You were involved in a car accident and wonder how the car insurance of all the parties involved in the accident come into play. Like California, most states require drivers to have car insurance. When reviewing your policy, there are various types of coverage; some are mandatory and some are optional but recommended. The different coverage and the policy limits can affect the value and how you approach your case. A seasoned Riverside personal injury lawyer explains to you the role of car insurance, or lack thereof, if you were involved in a car accident.
Liability Insurance Coverage
California requires a standard liability insurance coverage, which insures the driver and any authorized users of the car against claims arising from car accidents resulting from negligence for up to the coverage policy limits. California’s minimum requirements are:
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person
- $30,00 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
Drivers should carry more coverage. For example, if you were involved in a car accident and have a claim of $100,000 in injuries, but the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage policy limit is only $50,000, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is only responsible for paying up to $50,000 while the at-fault driver is personally exposed to the remaining $50,000.
Effect of the Value of Your Claim Exceeding Coverage
Don’t expect to settle your claim with the insurance company if your demand is more than the at-fault driver’s policy limits. The insurance company is obligated to only settle within the policy limits. Taking the example from above, if you want to settle your claim for the full $100,000, you need to have a settlement agreement with the at-fault driver and the insurance company indicating that the insurance company will pay the policy limits ($50,000) and the at-fault driver will pay the rest ($50,000), or you go to trial. A Riverside personal injury attorney explains that the at-fault driver is personally exposed to liability above the policy limits. Insurance companies have no right to settle a claim that personally exposes their insured without the insured’s expressed consent. Additionally, the insurance company is not required to entertain such demands.
Underinsured Driver Coverage
Although not required in California, underinsured driver coverage is highly recommended. Underinsured driver coverage kicks in when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to pay for your damages. Thus, you make a claim against your own insurance company for up to the limit of your underinsured driver coverage.
However, a Riverside personal injury lawyer explains that you can make an underinsured driver claim only if your underinsured driver limits exceeds that of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy limits. For example, using the above example, if your underinsured driver limits is $100,000, you are able settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for the policy limits of $50,000, then you may then initiate an underinsured driver claim against your own insurance company. If, however, your underinsured driver limits is $15,000, you cannot settle with the at-fault driver for $50,000 and then try to make an underinsured driver claim for your limits of $15,000. You may only claim from your underinsured policy the amount in excess of the at-fault driver’s coverage.
Uninsured Driver Coverage
California also does not require uninsured driver coverage. However, if the at-fault driver does not have car insurance, having uninsured driver coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance company for up to your uninsured driver policy limits. A Riverside personal injury lawyer does not recommend trying to pursue a claim against the driver personally. Most likely, the driver is unable to afford car insurance and thus, would not be able to afford paying any settlement or judgment.
Limitations for Underinsured or Uninsured Driver Coverage
If you elect to have underinsured and/or uninsured driver coverage, the coverage cannot exceed your liability insurance policy limits. Thus, if your standard liability insurance policy limits is only $25,000, then you can only have up to $25,000 in underinsured or uninsured driver coverage.
Obtaining Insurance Information
After an accident, always take photos of the vehicles involved, including the license plate numbers. Try to also obtain the other party’s driver’s license and insurance information. If they are not forthcoming, contact the police. The police report will provide the driver and car owner’s information and car insurance information (insurance company via insurance code and policy number).
Seek a Riverside Personal Injury Attorney
Dealing with insurance adjusters can be grueling. After all, whether it’s your insurance company or the other party’s, the insurance company wants to keep their money. Consult a Riverside personal injury lawyer with Russell & Lazarus APC at (949) 851-0222 for assistance.