Car accidents happen every day in California. Most drivers who are involved in car accidents can get some sort of financial support from either their auto insurance provider or the insurance company of the other drivers involved. However, what happens if the person at fault in an accident has no insurance? Who pays for the damages? Let’s explore what happens in such a situation in California.
California Laws for No Insurance Accidents
The state laws for handling insurance claims play a key role in determining who pays for the damages. California is an “at-fault” state, where the injured victims of car accidents must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Some other states use a “no-fault” system where the injured party can seek financial benefits from their own insurance company. The no-fault system is simpler and easier as you don’t have to identify the driver and deal with someone else’s insurance company. However, we can’t change state laws, so we’ll have to go with what we have.
California laws require all drivers to have at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability for a single person injured in an accident that they were at fault for and $30,000 for all parties involved in the accident. The state also requires a minimum of $5,000 in property damage insurance.
The good news is that California mandates auto insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to all policyholders. The UM coverage provides financial support for losses caused by the accident such as medical bills and lost wages.
The UM coverage is different from Underinsured Coverage (UIM) coverage, which is designed for cases where the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is not enough to cover the expenses. The UM coverage helps plug the gap between expenses and insurance coverage.
If a driver does not carry the types of coverage and the minimum amounts mandated by California, they could face serious repercussions, including hefty fines, impoundment of their vehicles, license suspension, and more. In some cases, you could use Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage — an optional component of auto insurance policies — to provide some financial support to cover medical treatment and lost wages that resulted from the accident.
If you and the at-fault driver don’t have any insurance coverage to cover your losses, then you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver to recover compensation for your losses.
Steps to Take After an Accident
When you get into an accident, it’s important to take a few important steps to protect your rights. The law requires all drivers involved in an accident in California to stop at the scene and exchange insurance information. You need to ask the other drivers to share their insurance information to file a claim. Even if you can’t establish who was at fault for the accident, you should still get insurance information for all drivers involved.
Also, ensure you and anyone else hurt in the accident gets medical attention. Not only is this vital for your well-being, but also helps establish a record of your injuries so you can seek compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit. It also helps to gather evidence at the accident site. Photos, videos, and eyewitness statements can strengthen your case.
Call the police to the scene so they can create an accident report. In some cases, the law requires you to notify the police.
You can get a copy of this report from your local police station. The police report can be used as evidence in an auto accident case.
You also need to notify your insurance company, regardless of whether the accident was your fault or not. Finally, you should contact a car accident lawyer to help you fight for your rights to get full and fair compensation for your losses and to defend against any potential counterclaims or lawsuits by the other drivers.
What Type of Negligence System Does California Follow?
California has a pure comparative negligence system. Based on this system, you can receive compensation for your injuries even if you were 99% at fault for the accident. Your share of compensation will be adjusted according to your share of fault.
Can a Driver Go to Jail for Causing an Accident Without Insurance?
If a driver in California is found guilty of not having insurance, they can face some serious legal consequences, including penalties such as fines and license suspension. They might also face an increase in their auto insurance premiums and other undesirable outcomes. However, jail time is unlikely just for driving without insurance. That said, if the at-fault driver caused the accident through willful violation of a California law or intent to harm the other party, they could face jail time.
Consult with a Car Accident Lawyer
With close to 12,000 accidents in 2021, Orange County residents have a high risk of being involved in car accidents. The most common causes of car accidents in California include drunk driving, overspeeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you get injured in an accident, you should contact an attorney. A car accident lawyer can help you with all the legal aspects of the case, so you can focus on recovering from the accident and getting back to your normal routine. The insurance company will try to minimize their payout by trying to make it look like you were at fault for the accident. This is why you want a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer on your side.