Unless you’re looking to commit a civil or criminal act and cause an accident just to fake an injury, no one wants to be involved in a car accident. At their best, they are inconveniences that delay your day and cause the stress of red tape and police reports. At their worst, they cause long-term, life-altering injuries or even fatalities.
The typical path after an accident in which you are not at fault, regardless of the consequences, usually leads to phone calls with the involved insurance companies and medical treatment for any minor to severe physical issues. But what if you are in a car accident with an uninsured driver? Do you have any rights to compensation? Who will pay your medical bills if the at-fault driver is uninsured?
The answers to these and all of your other questions when you are in an accident with an uninsured driver and you are not at fault are answered in this article.
Insurance Laws in California
Every state requires drivers to carry auto insurance with a minimum amount of liability coverage. Per California law, if you don’t have this liability insurance on your car, you can face consequences ranging from a fine to a suspended license and your vehicle can be impounded.
Proof of motor vehicle financial responsibility must be provided upon request by law enforcement officers or when you are renewing your vehicle’s registration. It also has to be given if you are in a car accident. When you obtain insurance for a private-use vehicle, the insurance company is required by California law to report that information to the DMV. The DMV can use this information, or lack thereof, to suspend your vehicle or refuse to renew a registration if necessary.
Per California law, private passenger vehicles are legally required to carry insurance that covers a minimum of $15,000 for an injury/death of one person, $30,000 for an injury/death of more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage.
If you prefer not to pay for automobile insurance monthly, though, you do have other options to show your financial responsibility. You can go to the DMV with a cash deposit of $35,000 and leave it with them, get a self-insurance certificate from the DMV, or provide a surety bond of $35,000 from a company that offers these and is licensed to do business in the State of California.
Although the penalties can be strict, there are still many drivers who do not have automobile insurance for one reason or another. These illegal drivers, statistically 1 in 8 people on the road at any time, make all of the others who do follow the rules susceptible to the consequences of being in an accident with them.
What to do if You are in a Collision with an Uninsured Driver
It’s usually pretty easy to tell if the driver that caused your accident has insurance or not. While it’s normal for a driver to be stressed, an uninsured driver is usually panicking.
Once you’ve assessed yourself and the others in your car for injuries and called for medical assistance and law enforcement, you can get out of your car to check for vehicle damage. At that time, you’ll meet up with the other driver and exchange insurance information – except they tell you that they don’t have any.
What do you do next?
Well, when you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver in California, you should follow these steps:
1. Call the authorities. Once you’ve assessed the situation, you’ll know whether 911 or your local emergency number is required, or you just need to call the law enforcement agency directly. They will send for medical help if it’s necessary, but regardless of whether or not you feel anyone was injured or there was any damage, you should always protect yourself with a police report.
This police report is crucial if the other driver does not have insurance. It will help you to get any of your medical expenses or car damage expenses covered and make it easier for you to file claims.
2. Exchange your information. They might not be able to give you an insurance card and policy number, but they can give you their full name, phone number, and address. Never just get a phone number, since if they change the number or it gets disconnected, you have lost your only form of communication with them.
Look around for witnesses and get their information as well. You never know who may be valuable later on in your claims process, especially should you need to file a lawsuit to get your expenses covered.
3. Gather your evidence. All of the details in a car accident collision matter. When you are in an uninsured driver accident and not at fault, a minor detail that was overlooked by law enforcement but caught by you could make all of the difference in your case.
Write down or take pictures of the make and model of all of the vehicles involved. Note the time of the accident and exactly where it occurred. Taking pictures of the area around the scene can help your attorney recreate the situation, including the lighting involved, the weather and road conditions, and more.
Be sure to grab the name and badge number of any responding law enforcement officers, too. They may be invaluable to your case. If you think it’s a detail that might be important, write it down. Your attorney or the insurance company can decide whether it’s necessary or not later.
4. Whatever you do, don’t take money from the other driver. It’s common for the other driver to offer to pay for your damages and even some of your medical care. You may think it’s courteous, and it may even be from the bottom of their heart since they feel bad for causing the accident, but you have no idea how much damage was done to your car or your body.
Yes, the other driver could be in for some big fines and other fees, but by accepting money from them, you may be setting yourself up for major medical and vehicle repair expenses. Ultimately, you have to consider what’s best for you.
Filing Your Insurance Claim
When you call your insurance company to report your collision, it’s a little different with an uninsured driver in the accident, too. As soon as you reach an agent, make sure you tell them that you were in a motor vehicle crash with an uninsured driver, since this will bring up a different set of questions.
You’ll need to have your insurance card or policy number accessible when you call. You’ll also need the details you gathered earlier: the date, time, and location of the accident, a description of how the accident occurred, and the other party’s contact information.
If there is a police report involved, which there should be, you can provide the name of the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident and the police report number they gave you.
Who Pays My Bills?
The question of who pays your bills depends on whether you were driving in a no-fault or at-fault state. California is an at-fault state, which means that the person found legally responsible for the collision is the one who’s insurance pays for the damages. But in your case, there is no insurance available.
With at-fault claims, it can become complicated to prove fault. California is a tort state, meaning that until a party can prove the other person is at fault, their insurance does not have to pay. The state also follows the pure comparative negligence law, meaning that if you were partly at fault, and the other party was partly at fault, the damages are reduced accordingly.
Because California’s laws with car accidents can be complicated, it’s best to find a knowledgeable attorney, like those of us at Hershey Law, to help you navigate the process from start to finish.
To protect yourself from the vulnerability of being in a situation where you were in an uninsured driver accident, even though you’re not at fault, you should consider being proactive and taking out protection in your own auto insurance policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage is optional in most states, but in California it is required. This coverage pays for injuries to you and your passengers in the event of an accident in which the at-fault driver does not have insurance. These limits are the same as your normal liability limits. It also covers property damage.
Injured by an Uninsured Driver? You Have Help
After you’ve called your insurance company and reported your accident, call the experts at Hershey Law for your free consultation. We will guide you through the muddy waters of insurance policies, who will cover your medical bills and reimburse you for your time if you need to miss work, and let you know your rights as the victim in your collision.
You don’t have to do it all alone. Let us help you get the compensation you are entitled to. We’ll do the work so you can concentrate on healing and moving forward.