Auto insurance is designed to cover the costs of property damage and medical expenses related to car accidents. When people who cause accidents do not have insurance or fail to carry enough insurance to cover accident costs, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage comes into play.
What Is Uninsured/Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage?
When you sign up for your auto insurance policy, you can choose different forms of coverage. You can carry the minimum amount of liability insurance that California requires, which according to the California DMV is $15,000 for injury/death for one person, or you can add on other forms of coverage—including uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to pay for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages in the event that the driver at-fault does not carry any auto insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage picks up where an at-fault driver’s coverage stops. For instance, if the other driver only has the minimum liability insurance, you can file a claim with your own insurance provider to cover the remaining costs associated with your injury.
Drivers can choose different ranges for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Limits for benefits typically range from as little as $20,000 all the way up to $1 million in coverage. To determine how much insurance coverage you may need above and beyond another driver’s, consider your vehicle’s value, your medical insurance benefits, and access to workplace disability benefits.
Understanding How Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works
Many people mistakenly believe they have access to the total amount of coverage they invest in for uninsured/underinsured motorist claims. However, this is not the case. The type and severity of injuries suffered and the amount of insurance the other driver carries will affect the benefits you receive from your own insurance provider.
For instance, if you were in a car accident in the Inland Empire, and someone T-boned you in an intersection while texting and driving, you should initially look to that person’s insurance provider to pay your claim. If that person only carried the minimum liability insurance, however, you may only have access to $15,000—an amount that may not cover medical expenses after a serious injury.
A car accident attorney may explore filing a personal injury claim against the individual responsible, but if a driver does not have the financial means to pay a settlement, filing a claim may not make practical sense. After exploring other possible courses of action such as a third party lawsuit against an employer or an auto manufacturer, your attorney may advise filing a claim to receive uninsured/underinsured coverage benefits under your policy.
Using this type of coverage will not raise your rates. However, your ultimate payout may not reach the full limits of your coverage. Under state law, you can only receive the maximum coverage available minus what the other insurance company paid you (so $15,000). If you had $150,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then the maximum amount you can obtain is now $135,000.
Do I Need to Invest in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
The California Department of Insurance states that drivers must be offered this coverage from their insurance providers, but they can choose to not purchase it. That being said, it’s a good practice to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for peace of mind and financial security. You never know if another driver has insurance or if it will provide enough compensation to cover the costs of your injuries. After a serious accident, it may prove invaluable in offsetting medical costs and lost wages during recovery.
When you compare insurance policies, look carefully at the fine print. Understand what you will need to present in the event of an accident and the amount of coverage you will receive. Premiums may also vary significantly between insurance providers. Choose a company you feel confident will support your needs as a beneficiary.
If you are in an auto accident, you might have trouble filing a claim after the accident or experience issues securing fair compensation. You should consider speaking with an experienced car accident attorney in San Bernardino to assist you.