Did you know that California only requires the operator of a motor vehicle to have liability coverage of $15,000? Liability coverage pays for injuries caused by the negligent acts of a person while driving their vehicle. This means that if you were severely injured by a driver with minimal liability coverage — and you end up with medical bills over $100,000 — the driver's insurance carrier would only pay you $15,000. If the driver did not have tangible assets, you would never have enough money to pay the doctors and obtain compensation for yourself. Instead, you would be forced to pay thousands of dollars for medical bills through no fault of your own. The hospitals do not care that the accident was not your fault. They want to be paid and will not hesitate to force you into collection and seek to ruin your credit.
The only way to adequately protect yourself is to purchase uninsured motorist liability coverage through your insurance agency. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you in two ways.
Protection if the Other Driver Doesn't Have Insurance Coverage
First, if the other party does not have any liability insurance coverage, you will be able to collect under your uninsured motorist coverage up to the available limits of insurance. For instance, I have had many clients who have suffered significant injuries worth tens of thousands of dollars only to find out that I could not help them because the other party did not have liability coverage and my client did not have uninsured motorist coverage. It is a helpless feeling for me as an attorney and equally for my clients.
Uninsured motorist coverage is not terribly expensive and its reward — in the unfortunate situation that you might be injured because a person without liability coverage struck you — is invaluable. Imagine if you are a pedestrian struck by a vehicle that has no insurance. The impact results in multiple broken bones, a lengthy hospital stay, surgery, and physical therapy. The medical costs are huge even if you have health insurance. It has happened to many of my clients.
Fortunately, some of my clients had the foresight to purchase uninsured motorist coverage of, for example, $250,000. This allowed me to get all of my client's medical bills paid and obtain significant compensation for my clients. If they did not have uninsured motorist coverage, I would not have been able to recover anything for them. Sadly though, in my many years of practice, this result is an exception rather than the norm. Most clients do not understand the need for uninsured motorist protection and its significant importance.
Protection if the Driver is Minimally Insured
There is a second and equally important reason to have uninsured motorist coverage of at least $50,000, $100,000, $250,000, or more. Again, the cost for the different coverages is not that great and the benefits will be enormous to you should you ever need them. In this second situation, what if you have medical bills of nearly $125,000 but the other party only has $15,000 in liability coverage. In this situation, you would only be able to recover $15,000 from the other person's insurance carrier because their coverage is only $15,000. However, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, of $250,000 for example, you would be able to collect up to an additional $235,000 from your own insurance carrier through what is known as underinsured motorist coverage. Here, your insurance company will pay you the difference between your maximum uninsured motorist coverage, $250,000, minus the amount paid by the other person's liability coverage, $15,000. Unfortunately, this outcome is not as common as you would expect because most people do not have significant, or any, uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is Worth the Cost
Many of my clients are unaware of uninsured motorist coverage and, if offered to them by their insurance agent, many do not feel that it is worth the additional cost. I hope that my examples above have convinced you how critical it is to have uninsured motorist coverage. Unlike automobile accidents which are your fault and result in higher insurance rates, you are not penalized by using your uninsured motorist coverage. Remember, the coverage is meant to protect you from other persons who are careless in the way they operate their vehicle. You pay a premium for this protection and your rates will not increase because the accident was not your fault. I encourage all of my clients to purchase this invaluable protection for themselves and their loved ones as you never know when it will be needed.