Underinsured Driver Car Accidents

Posted January 7, 2018

WHAT HAPPENS when the person at fault for a car accident does not have enough insurance to cover the all of the injuries and damage caused by the car accident?  Although California requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage so there is some money there to pay damages to the injured victim, the California car liability insurance minimum frequently falls far short of the needs of the car accident victim.

The state of California requires that all cars operating or parked on their roadways carry a certain level of liability insurance.  Evidence of your minimum liability insurance coverage must be on you at all times when you are driving so that you can show law enforcement when asked and share with parties to a car accident.  Here are the minimum liability insurance coverages set forth in California Insurance Code Section 11580.1 (b):

  • $15,000 for injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5,000 for property damage

Often referred to as “15/30/5 coverage”, one can easily see how these coverage limits usually fall well below what is needed to pay for the injuries and damages of the victim(s) of a car accident. For example, the victim of a car accident may have no major physical injuries following an accident, but their car has some major damage. When you are hit by someone with the coverage minimums listed above, the most you can get from their policy is $5,000 for the damage to your car.

Underinsured Car Accident Lawsuits

WHO makes up the difference? Similar to those instances in which you are hit by a driver who illegally has no car insurance at all, when you max out the policy limits for the other driver you can then go after the coverage in your own policy. Many of our clients do not realize that they have coverage for this very scenario, but if you do, we will work with (or in many instances, fight against) your own insurance company to get you the money you deserve following a car accident with an underinsured driver. Unless you declined this specific coverage in writing, you very likely have some level of uninsured and underinsured coverage (listed on your policy as “UIM Coverage”).  So going back to the example above– say the damage to your car was around $20,000. We would first exhaust the $5,000 policy limit of the “at fault” driver and then seek the remaining $15,000 from your own policy, if that amount is available.

YOU can’t control who you get into a car accident with.   For that reason, it is always important to take a look at your own insurance policy and make sure that your comprehensive coverage is high enough. If you are reading this, and have not been in an accident, but want to make sense of your insurance policy, you are welcome to give us a call and we will take a look for you. Underinsured car accidents are complicated.  Insurance companies will almost always try to offer you a lowball amount to save money on their end.  At the law firm of Shenfield & Associates, we have handled hundreds of these types of cases.  We know how to maximize your recovery. If you have recently been injured in a California car accident, please give us a call today at (650) 373-2054 to discuss your case further. We take all our cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t pay us anything until you get paid.  We look forward to the opportunity to be of service to you.