The California Department of Transportation tells us that about one out of seven motorists in the state of California is currently driving while uninsured. A collision with an uninsured or underinsured driver is a genuine possibility and in fact a reality for thousands of people in California every year.
It is important to know what you should do if you are injured by a negligent driver who carries no automobile insurance or insufficient automobile insurance. You can always seek advice and legal help after a serious traffic accident by consulting an experienced San Bernardino personal injury attorney.
In any traffic collision, the first thing you must do is seek or summon medical assistance. Even if no one “seems” to be injured, it is imperative to have yourself examined after any traffic accident by a doctor or by another qualified healthcare professional.
Adrenaline can sometimes mask the pain that an injury would typically generate, and some types of internal injuries and brain injuries can stay latent for weeks and emerge later as a serious medical condition. Moreover, if you need to file any kind of damage claim regarding the accident, you will need the documentation that a medical examination provides.
After seeking or summoning medical help, call the police. Ask them how you can obtain a copy of their accident report. A police accident report is important evidence if you need to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Get as much information as you can about the other driver and his or her vehicle, including the driver’s name, phone number, home and email addresses, as well as the make, model, color, and license number of the vehicle. Get the name of the other driver’s auto insurer – if that driver is insured – and the policy number. If the other driver is injured, intoxicated, or hostile, ask the police to help you get the information you need.
WHY ARE EYEWITNESSES SO IMPORTANT IN TRAFFIC CASES?
Even if the other driver shows you an insurance card, verify it for yourself at your first opportunity. Insurance cards can be phony, canceled, or expired. And if it’s possible, write down the names and contact information of any witnesses who may have seen the accident take place.
If you file a personal injury claim, your attorney may need to contact these eyewitnesses for a statement or testimony. If a personal injury case goes to trial, the testimony of people who never even met you – but nevertheless back up your story – is powerful and persuasive evidence.
Take as many photographs as you can of the vehicle damages, any other property damage, the general accident scene, any visible skid marks, and your own visible injuries. Be absolutely certain to get pictures of the other vehicle’s license plate.
If the information the other driver gives you is misleading or outright false, that license plate number may be the only way that person can be traced. You can’t take too many photographs, and photos can also be powerful evidence if a personal injury claim becomes a courtroom trial.
You will also need to call your own auto insurance company and tell them about the collision. Some auto insurance policies impose strict deadlines – some as short as thirty days – regarding the notification of uninsured and underinsured claims, so do not delay. If the person who crashed into you was uninsured or underinsured, you will need to determine – if you don’t already know – whether you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
DO YOU CARRY UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE?
Some states legally require all motorists to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The state of California does not. Nevertheless, you should know whether or not your policy includes uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If it doesn’t, purchasing such coverage is a wise move to make when you remember that one in seven drivers in this state is without any automobile insurance.
Uninsured motorist coverage is coverage in case you are hit by a negligent, at-fault motorist with no automobile insurance. Generally speaking, it is useless to sue uninsured drivers. Uninsured drivers are typically uninsured because they don’t have any money, so even a successful lawsuit in most cases would not help you. Uninsured motorist insurance protection lets you make a claim against your own insurance company and policy after such an accident, up to the limit of your uninsured driver coverage.
HOW DOES “UNDERINSURED” COVERAGE WORK?
“Underinsured” coverage is also available. If a driver who has injured you carries auto insurance, but that insurance is insufficient to cover your damages, underinsured motorist protection lets you submit a claim against your own insurance company and policy up to the limit of your underinsured motorist coverage – but only when your own underinsured driver coverage surpasses the underinsured motorist’s policy limits.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that your personal injury damages after a collision are $100,000, but the negligent driver who injured you has only $50,000 of coverage. You may make an underinsured driver claim against your own auto insurer only if you carry over $50,000 of underinsured driver coverage. If you had $100,000 in underinsured driver coverage, you would receive $50,000 from the negligent motorist’s insurance company and $50,000 from your own insurance company.
However – and this is where the aftermath of a traffic crash can get complicated – even if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, if you’ve been victimized by an uninsured or underinsured driver, your insurance company may not cover your claim.
The company may deny you any payment or make you a “lowball” offer. You might face unreasonable delays or “get the brush-off.” That’s one reason why – if you are injured in Southern California by a negligent uninsured or underinsured motorist – you must have the advice and services of an experienced San Bernardino personal injury attorney as quickly as possible.
If you’ve been injured, get a personal injury attorney’s advice and insights before speaking to or settling with the insurance company. In Southern California, a San Bernardino personal injury attorney can ensure that your interests and rights are protected and can help you receive the compensation you are entitled to by law for the injuries, property damage, and other losses you suffer when a negligent uninsured or underinsured driver injures you.