What to Do If I Was In a Crash With an Uninsured Driver in California?

December 1, 2023 Automobile

Serious car accidents often result in far more than simple property damage to a vehicle. Many accidents cause serious physical injuries and significant financial impacts, including medical costs and lost wages due to time away from work during recovery. In some cases, the distress of a car accident only worsens when an injury victim learns that the driver who caused the crash doesn’t have insurance coverage. Contact our Encino car accident attorneys to discuss your legal options if you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Understanding California’s Fault-Based Insurance System

Unlike the handful of no-fault insurance states, California operates on a fault-based insurance system in which it matters who caused an accident. The state also requires all drivers to carry at least the minimum required amount of auto insurance coverage which includes:

  • $5,000 in property damage coverage
  • $15,000 in personal injury coverage per person or
  • $30,000 in personal injury coverage per accident

Despite these requirements, some drivers allow their insurance to lapse or drive without a valid license or insurance coverage. In California’s comparative negligence system, even drivers who were partly responsible for an accident can recover a portion of their damages minus their percentage of fault. But how do you make a claim for your damages if the other party has no insurance coverage, especially if they were at fault, or mostly at fault for the accident?

What to Do in an Accident With an Uninsured Driver

After a car accident, it’s critical to protect yourself by moving to a safe location on the roadside if possible. Never leave the scene of the accident until cleared by police. Use your phone to do the following:

  • Call 911 to report the accident
  • Take photos of the damaged vehicles
  • Take photos of the accident scene
  • Take photos of your visible injuries
  • Add the contact information of the other driver and any eyewitnesses to the accident

In some cases, individuals are too injured to move safely after an accident and ask an uninjured person to document this evidence instead while they wait in place for help.

Chances are, you may not know until later that the other driver didn’t have valid insurance coverage. Call your own insurance company after an accident with an uninsured driver to report the accident. If you aren’t certain of the coverage you have in place, find out if your policy includes uninsured motorist protection. This is optional in California, but many drivers elect to add this coverage to the minimum required insurance.

If you have uninsured motorist collision protection, your coverage will provide compensation for your damages.

Additional Options After a Crash With an Uninsured Motorist

While it’s possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured motorist, it’s unlikely that they have the financial assets that would make a court case worthwhile, since they allowed their coverage to lapse. Instead, if you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage in your policy, you’ll have to rely on your health insurance coverage and/or any collision property damage coverage in your insurance policy.

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