Will My Insurance Cover Me Following A California Hit-And-Run Accident?
California requires all licensed drivers to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance. This coverage is designed to cover liability for an auto accident caused by the insured. In other words, if another driver is reckless and hits you, their insurance is responsible for paying your damages up to the limits of the policy.
Of course, we have all seen–or even been personally involved in–situations where the other driver simply speeds away from the scene without stopping to render aid or exchange insurance information. So what can you do following this type of “hit and run” accident? Can you turn to your own insurance company for coverage?
How Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works in California
In many cases, you can. California law requires all auto insurance companies to offer what is known as uninsured/underinsured (UMC/UIM) motorist coverage as part of their standard policies. This coverage is technically optional, meaning you do not have to purchase it. But if you do, then you can claim first-party benefits in the event of a hit-and-run accident.
UMC/UIM coverage basically means that your insurer is required to “step into” the shoes of a negligent driver who either lacks insurance or has insufficient insurance to fully compensate you for your losses. (The latter is quite common given that many California drivers elect to purchase only the minimum required amount of liability coverage.) In the case of a hit-and-run accident, UMC/UIM coverage may be your only option for compensation as the negligent driver remains unknown.
Keep in mind, however, that your UMC/UIM insurer is only required to cover your losses up to the limits of your policy–i.e., the amount of coverage that you purchased. This is important because most UMC/UIM policies are equal to the amount of your regular liability policy limits. In California, those minimums are $15,000 for bodily injury to one person and $5,000 in property damage. So let’s say you are injured in a hit-and-run accident. If you have the minimum amount of UMC/UIM coverage, then your insurer is only liable for $15,000 in medical bills and expenses and $5,000 in damage to your car and other property.
What Should I Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
You should always call the police after any hit-and-run accident. The police can take down an official accident report. And there is always a chance that they may be able to identify and locate the hit-and-run driver. You should also try and gather any evidence at the scene of the accident, especially eyewitness statements, as they can help with identifying the driver. You also need to notify your own insurance as soon as possible, especially if you may need to claim UMC/UIM benefits.
It is also a good idea to speak with a qualified Monterey car accident lawyer who can advise you of your rights. Never assume that your insurance company will pay up just because you’re up-to-date on your premiums. You need to work with an attorney who will zealously represent your interests. So if you need assistance, contact the Allen Law Firm today to schedule an initial consultation.