Santa Barbara Uninsured Motorist Accident Lawyers
While we all know there is a real possibility that each of us can be involved in an auto accident, we also assume that the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will be made available to us in order to pay our bills. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many drivers in California are either uninsured or underinsured. This means that anyone who is unlikely enough to end up in an accident with them may be left with hefty bills they can’t afford.
That is why we at NordstrandBlack PC have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that our clients get the compensation they need, no matter the situation. If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you are likely feeling completely helpless. We want to help. Call our firm at (805) 962-2022 in order to get top-notch legal help from a Santa Barbara uninsured motorist accident attorney.
After being involved in an accident, you may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, despite your injuries and trauma, you won’t have to worry about the cost after you file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. You may be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
An uninsured motorist (UM) is exactly what they sound like. While auto insurance is legally required in California, not everyone follows the law. Some drivers neglect to get auto insurance, meaning anyone who ends up in an accident with them will not be able to file a claim against their insurer. UM is also includes hit-and-run drivers or phantom drivers. A hit-and-run involves one driver fleeing the scene of an accident without exchanging information with the other driver. It leaves the other driver in the position where there may be no one to file a claim against at all. Phantom driver accidents, in turn, refer to situations where a driver causes an accident without hitting anyone, sometimes called a miss and run. UM insurance would apply to these scenarios as well.
On the other hand, an underinsured motorist (UIM) is a driver who does have insurance, but their policy isn’t high enough to fully compensate you for your losses. For example, your medical bills following an accident could be $100,000, but the at-fault driver’s insurance policy caps at $50,000. That leaves another $50,000 for you to deal with. You may be wondering how to pay for your medical bills if the adverse insurance hits the policy cap. Well, that is exactly where UIM insurance would apply. In this instance, you would file a claim against both the at-fault driver’s insurance policy and once that policy is exhausted you can file a UIM claim with your insurance carrier.
When buying an auto insurance policy, you can and should purchase UM/UIM coverage. This means that if you ever end up in an accident with a UM or UIM, or you end up in a hit-and-run, you can file a claim with your own insurance provider. This allows you to recover damages up to the cap of your own policy. You can’t purchase more UM/UIM coverage than you have for liability coverage. So, continuing the example above, if you still have $50,000 left in medical bills, and your UM/UIM has a limit of $100,000, you can recover the additional $50,000 from your insurer under UIM coverage.
Every state has its own laws around auto insurance. In California, drivers are legally required to have auto insurance. On top of that basic requirement, California law also stipulates the basic policy limits that your insurance should cover. In California, you must have:
- $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability coverage
- $5,000 minimum in property damage liability coverage
This means that if you are involved in an accident with a driver who is not insured, they are breaking the law. In fact, that is precisely why many drivers fail to stop after an accident. They may think it is safer for them to flee the scene of an accident than admit to breaking auto insurance laws. However, hit-and-runs are a crime and will likely result in a harsher punishment than neglecting to have proper insurance.
That being said, California law is also heavily concerned with UM/UIM drivers. That is why all insurance companies in California are legally required to offer UM/UIM insurance coverage. These policies can only be refused by the driver if they sign a very specific form. If you never signed such a form, or if the UM/UIM policy was never offered to you, then you may have a UM/UIM policy, or your insurance provider may be acting in bad faith.
When your insurance company acts in bad faith, it means that they deny a valid claim in order to maximize their profits. This can often happen in UM/UIM situations as most insurance providers want to avoid paying out the policy. Essentially, an insurance company acts in bad faith when they refuse to fulfill the obligations they have to their insured. You should always remember that this kind of behavior is illegal, and the insurance provider can, and should, be held liable. Holding an insurance company responsible for their actions, however, is no easy feat without a skilled attorney by your side.
Car accidents, whether you were a driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcycle operator, are terrifying. Not only do you suffer serious injuries, but you must also contend with mounting medical bills and lost wages. That is why ensuring that you get the compensation you need to recover financially is one of the most important steps you can take. If you need help determining the best avenue to pursue compensation from, or if your insurance provider is acting in bad faith, you need a skilled Santa Barbara auto accident attorney and Santa Barbara bad faith attorney by your side. Call NordstrandBlack PC at (805) 962-2022 for expert legal aid.