Uninsured Motorist Coverage – What is it, and do I need it?

Should I Purchase Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

Think about how many miles you travel by car per day. Think about how many other drivers you encounter throughout a given day. Now think about how many of those drivers do not have insurance.

In 2011, the Insurance Research Council estimated that chances are approximately one in seven that a driver in the United States is uninsured. Chances are probably even greater for Southern California drivers, who share the road with many uninsured drivers from Mexico every day.

Getting into a car accident is stressful, no matter what the circumstances. Being involved in an accident where the other driver is uninsured can be life changing. Luckily, there are some preventative measures you can take to protect yourself – and one of those things is purchasing uninsured motorist insurance. This article presents some commonly asked questions and answers about uninsured motorist protection.

What typically happens if the other driver is at fault for the accident?

If the other driver has insurance, you usually will be able to recover only the amount of insurance the other (at fault) driver decided to purchase. It is important to note that California requires drivers to purchase only $15,000 of liability insurance ($15,000 per injured person, and $30,000 per total occurrence).

What types of damages can I recover from the other driver?

The amount you attempt to recover typically needs to cover your medical expenses (x-rays, treatments, physical therapy, etc.) and lost wages resulting from your injuries. Often times, the amount recovered from the other driver (if anything) is not enough to cover damages resulting from the accident.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage can help cover costs resulting from a car accident when the uninsured motorist is at fault. This includes a hit and run driver. UM coverage is an add-on coverage that is not mandatory by the state, and is not included in the “minimum” policy insurers offer. Generally, a small UM coverage add-on is very inexpensive; sometimes as low as an extra $5 per month.

What type of costs does uninsured motorist protection typically cover?

Medical damages, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

How can I buy uninsured motorist coverage?

You can purchase uninsured motorist coverage from the same provider you bought liability insurance from. I

Will uninsured motorist coverage protect me, whether I was at fault or not?

No. Uninsured motorist coverage will protect you only if you were not at fault in the accident.

Do I have to be the driver of the vehicle for uninsured motorist coverage to protect me?

No, you do not have to be driving to be protected by uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist protection will cover your injuries if you were injured while walking or riding a bike. The only requirement is that you were physically touched by the uninsured vehicle.

Does UM only apply when I’m in a car? 

Depending on your policy, some coverage extends to injuries sustained to a rider when riding a bicycle on a roadway. Check with your policy, or your insurance professional, to see if your coverage extends beyond your vehicle.

Will uninsured motorist insurance cover expenses if the other driver has insurance, but not enough to pay my bills?

No. In this scenario, the other driver is considered under-insured rather than uninsured. An underinsured driver has some liability insurance but it may not be enough to cover your injuries and/or damages. A different type of insurance, underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, can be used to offset these costs. (Keep an eye out for an underinsured blog coming soon!)

How does this affect my car accident?

It’s important to understand how each facet of your insurance policy can help you during an auto accident claim – especially if there are injuries involved. It is helpful to speak with an insurance professional and a local personal injury attorney to understand your rights and how to use your insurance coverage.

The author, Joshua Bonnici, is the managing attorney at BONNICI LAW GROUP, APC, who represents injured and disabled individuals fight for fair and just outcomes. Feel free to learn more and reach out for a free case evaluation, at: www.bonnicilawgroup.com, help@bonnicilawgroup.com, or at: 619-259-5199.

Disclaimer: while the jokes may be corny and the tone casual, none of the above is intended to be legal advice, and does not amount to any attorney-client relationship. Should you wish to investigate attorney representation, please contact us for a consultation to discuss a possible attorney-client relationship. Thank you!

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