How Are Uninsured Motorist Claims Handled in CA?

If you are involved in an accident with another motorist who does not have auto liability insurance, can you still pursue a claim against the driver or collect compensation for your damages or injuries? The short answer is that you can pursue a claim against anyone, but whether you can collect any compensation depends on some factors.

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

When you purchase auto liability insurance, you have the choice of also purchasing uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This protects you in case you have an accident with another motorist who has no insurance on their vehicle so that you can make a claim under your own policy. You are not required to have uninsured coverage but considering that at least 20 percent of all cars on California roadways are uninsured, you are at risk for losing thousands of dollars by not having this valuable coverage.

Requirements for an Uninsured Motorist Claim

One obvious requirement is that the other party not have coverage on the vehicle involved in the accident, but what if the other driver flees the scene and you are unable to identify the car or you had to take evasive action to avoid another vehicle and struck a barrier or another car?

California law requires that there be actual physical contact between your car and the other vehicle or some part of it. For instance, if an errant tire from the other car comes into your path and you strike it, causing you to lose control of your car, this would constitute physical contact. If you had to veer to avoid the unknown vehicle without any contact, however, you would not have a viable claim.

Who Can Make an Uninsured Claim?

Besides yourself, your passenger can make an uninsured claim under your UM policy. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, you could still make a claim if you or a relative with whom you live has UM coverage.

Compensation for a UM Claim

To claim compensation in a UM accident, you still have the burden of proving the uninsured driver caused your accident. You or your attorney would negotiate with your own insurance adjuster. If litigation ensues, you would not go to court for trial but to arbitration only.

If you have no UM coverage, you can bring a lawsuit against the uninsured driver and probably obtain a judgment. The difficulty lies in collecting any compensation from someone who more than likely has few assets to pursue.

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