The Unsung Hero of Your Automobile Insurance Policy—Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

By Atticus Wegman

If you find yourself injured in a motor vehicle crash, whether or not you were in a vehicle, it is paramount that you understand if your automobile insurance policy includes underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. Our Orange County car accident lawyers often find our clients, after suffering injuries relating to motor vehicle crashes including injuries suffered when they were pedestrians or bicyclists, mistakenly believe that they have “full” coverage.

In response, we obtain a copy of our clients’ automobile insurance policy declarations page and find out that our clients, in fact, do not have “full” coverage. Oftentimes, our clients have adequate coverage for bodily injury claims asserted against them when they cause injuries to others, but do not have adequate coverage to protect themselves when someone else is at fault for their injuries.

This is not “full” coverage. A common discussion we have with clients is complimenting them on having great coverage in instances where they are at fault for causing another’s injuries and then unfortunately having to let the client know they did not do as good of a job protecting themselves with uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

“Full” coverage is when an individual also adequately protects themselves and their family members when they are injured by someone else and the person who caused the injuries does not have adequate automobile insurance coverage to properly compensate for those injuries. California law requires every motor vehicle operator to carry minimum coverage of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident. Some people do the bare minimum, and even worse, some people illegally fail to purchase and carry any coverage at all.

The question becomes if you or a loved one is injured as a result of a motor vehicle crash, and the party at fault does not carry adequate coverage, how can you ensure there is a source of compensation to pay you for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, and wage losses, among other things? The answer: uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a first party coverage that allows purchasers to insure themselves when another person who caused the injuries is not adequately insured. Pursuant to California law, all automobile policies must provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage equal to your third-party coverage, but only up to $30,000 per person, and $60,000 per accident unless explicitly waived. Keep in mind, that a purchaser of automobile insurance can, and it is this author’s opinion, should acquire greater than $30,000 per person, and $60,000 per accident of uninsured/underinsured motorist. At a minimum, motor vehicle operators in California should carry $100,000/$300,000 bodily injury coverage and $100,000/$300,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

The more automobile insurance one can purchase over and above the $100,000/$300,000 recommended minimum, the better protected they will be. Going over and above these limits may require the purchasing of an “excess” or “umbrella” policy which is also recommended.

An “excess” or “umbrella” policy might be offered by your existing automobile insurance company or can usually be purchased from other companies, which sometimes require underlying automobile policy limits to be $250,000/$500,000 or greater.

These questions are all things to be considered when speaking with your insurance broker or directly with your insurance company. Keep in mind the all too common scenario that you do not want to find yourself in where you are injured by another person who does not have adequate coverage to compensate you, and you failed to protect yourself with uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle incident, whether you were in a vehicle or not, please reach out to us to discuss your case and the interplay between any applicable insurance coverages.

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