Life, unfortunately, has more than its fair share of challenges and difficulties that always seem to creep up when you least expect it, or are least prepared. Sometimes, the situations might devolve into quite nightmarish moments that leave lasting memories of situations you hope to never find yourself in again. Think about some of the infamous depictions of nightmares of the past 20 years: The Blair Witch Project. Scream. Chucky. All evocative of nightmare-like scenarios that we can rest assured at night are so far removed from reality we likely will never experience. For us here in real life and not on the silver screen, however, there is one situation so unenviable enough as to be comparable to these horror flicks: auto accidents where a driver is uninsured.
Here in the United States, some states have laws on the books that permit uninsured drivers, no matter how serious or not an accident is, to claim damages and receive compensatory rewards despite technically not following the law by being insured. Let’s take a look at California, a comparative negligence and automobile-obsessed state whose civil court cases are well known for reaping the big bucks for the winners.
First off, a driver in California may only drive without traditional insurance if they are able to provide a certificate evidencing a $35,000 cash deposit. Again, that’s $35,000- certainly makes that monthly policy payment seem like chump change. Next, if no proof of coverage is available and authorities determine you are uninsured, you’re also looking at being slapped with a mandatory SR-22 insurance policy that comes with a substantial price tag on top of your existing policy. Not to mention a four year suspension of your driver’s license as well. These laws are on the books, however, to essentially compel drivers to insure themselves through traditional coverage options so as to avoid much of what is discussed in this article.
The moment an accident takes place, all arties involved must pull over and report the accident to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), who will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you are indeed an uninsured driver, you are looking at fines, fees, and administrative costs in the region of $500. Further, you risk your vehicle being impounded on the spot and towed away, which will invariably require forking over additional cash to get it back.
Dealing With Uninsured Drivers
If you are an uninsured driver determined to be solely at fault for causing an accident, the costs described above pale in comparison to those that will be levied upon you by the court and the other party’s insurance provider. Further, you may also be potentially looking at medical costs, damage public property such as street signs, safety rails, and other public safety and traffic material. Part of your obligation as a driver in California requires you to have uninsured motorist coverage for moments like this. Even if the other driver has it too, his coverage will cover the costs of his or her losses even if the accident is your fault.
But you aren’t off the hook yet! Assume ou cause tens of thousands in damage to the other driver’s vehicle and yours, but you also own a house with $150,000 in equity. If you have no automobile insurance, the court and insurance company will come after your property in order to recover costs paid out to their insured party; and if you can’t come up with the money the settlement calls for, you may lose your home! Driving without insurance might be saving you money in the short term, but the risks outweighing the savings benefit are unarguably not worth it.
What to do When the Worst Happens
In a state where one in seven drivers is estimated to be uninsured, knowing what to do immediately following an accident with an uninsured motorist will help you keep your case organized and your life in order after a traumatic event. Best practices for what to do after an accident include: taking pictures of damage, the surrounding area adjacent to the crash site, the physical location (highway, city street, etc.), and skid marks.
Also, don’t forget: make sure you take down ALL of the other driver’s information, most especially their insurance information, but also personal contact information such as phone numbers, addresses, or business locations in the event you retain legal counsel and need to serve documents, notices, and other legally-oriented materials as you get your case together.
Perhaps most essential, however, is immediately notifying the police and your insurance company. A police report will provide important evidence of the crash. And just when you’re comfortable thinking you have proper uninsured motorist coverage, you’ve conducted all your due diligence, read and re-read your policy, and have a fat binder full of pictures and evidence… your insurance provider disputes your claim. It is in such situations that any of our California Car Accident Lawyers can come to your aid in making sure that your insurance company hold up their end of the bargain by providing you the coverage you paid for.
So, you find yourself up against the other driver, the court, medical costs, and a difficult insurance representative that wants to dispute the merits of your coverage due to some fine print. The challenge with situations like this, is that you also may not pursue reimbursements for damage from sources, settlements, or agreements outside of the insurance policy. This legal doctrine is known as subrogation, where your insurance provider must be the primary source of compensation recovery and you may not pursue any effort that would impede your insurer’s collection efforts outside of you and your insurer.
At the end of the day, it is ill advised to pursue an auto accident case in civil court where a driver is uninsured without proper legal representation. Sometimes, insurance companies and your personal injury attorney can work in tandem as they obtain the most favorable settlement. But sometimes, the same folks you expected to be on your side are only making the journey to recovery an obstacle. Drive carefully and ALWAYS keep your insurance policy current!