If you are in a car accident in Los Angeles that is not your fault, you should be compensated. That is what the law says. You should be able to go the doctors you pick for treatment. You should receive your salary. You should be compensated for how the pain from your injuries impacts your life and restricts your activities. Maybe you cannot do your daily run, or bike ride. Maybe it hurts when you do your laundry or clean the kitchen, but it still has to get done. You are entitled to compensation.
But what if the person that hits you only has the minimum required liability policy, or worse, no insurance at all. That is where uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance can help protect you.
If the person that hits you and causes the accident does not have insurance, it is not likely that person will compensate you for your injuries. Typically if people do not have the money to pay for their insurance, they do not have any money to compensate you. Uninsured motorist insurance coverage replaces that insurance coverage that the person that caused the collision should have had. It stands in the place of insurance for the at-fault party so that you can recover if you are injured.
Similar to uninsured motorist co verage, underinsured motorist coverage also stands in the place of the insurance of the person that hit you. In Van Nuys, Tarzana, Chatsworth, Reseda, and all of California, state law only requires each driver to have $15,000 of liability coverage. What if your injuries are more than that?
If the person that caused the auto accident does not have enough insurance coverage to protect you and your family, underinsured motorist coverage can. Where the insurance company for the person who caused the collision has paid out the entire limit of that person’s insurance coverage, your own underinsured motorist coverage will then kick in and provide coverage for you up to the limits of your own coverage. So if you are entitled to $100,000 in compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, and the person that hit you only has the minimum $15,000 policy, your underinsured motorist coverage will provide extra insurance for you.
However, we are still dealing with insurance companies so do not think that once you purchase the coverage you are done. First, California has an anti-stacking law. Your underinsured motorist does not go on top of the insurance for the person that hit you. So if you have $100,000 of underinsured motorist coverage and the person that hit you had a $15,000 policy, after you recover the $15,000, your underinsured motorist carrier is only on the hook for an additional $85,000. That also means that if you only have $15,000 of underinsured motorist coverage and the person that hits you has the minimum $15,000 coverage, you will not be able to recover anything from your underinsured motorist insurance.
Ultimately, when people ask if they should purchase the underinsured motorist coverage, my response is: “If you are buying insurance to protect other people on the road that you do not know, why wouldn’t you also buy insurance to protect yourself.” Generally we recommend underinsured motorist coverage. Your underinsured motorist coverage limits cannot be more than your general liability coverage so we usually recommend that your underinsured motorist limits match your liability coverage.
The next trick is, if you are injured in an automobile collision and are injured by an underinsured motorist, how do you get your own carrier to compensate you with the insurance you bought to protect yourself. Unfortunately, much of the time, the answer to that question is that you must hire a lawyer.