After a motor vehicle crash, you need to know that your injuries and losses will be covered. When the crash was another driver’s fault, that driver is generally required to pay for your damages. But what if they are uninsured or underinsured?

In California, drivers are required to carry minimum liability coverage in order to cover the damages of others if the driver causes a crash. California’s minimum insurance requirements are:

  • $15,000 toward the death or injury of another person
  • A total of $30,000 toward the death or injury of more than one person in the same accident
  • $5,000 toward any property damage incurred by others in a crash you cause

Driving without this minimal coverage is illegal, and drivers can be ticketed for driving without insurance. They could also have their driver’s licenses suspended and their vehicles impounded. Unfortunately, those consequences are not enough to ensure that everyone buys the minimum required insurance.

Moreover, $15,000 is not a great deal of money when it comes to injuries caused by car crashes. A single injured person might easily face medical bills that are far higher than that, and several injured people are almost certain to need more than a total of $30,000.

What if the injured person is you?

What if someone who is uninsured or underinsured causes a crash and your injuries are serious? Who pays for the excess?

By law, you can sue an uninsured or underinsured motorist for the excess, but realistically, you may not be able to. Unfortunately, many people are uninsured or underinsured simply because they don’t have the money to pay for the insurance. They may not have the money to pay for your excess medical bills, either.

That’s why it’s crucial to buy a reasonable amount of uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) on your own policy. This type of insurance makes sure you have a source of funding for your injuries even if the driver who hit you has none or too little. You may also want an uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) policy, which offers up to $3,500 in property damage coverage if an uninsured driver is at fault for your accident and can be identified.

While you’re shopping for UMC and UIM coverage, consider upping your own liability policy limits. That way, if you are at fault in an accident, the insurance company will cover more of the other person’s medical bills. The higher your liability coverage, the less likely it is that someone will be able to sue you if the policy limit is exceeded.