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Antaramian Law, APC  April 7, 2024

What to Do When Hit by an Uninsured or Under-Insured Motorist 

Accidents happen when we least expect them, and not knowing what happens next can be scary. What's even more challenging is when you're involved in a collision with an underinsured or uninsured motorist. In these situations, it's easy to feel lost and unsure of what steps to take next. However, understanding your options and knowing your next steps can make a significant difference in your ability to recover and move forward. Here is a guide to help you regain control and protect your rights if you've been hit by an underinsured/uninsured motorist. 

Understanding California Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) are crucial protections that shield you in the event you're involved in an accident with someone who either lacks any liability insurance or possesses insufficient coverage. This coverage is so vital that insurance companies are mandated to offer them to you. If you decide against purchasing this coverage, you must sign a waiver acknowledging that it was offered to you and you chose to decline it.  

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) coverage kicks in to cover injuries to both you and any passengers in your car when the at-fault driver has no insurance. The coverage limits for UMBI mirror those of your own liability coverage, ensuring you and your passengers have substantial protection.  

Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage provides a safety net for bodily injury expenses in situations where an at-fault driver's insurance fails to cover all the damage costs due to inadequate coverage limits.  

Additionally, Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) addresses damage to your vehicle following an accident with an uninsured at-fault driver. The coverage limit for UMPD typically caps at $3,500 and is only applicable when the uninsured driver is identified. If you have collision coverage, you might not need UMPD, but it's an essential safeguard for those without.  

These provisions are instrumental in ensuring you're not left financially stranded after an accident with underinsured or uninsured motorists. 

Immediate Steps to Take After the Accident

Following an accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist, it's crucial to handle the situation calmly and precisely to ensure your safety and to bolster your claim. Here are the essential steps you should take: 

  • Stay at the Scene: Never leave the accident scene prematurely. Assess for any injuries and ensure the safety of everyone involved. It's also vital to call the police immediately; having a police report is indispensable for your insurance claim. 

  • Document Everything: Collect and document as much information as possible: 

  • Obtain the other driver’s contact information. 

  • Note their insurance details (if available). 

  • Record the make, model, and license plate number of the other vehicle. 

  • Gather statements and contact information from eyewitnesses. 

  • Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle damages, and any visible injuries. 

  • Seek Medical Attention: Prioritize seeking medical evaluation, even if you feel unharmed. Some injuries may not show immediate symptoms but could have long-term impacts. Documenting your visit and any medical attention received is critical for your insurance claim and potential legal actions. 

These measures are not only essential for your health and safety but are also critical in securing the necessary documentation for your insurance claim process. 

Contacting Your Insurance Company

It is vital to notify your insurance company as soon as possible about the accident. Failure to report an accident in a timely manner can lead to the denial of your UIM/UM claim. Provide the details of the accident and follow any additional steps they might require, such as obtaining a police report or submitting a claim form. 

Keep a Record of Communication 

Document all communication with your insurance company. Keep a log of phone calls, emails, and letters. Maintain a record of who you spoke with, the date and time of the conversation, and a summary of what was discussed. 

Be Cautious with Statements 

Insurance adjusters are trained to minimize the amount they have to pay out. Be cautious with your statements, and never admit fault, even if you think you might have contributed to the accident. Stick to the facts and avoid speculation. 

Pursuing a Claim against the Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist

Before filing a claim against your UIM/UM coverage, familiarize yourself with your policy and the rights it provides. This will help you know what to expect from your insurance company. You should also follow these next steps: 

  • Gather Evidence. Just as you would in a regular car accident claim, gather evidence to support your UIM/UM claim. This includes the police report, photographs of the scene and damages, medical records, and any other pertinent documentation. 

  • Calculating Damages. Determine the full extent of your damages, which may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you accurately calculate these costs. 

  • Consult With an Attorney. Navigating UIM/UM claims can be complex, and insurance companies don't always have your best interests at heart. Consulting with an attorney can dramatically increase your chances of a successful claim. 

Initiating a Claim Against an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

Taking steps against an uninsured or underinsured motorist can seem daunting but knowing how to proceed can greatly improve the process. Here’s a simplified strategy: 

  • Review Your Insurance Policy: Start by thoroughly understanding the specifics of your UM/UIM coverage. This knowledge will serve as a foundation for your claim and ensure you're aware of your entitlements. 

  • Document Compilation: As with any auto accident claim, the strength of your case lies in the evidence. Essential items include: 

  • The police report detailing the accident. 

  • Images capturing the accident scene, damages to all vehicles involved, and injuries. 

  • Medical reports that outline any treatments or evaluations following the incident. 

  • Any additional relevant information that could support your claim. 

  • Damage Assessment: Determining the total impact of the accident is crucial. This encompasses: 

  • Medical expenses, both immediate and long-term. 

  • Loss of earnings if the incident affected your ability to work. 

  • The cost of property damage. 

  • Compensation for pain and suffering incurred due to the accident. 

  • Seek Legal Counsel: Given the issues surrounding UM/UIM claims, consulting with a legal advocate can be invaluable. They can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions to maximize the potential of your claim. 

Following these steps will not only streamline the process but also enhance your chances of receiving fair compensation for the incident. 

Potential Complications and How to Handle Them

Handling a car accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist often brings unexpected challenges. Here are potential complications you may encounter and provide guidance on how to effectively address them. 

Policy Lingo Confusion 

Understanding insurance jargon can be a challenge. Your policy may contain terms and conditions that are difficult to interpret. If you're unsure about anything in your policy, don't hesitate to ask your insurance company for clarification. 

Delayed or Denied Claims 

Unfortunately, UIM/UM claims can be delayed or outright denied for various reasons. If this happens to you, request a detailed explanation from your insurance company. In some cases, involving legal counsel can help challenge a denial or push for a resolution. 

Lowball Settlement Offers 

Insurance companies may offer you a settlement that doesn't fully cover your damages. Again, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney can provide insight into what a fair settlement should look like and how to negotiate with your insurer. 

Preventive Measures for the Future

To minimize the impact of incidents in the future, consider the following strategies: 

  • Review and Update Your Policy Regularly: Your life and your insurance needs are not static. Ensure your UIM/UM policy reflects your current lifestyle and assets for adequate protection. 

  • Practice Safe Driving: Committing to safe driving reduces your risk of accidents and the complexities that follow with uninsured or underinsured incidents. 

  • Engage Legal Assistance Early: Involving a lawyer shortly after an accident provides clarity and guidance through the claims process, safeguarding your interests. 

  • Seek Support: Emotional and psychological support is crucial in the aftermath of an accident. Lean on your network or seek professional help to aid recovery. 

  • Stay Informed: Knowledge is power. Understanding your rights and the intricacies of UIM/UM coverage empowers you to advocate effectively for yourself. 

By adopting these measures, you can fortify yourself against the uncertainties of the road, ensuring peace of mind and a stronger sense of security in your daily travels. 

Know Your Rights and Options

The aftermath of an auto accident with an underinsured or uninsured motorist can be a time of confusion and stress. However, by understanding your rights, taking proactive measures, and seeking legal guidance when necessary, you can ensure that you're taking the best possible steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Remember, you're not alone in this – the team at Antaramian Law, APC is here to help.


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