You can’t always count on other people to do the right thing when it comes to their auto insurance. Unfortunately, many people drive with no insurance or too little coverage. Here’s what to do to protect you and your family.
Understand State Minimum Liability Coverage
California law requires you carry liability coverage to help pay for injuries or damage to others when you are responsible. However, minimum coverage is very low and often inadequate for proper protection. California minimum coverage includes:
Bodily Injury – Maximum coverage of $15,000 for the death or injury of each person with total coverage of $30,000.
Property Damage – $5,000 for damage to another person’s property.
California has many underinsured drivers. The Insurance Information Institute estimates 14.7% of drivers do not have sufficient coverage to cover the expenses associated with road accidents and injuries.
Consider Additional Protection
California drivers can buy additional uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance to fill the gap between the other driver’s coverage and what you’re entitled to receive when you are not at-fault in an accident. Without coverage, your only recourse is a lawsuit in hopes of a settlement.
Unfortunately, statistics show the likelihood of recouping these losses is very low. Studies show almost half of uninsured drivers cannot afford insurance and 32% earned under $20,000.
You can buy additional coverage through your existing insurer that handles your liability coverage. It protects you even if you’re walking or riding a bicycle if you’re struck by an uninsured or underinsured vehicle. Available coverage includes Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI), Underinsured motorist (UIM), and Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD). With the proper coverages in place, you won’t need to worry about whether or not the other driver has insurance – you’ll be protected either way.
Call The Police
If someone’s injured, seek medical help and then call the police. A police report is important evidence if you need to file an insurance claim. Remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive and record as much information as possible such as the license plate number, make, model and color of the vehicle, and the location.
Ask the driver for identification and record witness contact information. If you have a cellphone, photograph the vehicles, driver, and surrounding area. If the driver flees the scene, the information you collect may be the only leads for the police to pursue the driver.
Submit Insurance Claim
Your insurance company will review your claim to determine fault and compensation. If the driver is underinsured and at-fault, they’ll seek compensation from their insurance company, up to their policy limits. If costs exceed their policy limits, you receive compensation for costs associated with injuries and damages from your UIM policy.
File DMV Report
California law requires you to report an accident to the DMV within 10 days if someone’s injured or killed or property damage exceeds $1,000. You, your insurance company, or your lawyer must complete a Form SR-1 Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California.
California law bars insurance premium increases after an accident when you are not at-fault, so filing a claim through underinsured/uninsured policies should not cause any issues providing you drive safely and adhere to California law.
Discuss your insurance needs with your independent insurance agent. They will advise which coverage you need and possible options. If you have collision insurance you may not need all forms of uninsured/underinsured coverage as it may cover vehicle damage, but it does not cover injuries. You may need additional medical coverage for complete protection.