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What are my options when hit by an uninsured driver?

You can be forgiven if, like most people, you have not read the fine print on your auto insurance coverage. Outside of knowing you are covered in the event of an accident and have enough liability coverage, you may not pay much attention to the details. But the fine print on your insurance coverage can make a large difference if you are injured in an accident, as can the insurance of the driver who hit you.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) will provide for the costs associated with an accident if an uninsured driver hits you. Ideally, your UM/UIM insurance will cover all the medical costs, lost wages and the cost of repairs. UM/UIM insurance is something you purchase and pay for yourself.

According to the Insurance Research Council, approximately 4.1 million drivers in California are uninsured, which amounts to over 14 percent of drivers in the state. Many more are underinsured, meaning you may not be fully covered even if the other driver is insured.

California state law requires all drivers to have up-to-date auto insurance. Unfortunately, many drivers operate their vehicles illegally by being uninsured.

Insurance laws and policies are complex

If you have been injured in a car accident, you will be dealing with insurance companies. In the case of UM/UIM coverage, it will be your own insurance company. That does not necessarily mean you will be covered for all the costs of the accident, however. For one thing, your own insurance company will seek to limit the amount it pays on your policy. In addition, complications about coverage can arise, as was recently demonstrated by a case in California's Second Appellate District, just decided in February, 2016.

In that case, an insured driver was hit and settled with the other driver for $25,000, the maximum amount covered by the at-fault driver's insurance. That did not cover the costs associated with the accident, so the injured plaintiff also recovered the policy limits on his own UIM/UM coverage. This made a difference, but was still not enough to fully cover the costs.

In addition, the injured individual had an excess insurance "follow form" policy, which is additional coverage that you can purchase designed to provide coverage in case the costs of one accident exceeds your own predetermined policy limits. Generally, a follow-form policy covers everything included in the primary insurance policy. However, in this case, the injured individual had agreed to an excess follow-form policy that excluded any additional UM/UIM coverage. The court held that the insurer of the "follow form" policy did not have to pay under his coverage. You can read more about the case here.

As you can see, insurance matters in personal injury cases can be complex. If you have been injured in an accident and have questions about what insurance will cover the costs, speak to a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.

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