Written by attorney Steven Mark Sweat

What is an Uninsured Motorist Claim in California?

Unfortunately, many drivers in California are driving without insurance. For this reason, it is important to check your policy to determine if you have "uninsured motorist coverage". The purpose of the coverage is to be able to recover for injuries and property damage when you are in an auto accident with an uninsured driver. California law requires that the insurance company not only offer this coverage but, that they obtain a written waiver if you say you don't want it or they can be held to have provided you the coverage anyway.

If you are hit by an uninsured motorist, you may have to obtain an SR-19, certification of non-insurance from the other driver or take some other means to prove the other driver actually came in contact with your vehicle and that neither that driver or his or her vehicle had insurance coverage. A police report is also helpful to start the process.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, if you have UNinsured motorist coverage you also, under California Law, have an equal amount of UNDERinsured motorist coverage. For example, if someone hit you and only had the state minimum coverage for bodily injury of $15,000 but, you had $50,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, you could seek the additional $35,000 from your own carrier.

Just like with any other case it is important to prepare the claim to your own insurance carrier properly so that you receive all the compensation for which the law provides. If the insurance carrier doesn't settle the case, it may also be necessary to "demand arbitration" to resolve the case, which means that a formal hearing would be conducted with an "arbitrator" (similar to a private judge) to determine how much money you should receive.

For all these reasons, it is vitally important to retain a competent personal injury and accident attorney and to retain them AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after the accident. There are time deadlines for filing the proper claims and proper investigation and preparation of the claim needs to begin within days (not weeks or months) after the accident.

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