What to Do if You Got in a Car Accident Without Insurance and You’re Not at Fault
California is one of the many states in which it is illegal to drive without car insurance. Here’s what to do if you get in a car accident without insurance and you’re not at fault.
What Kind of Car Insurance is Required?
California requires two types of car insurance in order to legally operate a motor vehicle: bodily injury liability and property damage liability.
Bodily injury liability pays for any medical expenses sustained by another party if the policyholder is at fault. California requires at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability.
Property damage liability insurance covers any property damages sustained by another party if the policyholder is at fault. California requires up to $5,000 per accident in property damage liability.
What are the Consequences for Driving Uninsured?
In California, driving without car insurance is a criminal offense. For the first offense, the total fine can be up to $500 due to the minimum fine of $100 and the additional fees for penalty assessments. All other offenses after the first can result in a fine of around $1,000. However, some drivers may feel as though they are saving money on insurance premiums. While this might be the case for some time, it is a gamble. As soon as an uninsured driver gets into an accident, they will likely have to pay far more than any policyholder in addition to the legal fees of uninsured driving.
Recovering Damages While Uninsured
California is a comparative fault state. This means that individuals are only liable for the percentage of damages that is equal to the percentage that they are determined to be at fault. In other words, if an individual is determined to be 50% at fault for an accident, then they are liable to pay for 50% of the damages sustained by all parties. In a motor vehicle accident, the at-fault party (usually their insurer) covers the compensatory damages for the other party. The percentage of blame each party receives can be negotiated both in and outside of court. However, the process becomes complicated if one or both parties are uninsured.
Filing a Third-Party Claim
Third-party insurance policies cover the liabilities for situations in which the policyholder is required to pay compensatory damages to a third party. Third-party insurance policies are usually for bodily injury and property liabilities. If the party that is not at fault is uninsured, they can file a third-party claim with the other party’s insurance company. When a third party files a claim with an insurance company, the company must investigate the claim and determine fault. If they believe that their policyholder is not responsible, they may defend this claim in court. However, if they find that the policyholder was responsible, the insurance company will compensate the other party for their losses according to the insurance policy.
Uninsured drivers do not have to have their own insurance policy in order to file a third-party insurance claim. However, regardless of who was at fault, uninsured motor vehicle operators will likely still face all of the aforementioned consequences for driving without insurance according to California law.
What if the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay?
Insurance companies’ first duties are to the company and the policyholder. As such, a third party cannot sue an insurance company for bad faith. They have to file the suit directly against the other party in order to recover the damages they are seeking. If the insurance company refuses to pay the compensatory damages filed for in the third-party claim, the uninsured driver can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party (the policyholder).
If the uninsured driver files a lawsuit against the at-fault party, the case will be heard by a jury who will determine whether or not the defendant was negligent and caused the accident.
If you have any more questions about what to do if you get in a car accident without insurance and you’re not at fault, get connected to an attorney with one of our California Personal Injury Attorneys today! We won’t charge you a dime unless you win your case.