In California, all automobile drivers are legally required to carry auto insurance.

In fact, California drivers are required by law to maintain insurance policies with the following minimum coverages: (1) $15,000 for death or injury to a single person in a crash; (2) $30,000 for death or injury to multiple people in a crash; and (3) $5,000 for property damage to another person’s vehicle. Importantly, these are minimum insurance policy requirements and insureds are advised to purchase insurance policies with higher limits.

Unfortunately, many drivers in California only have minimum policies or no policy at all. To that end, recent studies have suggested that anywhere between 16% and 25% of California drivers are driving without insurance, i.e. are “uninsured” drivers.

Protecting yourself against uninsured motorists

Accordingly, due to the high number of uninsured and underinsured California drivers, it is highly advisable that California drivers purchase additional uninsured (“UM”) and underinsured (“UIM”) motorist insurance policies. These policies protect drivers when they are involved in a collision with an at-fault driver who does not have insurance or has insufficient insurance, respectively.

Such policies can cover both bodily injury and property damage.

For example, an Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (“UMBI”) policy pays for injuries to the insured and the insured’s passengers at the time of the crash when an uninsured driver is at fault.

Alternatively, an Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (“UMPD”) covers damage to the insured’s vehicle from an uninsured driver who is at fault.

The difference between Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage

UM and UIM policies may be better explained by way of examples.

Imagine a driver with a UM policy is in a vehicle crash with a driver of a truck, who is at fault for the collision. In the crash, the insured driver sustains injuries requiring medical bills of $45,000. However, the truck driver does not have insurance. If the insured victim has a UM policy with $30,000 UM limits, the insured’s own insurance will pay for the medical bills up to $30,000. Indeed, this coverage is important if the at-fault truck driver cannot be found or is not personally collectible.

By way of another example, imagine a driver with a UIM policy is involved in a crash with a motorcyclist, who is at-fault. In the crash, the insured driver sustains injuries amounting to $85,000 in medical bills. However, the motorcyclist only had the minimum policy limits of $15,000. Indeed, under the Insurance Code, an “Underinsured motor vehicle” means “a motor vehicle that is an insured motor vehicle but insured for an amount that is less than the uninsured motorist limits carried on the motor vehicle of the injured person.” (Insurance Code section 11580.2) There is no question that the motorcyclist is an “underinsured “driver. Here, if the injured driver had a UIM policy with limits of $50,000, the injured insured motorist would still be partially protected. The motorist’s UIM policy would cover up to $60,000 in medical bills after the at-fault driver’s $15,000 insurance policy is fully used up.

Make sure you understand your auto insurance policy

Ultimately, when buying auto insurance in California, it is important to discuss and understand specific details about the policy. This means understanding both the general auto policy as well as UM and UIM coverage. Indeed, a California driver should understand both the basic policy limits and the reasons to carry higher limits. Furthermore, an insured should carefully read the policy to fully understand the protections. For example, UM and UIM coverage often covers crashes with uninsured or underinsured drivers of cars, trucks, and motorcycles and can even sometimes cover crashes involving bicycles or pedestrians.

It is always hard to explain to a client that they do not have a claim because they did not carry UM/UIM coverage. UM and UIM coverages are arguably the most important insurance coverages policyholders can have.

The attorneys at MKP Law Group, LLP have years of experience representing persons injured in automobile crashes. To that end, the attorneys at MKP Law Group, LLP help injured clients pursue all possible avenues towards becoming whole again, including handling the intricacies of UM and UIM policies. If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle crash, call or contact MKP Law Group, LLP for your 100% free consultation today.