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Even the least damaging car accidents can turn into major headaches. The stress and complications can grow exponentially when you discover that the at-fault driver is uninsured. The good news is that there are laws in California that offer both drivers and pedestrians adequate protection from uninsured motorists.
Even though most states require all drivers to carry auto insurance, many people get away with driving without coverage. A 2011 study carried out by the Insurance Research Council found that in 2009 about one of seven drivers was uninsured. In California every driver is required by law to have insurance, to assign some form of financial responsibility to anyone who operates a motor vehicle. Almost 20% of California drivers do not have any form of insurance, ranking it the seventh highest state of population without insurance coverage.
California law requires auto insurance companies to provide any driver with some form of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage upon request. Uninsured motorist coverage exists to protect insured motorists from other drivers who may cause an accident and have inadequate insurance coverage to pay for the damages. The bare minimum insurance coverage allowed by California law is $15,000 per person per accident, to a total of $30,000 per accident, and property damage of at least $5,000. Unfortunately, minimal coverage usually does not cover all expenses in a typical car accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, most or all of your expenses should be covered. If not, you will likely have to file a lawsuit against the motorist.
Anyone involved in an car accident with an uninsured motorist is entitled to compensation from the other driver. Such compensation includes medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, projected loss of future wages, out of pocket expenses, pain and suffering and loss of ability to participate in everyday activities.
When involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, primary steps to take reflect those of any other typical accident. First, assess the situation to ensure that everyone in the crash is safe and call the police. Next, gather as much information as possible. This includes name, address, driver’s license information, license plate number, make model and year of the car, witness statements, photos of the aftermath of the crash and any other surrounding factors that may be able to prove fault. Remember to be cautious with your language, and to avoid key phrases like “I’m sorry!” that could later prove to be incriminating to you. Uninsured drivers especially will use such language to get out of any expenses they may have to pay. Finally, ask the officer for a copy of the police report.