What if an Uninsured Driver and I Have an Accident in California?

person driving car

Thanks to the Insurance Research Council, we know that in 2019 17% of drivers in California were uninsured. This is notable because the percentage of uninsured drivers nationwide is only 12.6%. With nearly one-fifth of all drivers in California missing insurance, you may be wondering what to do if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Read to learn what would happen and how you can still protect yourself. If you’re recovering from an accident caused by an uninsured driver right now, know that a San Mateo County, California car accident lawyer is on your side and just a call away.

How Does California Define “Uninsured Driver”?

In California, an uninsured driver is someone who is driving a car without valid automobile insurance. According to state law, all California drivers must have liability insurance to pay for damages and/or injuries, in case the person causes a car accident.

The absolute least in liability insurance amounts that California permits are:

  • $15,000 per person
  • $30,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $5,000 for property damage

Despite the cost of insurance, driving without it can cost someone even more. For one, the cost of injuries to the health, well-being, and finances of accident victims is very high. The driver at fault also faces steep monetary consequences, including fines, license suspension, and the impoundment of their vehicle. If a driver lacks insurance and causes an accident, they could be personally liable for both property damages and bodily injuries.

When it comes to car accidents, California is called a “fault” state. This is also known as an “at fault” or “tort liability” system. What these terms mean is that the driver who caused the accident is financially responsible for the personal injuries and property damages resulting from the accident. The injured party then has a legal right to make a claim or a lawsuit with the driver at fault’s insurance.

If the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance coverage for the costs involved, the injured party can make a claim with their own insurance company.

Because California is a comparative negligence state, you can still recover even if you are partially responsible. You would just have that recovery reduced by whatever percentage of fault the court finds you contributed.

Another Path: Uninsured Motorist Coverage

There is another option you have at your disposal, and it dovetails with making a claim after an accident with your own insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance is coverage specifically designed to cover the costs associated with your accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, among others) when the other driver either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance coverage and is at fault for the accident. Uninsured motorist insurance isn’t a legal requirement in California, but if it can fit in your budget, it may be a good idea.

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