Cardinal rule: there is never enough insurance to compensate for a serious personal injury there or the death of a family member. The overwhelming probability is that the loss will occur in a car crash, the leading cause of trauma in the United States.
Under California law, every driver must purchase and maintain minimum mandatory liability coverage. If a driver causes an auto accident, their insurance company will defend a lawsuit against them and pay the damage that has been caused, but not more than the stated limits of coverage, which are found in the Declaration Sheet that comes with annual or semi-annual bills.
This law has not been upgraded for decades and the mandatory minimums are a joke, held in place by Hertz, Avis and other car rental companies who want to keep owner’s liability costs at a minimum. It’s a travesty.
California law only requires the following minimum coverage:
- $15,000 per person for injury/death;
- $30,000 per collision for injury/death; and
- $5,000 in property damage.
Uninsured motorist insurance and underinsured motorist coverage (collectively UM) have to be offered to you as optional coverage, which you can decline. That’s a tragically bad mistake.
One in six drivers in California are uninsured. Some are hit and run drivers. You will never collect form them when they injure you.
Always buy as much UM insurance as your liability coverage to assure the protection needed for you, your family and friends.
Little known fact: UM provides protections both inside and outside your car, including your passengers, when you or a family member are pedestrians, when your child is a passenger in a neighbor’s car or on a school outing, when a youngster is riding a bicycle and suffers an injury caused by an uninsured driver. Your only recourse collecting for these damages is your UM coverage.
Underinsured coverage pays when an insured driver has low limits and causes damage in excess of the defendant’s policy. For example, in a major collision that results in a fracture requiring surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy and lost earnings the reasonable value of the loss would exceed a defendant’s $15,000, $25,000 or $50,000 policy. With a $250,000 UM policy, the injured person would first collect the underlying policy from the defendant and then collect the balance of their losses from their automobile insurer.
In short, buy as much as you can afford and if you purchase an excess or umbrella policy, buy excess UM as well. The more the better and the actual charges are very modest. In my view, cheap and a great value.
Once insurance coverages lapse drivers lose the right to collect major non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. It is a tragic and significant loss not to be able to collect for past and future pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress.
This commonly occurs with young adults whose parents are in a rush to remove their children from the family policy because they know their darling offspring drives like a maniac and are concerned about increased rates. They buy the child a car in the child’s name and insure it separately with a minimum policy.
I counsel otherwise. The eighteen to thirty-year-old age group is the “go for the gusto” crowd who take risks because they know they are going to live forever. Statistically this age group with have 2+ car crashes during their early driving years. They need substantial coverage and substantial UM. They also need to pay their insurance bill on time to avoid having a policy lapse, which usually is not discovered until after the crash.
One way to avoid this debacle of unpaid and lost coverage is for a parent to retain an ownership interest in the car and share the title with their offspring, which makes the parent a co-insured. Buy substantial coverage to protect your child from injury caused by an uninsured motorist and have the bill addressed to the family home where you will make sure it is paid. One benefit is lower pricing for a fleet rate.
When the crash occurs, look closely at the role of third parties that may also bear responsibility. For example, Caltrans or a city for a road design, striping or signaling, blind inter sections caused by a property owner with excessive vegetation, a manufacturing defect or design failure, or negligent contractors creating a dangerous condition. That is something ALG does routinely. All serious motor vehicle collisions require an in-depth investigation to ensure that all potential sources of financial compensation are identified.
Immediately call the experts in maximizing recoveries right away. ALG will make sure you don’t give inadvertently give up your most valuable right and that’s the right to collect from the insurance company damages in excess of the defendant’s insurance policy. We are experts in collecting full damages. If that interests you read the case reports for Rasheed Hilson, a brain damaged 12 year-old and George Liu, a motorist whose spinal cord was severed.
Contact Our San Jose Motor Vehicle Accidents Lawyers for Immediate Help
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.