Normally, you would file an insurance claim directly with the at-fault party’s auto insurer after an accident in California. However, if a driver hits you that is uninsured, your only options are to turn to your own insurer or sue the uninsured driver.
You have the right to sue the at-fault driver personally. However, it may not necessarily be worth the time and expense. When a driver does not have auto insurance, in most cases, they will not have the money or assets to pay you if you win a lawsuit. Still, it is worth consulting an attorney before ruling out that option since the at-fault driver could have just forgotten to make a payment. If the defendant (at-fault party) does have assets, the court can place a lien on them if you win. For example, if they own a house.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC)
Insurance companies must offer uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) when you purchase a policy, but you are not required by law to carry it. If you do have UMC, it will cover you if you are in an accident caused by someone who is uninsured. UMC is typically equal to your liability policy limits. For example, if you purchased the minimum amount of liability insurance required by California law, you will have the following UMC limits:
That means you will have at least this amount of coverage to pay for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage caused by the uninsured driver.
Collision coverage is another optional form of insurance you may carry. It will pay for repairs or the replacement of your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident, regardless of who was at fault. However, you will be responsible for paying your deductible.
There are critical steps to take after an accident with an uninsured driver:
Call the Police
The at-fault driver may ask you not to call the police and offer you money so they can avoid penalties for driving uninsured. However, accepting money can cost you in the end if your injuries are severe or have long-term repercussions. Therefore, it is always a good idea to call the police after an accident, especially when the other party does not have insurance.
Seek Medical Care
If you call 911, emergency responders will arrive on the scene to treat you and transport you to the hospital if necessary. On the other hand, if you notified the police but did not require emergency medical care, be sure to still see a physician as soon as possible after leaving the scene.
You will need the uninsured driver’s contact information and if there are any eyewitnesses, ask for their information as well. Their statements can heavily influence an insurance company’s decision on fault or assist in your lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
If you can stay at the scene, take pictures or videos of the area, including the damage to the vehicles, their final resting positions after impact, the other driver’s license plate, any traffic signs, debris, and your injuries.
Notify Your Insurer
Report the accident to your insurance company, discuss your coverage options, and file a claim.
Consult a Lawyer
Speak to a San Diego car accident lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you by discussing your legal options and advise the best course of action.