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What To Do if You’re in an Accident With an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist

Under California law, drivers need to purchase liability insurance for their motor vehicles. However, there are many drivers who either do not have insurance or who carry insurance with policy limits that are inadequate to compensate victims of accidents they cause.

California only requires a driver to carry insurance of at least $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person or $30,000 for bodily injury or death per accident, no matter how many people may have been in the vehicle and were injured. If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, your medical bills, expenses for future medical treatment and lost wages will most likely exceed those coverage limits.

To protect yourself from such an eventuality, you can purchase uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage for your motor vehicle. If you are in an accident, UM/UIM coverage allows you to seek payment from your insurance carrier for the amount of medical bills, lost wages and other out-of-pocket costs that were not paid to you because the driver at fault didn’t have insurance or had insurance with low policy limits. California mandates that your motor vehicle insurance carrier offer UM/UIM coverage but does not require you to purchase it. Still, it is not very expensive and, given the potential high cost of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it’s a good idea to get that protection.

You also have the option of purchasing medical payments coverage, known as MedPay. This is a form of no-fault insurance for hospital bills and other medical expenses suffered in an accident, whether or not the other driver was uninsured or underinsured. MedPay does not cover lost wages or other damages.

Even if you have UM/UIM and/or MedPay coverage, they may not be enough to fully compensate you for your damages in a case of serious injuries or loss of a family member. In that event, you have the additional option of taking the other driver to court and obtaining a judgment. A lawsuit’s effectiveness depends upon the other driver having sufficient assets and income to devote to paying the judgment. However, a judgment can be used to seize property, garnish wages, block tax returns and take other legal enforcement actions. What’s more, the driver’s debt to you continues until it is paid off or discharged.

At Patterson Law, we have experience representing clients who have been in motor vehicle accidents involving uninsured and underinsured drivers. If you or a family member is injured in these circumstances, we can assist you in making insurance claims and in litigating in court as may be necessary. We primarily serve clients in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, though we work with clients from Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. Initial consultations are free. Call us at 888-479-4589 or contact us online.