Can't get blood from a stone.
We've all heard this phrase before. It's especially true for people injured in auto accident in which the at-fault driver has no money and no insurance.
It may have been a horrible accident that put someone in the hospital. The medical bills are piling up, the injured person is unable to work, and it seems as if the negligent party should pay and pay big. After all, they ran a red light, or they were gabbing on a cell phone not paying attention, or they were intoxicated . . . whatever the case may be.
Few would disagree that such a person should have to pay for everything they've put their victims through: costs for medical care to date, costs of future medical care, loss of income, etc., but the reality is that generally the only monies available is whatever auto insurance coverage -- specifically body injury auto insurance coverage -- that negligent driver possesses.
California law only requires drivers to minimally possess $15,000 per person and $30,000.00 per incident "15/30" coverage. In other words, if someone causes a collision that puts other people into a hospital for days at a cost of tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars, if that negligent driver only has the minimal "15/30" bodily injury insurance coverage, then one of their victims will likely only have $15,000 available to recover -- no matter how serious their injuries. If the collision involves multiple vehicles and multiple people, and fault is determine to rest solely on one person, and that one person only has "15/30" bodily injury insurance coverage, then the most that all the people in all the cars can collect collectively may be only $30,000, which gets split among those several victims.
For this reason it's imperative that that drivers carry uninsured/underinsured motorist automobile coverage that will protect them against negligent drivers who carry either no insurance or insufficient insurance. Consumers have to ask for it! A good insurance agent will make a point of discussing the need for this type of insurance coverage with a customer, but the reality is many do not. Most people want the cheapest insurance and think no matter what happens they'll be protected -- that is not the case.
Remember this: Cheap insurance does not equal good insurance.
Also remember: Just because an insurance agent tells their customer that they're "fully covered," this does not necessarily mean they are protected if they're in an accident caused by someone without adequate insurance.
In our experience, an insurance agent saying a customer is "fully covered" usually only means they have the minimal insurance coverage required by law.
BEST TIP we can give: Carry at least $100,000/$300,000 in uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. That way, you know that regardless of how much (or how little) insurance coverage the at-fault driver possesses, you will have $100,000 available to you personally through your own insurance. And if passengers in your car got hurt as well, each will also have $100,000 available up to a maximum of $300,000 for everyone combined.
We can't tell you how many times we've talked to very hurt people, facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding medical bills as well as loss of employment, only to find that only $15,000.00 is available from the negligent driver. It's heartbreaking.
The vast majority of drivers in California only have a finite amount of insurance coverage with few personal assets. In fact, most drivers in California carry only minimal coverage . . . or do not have insurance at all. Studies have shown that one third (1/3) of drivers are uninsured.
Do yourself a favor and make sure you carry at least $100,000 per incident/$300,000 per accident in uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage (or as much coverage in excess of that as you or your family can afford).
On a rainy day (and hopefully that rainy day never comes for you), the extra few dollars paid in insurance premium will be worth it.
If you've been involved in an auto accident and are concerned or confused about what insurance will or won't pay, or if you're wondering if there's enough insurance available to protect you, please contact us at The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith so we can discuss your options.