With as many as 33,000 automobile accidents occurring in California annually and 12.6% of U.S. motorists being uninsured drivers, it is not only a must-have but also required by law to have auto insurance. One must always carry auto insurance for their vehicle. Furthermore, one is required to present it in the following situations:
- When required by law enforcement
- When renewing vehicle registration
- When your car is involved in a traffic collision
You and any others driving the vehicle must also be added as part of the insurance policy to cover them. While this is standard practice, the reality is that uninsured drivers are frequently behind the wheel. It is, therefore, inevitable that an uninsured motorist ends up in a traffic accident. This article dives deeper into the topic of such traffic collisions and what it means for an uninsured driver.
Insured Vs. Uninsured Drivers in California
It is essential to understand whether or not a vehicle qualifies as insured or uninsured at the time of the accident. According to California’s legislature, an uninsured vehicle is one or more of the following:
- A motor vehicle with no injury liability or bond applicable at the time of the accident
- A motor vehicle with appropriate insurance or bond, but the vehicle’s insurance company denies coverage
- Someone uses a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission, so there is no injury liability or bond applicable to the owner.
- A motor vehicle where the owner or operator is unknown
If the motor vehicle at fault for an accident falls under one of these categories, the vehicle’s driver is considered uninsured. If so, receiving coverage from the driver at fault becomes more complicated than it would be under usual circumstances.
Usual Insurance Circumstances
Typically, the driver responsible for the collision has insurance to pay for the damage. This payment comes from their insurance, covering specific fees and failing to cover others. In California, there are minimum limits for any auto insurance policy. No matter the type of insurance you have, this much coverage must be provided by your insurance company:
- Coverage pays up to $15,000 for the death or injury of one person
- Coverage pays up to $30,000 for the death or injury of two or more people in a single accident. Even if there are multiple injured people, the coverage will not pay more than $30,000
- Coverage applies when the driver at fault has caused injuries to someone else.
- Coverage pays up to $5000 for the damaged property of other people. Damaged property may include the car and other valuables which the collision may have damaged.
When the Driver at Fault is Uninsured
While the insurance company provides these coverages to an insured driver, the situation becomes more complicated if the driver at fault is uninsured. First, the driver who is not responsible for the collision should know if they have Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UMC/UIM). Uninsured motorist coverage helps cover expenses if a collision occurs with an uninsured or underinsured driver. There are several different types of uninsured motorist coverage plans that drivers can choose from to protect themselves:
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury: If you have UMBI, it will cover costs for you and others in your car should an uninsured driver hit you. The coverage limit is the same as those outlined in your liability coverage.
- Underinsured Motorist: If you have UIM, it will cover partial costs for bodily injury dealt to you. UIM applies if the uninsured driver does not have sufficient coverage to meet the required limits in their insurance plan.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage: If you have UMPD, it will cover costs to repair the damage done to your vehicle with an uninsured driver at fault. The uninsured driver must be identified for UMPD to have an effect; if so, it covers up to $3500.
These coverage plans also apply if a pedestrian cyclist is in a hit-and-run accident with an unidentified car.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In many states, laws require drivers to carry Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. California, along with Florida and Nevada, does not require Uninsured Motorist Coverage. While drivers are encouraged to have some form of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage, they can legally reject it. Otherwise, drivers can choose to have one or more Uninsured Motorist Coverage plans. If the driver wants further insurance coverage than the maximum UMC/UIM coverage provided in California, they must get an Umbrella insurance policy. Umbrella insurance is liability insurance that can cover fees beyond the limits of your existing coverage plan.
What Happens to Uninsured Drivers in California?
California has the most significant number of uninsured drivers, ranging from 3.6 to 4.1 million. Any uninsured driver operating a vehicle is breaking the law and may face legal prosecution. According to California’s Vehicle Code 16029, an uninsured driver faces legal retaliation even if the uninsured driver is not responsible for an accident. They will likely need to pay hundreds of dollars in fines. If the uninsured driver is responsible for an accident, the court may suspend their license and prohibit them from operating a vehicle. In addition, the accident victims can pursue civil litigation, and the uninsured driver may owe large sums of money. As a result, depending on the severity of the damages.