone you care about has been injured in an auto accident, work accident or any other injury large or small, call us with any questions. We cannot take every case but we do handle both large and small cases. Call today:
Valley Attorney Group – (888) 764-4340 or (818) 783-5700 or visit us: