Understanding the Most Important Insurance Coverage You Probably Do Not Have: UM/UIM Insurance in California
Auto insurance is the part of life that we do not think about until we need to buy it or pay a monthly premium, or when we are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and need it to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. While California, like all states, requires a minimum amount to liability coverage, guaranteeing coverage in almost all situations where both drivers follow the law, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers know that this minimum amount is often inadequate to cover even the most basic of personal injuries. This is why it is important for victims and their family members to have a UM/UIM or SUM policy to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, most motorists do not know what that is until it is too late to get it to cover medical bills and lost wages. Here at the Broadway Law Firm, we do our best to explore every end of an auto policy to uncover any possible sources of insurance coverage that you may have. This is because most insurance companies and adjusters will hide the coverage or not offer it unless it is specifically asked for. Therefore, if you or a loved one were seriously injured in an auto accident, call for a FREE consultation to learn how we can help protect your rights under California law by dialing 213.444.3155.
The Problem With Auto Insurance: It is Required Under California Law (Barely)
The problem with auto insurance policies is that the minimum requirements under California law, like almost all states, is barely sufficient to meet even basic medical needs. For instance, the minimum bodily injury liability limits in California are the following:
- $15,000 for death or injury of any one person in a single accident
- $30,000 combined total for death or injury of more than one person in any one accident, and
- $5,000 in total property damage.
Therefore, if one person is injured and suffers a broken arm requiring surgery, that person will only be entitled to recover $15,000 even though that is woefully inadequate to cover lost wages and medical bills alone. This does not even take into account pain and suffering, future lost earnings, loss of consortium, and other damages that a person may suffer.
But that is not the most inadequate part of the minimum requirements. If there are four people in a vehicle and all suffer the same broken arm requiring surgery, the total amount of compensation that could be awarded is $30,000 to all of them, or $7,500 each. This may not even cover the surgery costs.
Why This is a Problem For Responsible Drivers
The largest problem with auto insurance minimums is that California is an at fault state. That means a victim submits a claim to the at fault driver’s insurance carrier. If the at fault carrier has the minimum, there is nothing you can do to get more coverage unless you already have other policies to protect you. It is frustrating because those who are acquiring the minimum amount of insurance are also likely the least responsible on the roadway and most likely to cause serious injuries to another. Whereas the responsible motorists who have a higher policy are less likely to be at fault.
How to Protect Yourself From This Problem in California
While it does not sound fair, there are ways to protect yourself and your family. This is done by buying extra insurance to protect you in situations where another motorist has the minimum or has no insurance. Other times with a hit and run driver you could also rely on this coverage if the other motorist never stopped. The two types of coverage that our Los Angeles car accident lawyer recommends everyone to get are uninsured motorist cover (also known as UM) and underinsured motorist coverage (also known as UIM).
UM and UIM policies are frequently bundled together as one, but it is important to understand what both are and how they work. They can be expensive and drive up a monthly premium. But it is also important to recognize that these additional policies are coverage that faces inwards, or applies to you and your family—not third parties like a liability policy. This means that every premium you are making would simply go to the benefit of your family or loved ones’ care, treatment, lost wages, or even their pain and suffering.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)
Uninsured motorist coverage, or UM, is a type of coverage that applies in situations when the at fault driver does not have insurance, the insurance lapsed and is not in effect, or for a hit and run driver who fails to exchange insurance information. This type of coverage can pay for you or your family in these situations. Generally, the limits of UM insurance is the same as your liability coverage. This means if you elect to have the minimum of $15,000 in coverage, your UM will only be $15,000. There are other riders you could get, like an umbrella policy for liability. UM coverage is only coverage that can be used for you and your family, and is not paid out at another liability policy.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)
Underinsured motorist coverage or UIM is a type of coverage that applies when the at fault motorist has inadequate coverage for your damages. This is a separate policy on your insurance that pays for damages that are above and beyond what the at fault driver’s insurance covers. Generally, UIM pays the difference between the other driver’s insurance and the policy you take out.
For example, if the at fault driver’s coverage is the minimum of $15,000 and you have a $500,000 UIM policy with $500,000 in damages from the accident, you would be entitled to recover the $15,000 from the at fault driver’s insurance plus $485,000 from your UIM policy for a total of $500,000.
As you can see, this is a big difference in the recovery versus the minimum and your extra coverage. This is why our experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyers recommend the highest amount of coverage that you can afford to protect your rights under California law.
Injured in a Car Wreck? Our California Law Firm Can Help
The old adage is that no one plans to be in a disaster but you can have a plan if you are in one. Having extra policies like UM and UIM are perfect ways to plan to protect your rights if a serious or fatal auto accident affects your loved ones. Unfortunately, once the accident happens there is little that can be done to undo the past. Hopefully, you have UM or UIM coverage but, if not, ask our experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyers at the Broadway Law Firm how you could get your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other damages paid for during a FREE consultation by calling 213.444.3155 or using the easy-to-use contact us box available by clicking the link here.