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What is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in California?

Daniel Horowitz with a client and crutches

What is Uninsured and Underinsured Driver Coverage in California?

So, you just had a car accident and the other driver had insurance. But how much insurance? What if the other driver has no insurance?  Can you use your Underinsured or Uninsured (UIM) coverage?  In California the answer is "yes".  

There are minimum insurance requirements in California. For a passenger vehicle you must have

1. $15,000 to cover harm to a single person.
2. $ 30,000 to cover more than one person.

This is called a 15/30 policy. Each person is protected up to $ 15,000 with a total of $ 30,000 maximum. These rules are contained in California Vehicle Code § 16056.

If you just have a few little bumps and bruises maybe their $ 15,000 coverage is enough but usually it isn’t. Our car accident investigators look at minimum policies and then check the wealth (or lack of wealth) of the other driver. In 9 out of 10 cases people with low coverage policies do not have substantial assets to pay for your injuries.

In about 1 out of 10 cases the other driver has no insurance at all. Again, we check their financial background but very rarely is there anything of value to be found.

This is where you get the benefit of your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. These are used the other driver is at fault. So, if the other side had sufficient coverage you would file a claim with their insurance company and get your car repaired without having to pay any money out of pocket. You would then negotiate reimbursement for your lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills and any long term impairments. It is when this normal cycle is broken that your own coverage kicks in.

The Underinsured motorist (UIM) or Uninsured motorist policy is usually the same limit that you have in case you are at fault. If you have a $ 250,000 limit for injuries that is the most you can get from your own policy. If the other side pays some money ($ 15,000) you don’t get $ 250,000 plus the $ 15,000. You get a grand total of $ 250,000 (assuming your injuries are severe enough to justify that amount).

People ask whether using the uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions of their own policy will raise their rates. The answer is “no”.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have been in a car accident, motor cycle accident or have suffered a serious injury involving a motor vehicle of any type, our personal injury lawyers can help. Our office is in Lafayette, California, near Walnut Creek, Oakland, Concord, Danville, Orinda and Moraga. We will help you get the full and fair compensation to which you are entitled. As always, there is no fee unless and until we recover for you.