Uninsured Motorists - Who Pays?

In 2012, one in eight drivers was uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council.  California has an estimated 4.1 million uninsured drivers on the road, the highest number in the US.

What happens if you or a loved one is in a crash caused by a driver who does not have insurance?  Who will pay for the medical bills, the lost wages, the property damage, and the most important losses of all: the human losses, pain, suffering, emotional distress, and grief?

Our firm believes that Uninsured Motorist coverage, or UM coverage, is the most important coverage to have.  Our auto insurance policies protect us and our money if we cause a crash. UM coverage protects us when, through no or little fault of our own, someone uninsured crashes into us.  It’s the part of our auto insurance that keeps us safe. 

The California Legislature requires, with limited exception, that every auto insurance policy in California provide UM coverage.  But, the legislature gave insurance companies a way out—by having customers sign a “waiver”. And in our experience, many people waive this important coverage without knowing it.  In some cases, people just signed on the dotted line without reading the document. In other cases, people mistakenly signed thinking their signature was required to get the insurance.

Underinsured motorist coverage, or UIM coverage, also protects us, when someone else hurts us and has insurance, but not enough in insurance to cover our injuries.  Hundreds of thousands of California drivers have the minimum coverage limits of $15,000 per person, $30,000 per incident. What happens if you are seriously hurt in a crash, and your losses are $100,000, but the responsible driver only has $15,000 in coverage?  Then, you go to your insurance company, asking them to “pay the difference” between the responsible party’s coverage limits, and your own. Make sure your underinsured coverage limits are at least equal to your liability insurance limits. Another “trick” insurance companies pull is to have you “waive” underinsured motorist coverage that matches the amount of your liability insurance.  For example, if you have $100,000 in liability coverage, your insurance company may have you “waive” underinsured motorist coverage down to $50,000. Don’t fall for this trap. It may save you $10 a month, but it will cost you if disaster strikes!

Hopefully you now realize how important UM/UIM coverage is to keep you and your family safe.  How can you find out if you have uninsured motorist coverage?  

First, log onto your auto insurance website and find your “declarations” page, or list of the insurance coverages that you have.  If you don’t have access on the internet, call your insurance agent or broker—the number will be on your insurance card. Ask for a copy of your “declarations” page.

Make sure there is a coverage amount listed next to the Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist coverage.  If not, you likely (and probably unknowingly) waived UM/UIM coverage. Make sure you immediately add the coverage to your insurance, in an amount equal to your liability coverage limits.

Our firm offers free reviews of anyone’s auto insurance--- yours, your family members, friends, and co-workers.  Just give us a call and ask.