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UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE IN CALIFORNIA

The State of California requires that all drivers carry minimal automobile liability insurance with bodily injury limits of $15,000.00 per person, $30,000.00 per event, and $5,000.00 in property damage.  The intent behind the California requirement for these minimal liability insurance limits is to protect other drivers/victims from your negligence in the operation of a vehicle.  Unfortunately, what is not required in the State of California is that drivers carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This is coverage that is available to protect you, when another driver is at fault for causing a motor vehicle accident.  The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when the at-fault driver either has no insurance (uninsured motorist coverage) or, does not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills and other losses (underinsured motorist coverage).

Interestingly, this uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage, while optional to purchase, requires insurers to offer this type of coverage to their insureds, so that damages may be collected against the uninsured or underinsured motorist.  Typically, declining such coverage will require you to execute a written waiver, declining the coverage and documenting that such coverage was in fact offered.

In handling personal injury actions on behalf of injured parties, it has become an epidemic of sorts that many drivers carry insufficient automobile insurance coverage.  While the underlying bodily injury and property damage coverages are mandatory, other coverages such as uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist, and medical payment coverage are all optional. These optional coverages are extremely important to drivers to protect themselves against the multitude of uninsured and underinsured drivers that continue to operate vehicles in the State of California.  More often than not, my office is retained by individuals injured in a motor vehicle accident, with the adverse/at-fault driver carrying either no insurance or only the minimal required liability coverage of $15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per event.  Assuming that the injured party’s damages are in excess of that amount, without adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, recovery generally will be limited to the adverse party’s $15,000.00/$30,000.00 coverage.

Typically, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the State of California is relatively inexpensive coverage in comparison to the bodily injury coverage. While you are required to pay for the  “expensive” insurance to protect others, this relatively cheaper insurance coverage (UM/UIM) is ignored, but necessary to protect yourself against injury and damage from an adverse uninsured/underinsured driver.

My recommendation for all drivers is to contact your insurance agent to discuss your current insurance coverages, and those coverages available to you.  Remember, although the law requires that you only protect others, it is foolish not to protect yourself to the same extent, if not greater, than you protect others for their damages.  There’s not much worse than having to tell a client that the underlying driver has little or no insurance, and that they too have no insurance to cover their losses.

Consult with your insurance carrier to obtain adequate insurance coverage, including uninsured, underinsured and medical payments coverage to protect yourself from other drivers inadequate coverage.

Dennis Stout

Dennis Stout is a native Californian with significant ties to the Inland Empire, where he continues to reside. A graduate of Upland High School, the University of California, Riverside (B.S. Economics), and the University of La Verne (J.D.), Mr. Stout has practiced law continuously since 1979. He has been married to his wife, Alicia (R.N., C.E.N., M.I.C.N.) since that same year, and they have three adult children, all of whom live in Southern California. View Attorney Dennis Stout's Attorney Bio Here.

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