What To Do if You’re in a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver in California

October 7, 2023 Posted In Car Accidents,Uninsured Driver Accidents

If You Are Not at Fault

In California, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for paying any resulting damages from a car accident. A lawyer can help you notify and file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They will protect your rights and ensure nothing is said that can hurt your claim. Because California is a “No Pay, No Play” state, you cannot get money for non-economic damages. So, for example, after a Beaumont car accident, you couldn’t sue for pain and suffering money. 

If You Are at Fault

If the evidence clearly demonstrates that you were at fault or hold the majority of responsibility in causing the accident, you will be individually liable for any damages. The other driver may file a claim with their own auto insurer, but if they don’t have enough coverage for the damages, they may file a lawsuit against you. If you do not have any assets, it is less likely that the other driver will sue you due to the time and expense. However, if you have substantial assets, they may very well succeed in their case against you, and the court will likely order you to make payment in full or comply with a monthly payment program. It may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney and negotiate a settlement before the case makes it to court. There is a possibility you could end up going bankrupt for paying your own and the other driver’s expenses. 

In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a car accident without insurance in California, it is crucial to remain calm, collected, and take the following steps. 

Steps To Take After A Car Accident

First and foremost, check if everyone involved is safe and call 911 if necessary. Your well-being and that of others should always be the top priority. Next, exchange information with the other parties involved. This includes names, contact details, and vehicle information. It is also advisable to take pictures of the accident scene for documentation purposes. 

Then, report the accident to the police. This step is essential for legal reasons and can potentially protect you from being liable for the collision if you were not at fault. If possible, gather witness contact information as they can provide crucial statements on how the crash occurred. Consult a lawyer promptly for guidance on the best course of action and help navigating any potential legal consequences. Without insurance, you may be personally liable for damages and medical expenses. 

steps to take after a car accident with no insurance

Do Not Leave the Scene

Although you don’t have insurance, remain at the scene of the accident. It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident in California. Running away from a collision that involves only property damage is a misdemeanor crime and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. If someone is injured or killed, you can be charged with a felony and face up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in prison. 

Check on the Other Driver

If anyone is injured and requires medical attention, call 911. Exchange contact information with the other driver and ask for their insurance information. They will likely ask for your insurance information. You can tell them you don’t have it, but you don’t have to interact with the driver any longer. Go back to your vehicle and wait for the police to arrive. 

Don’t Apologize or Admit Guilt

Whether you were at fault or not, it is very important to resist apologizing. It can be seen as an admission of guilt, even if you did cause the accident. From that point on, it will be up to the police, insurance company, and possibly the courts to decide who was at fault for the accident. 

Gather Evidence

If you were not at fault for the accident, make sure to take photos or video of the location, where the vehicles came to a stop and their damage, your injuries, any debris, and the road conditions. Look for witnesses and ask for their contact information and whether they are willing to make a brief recorded statement on your phone. Gathering this evidence is critical to obtaining compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Not having insurance does not automatically make you liable, but the insurer may attempt to place the blame on you. 

Seek Medical Attention

Your health is the highest priority. If you were not taken to the hospital, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some severe injuries can have delayed symptoms, and you must have medical documentation linking any injuries or potential injuries to your crash. 

What if the Other Driver Is at Fault, but They Don’t Have Insurance? 

If the other driver is at fault but doesn’t have insurance, it can complicate the situation, but protect your interests by taking the same steps you would after a typical collision. Speak to a skilled Riverside car accident attorney as soon as possible, as there may still be options for compensation. For example:

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

If you carry uninsured motorist coverage as part of your own insurance policy, you can file a claim with your insurance company. This coverage is designed to protect you in situations where the at-fault driver is uninsured.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

You may consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, especially if you only carry liability insurance as required by state law. A personal injury claim can recover compensation for your damages, such as medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Collision Coverage

This type of coverage is optional, but if you have it, you can file a claim with your insurer regardless of fault to pay for repairs or replacement of your vehicle. 

PIP or Med-Pay

Personal injury protection (PIP) also referred to as med-pay, is another optional form of auto insurance that will cover medical treatment and lost wages up to policy limits if the other driver is uninsured.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California

The penalties for driving without car insurance in California vary depending on whether it is your first or subsequent offense.

  • First offense: A fine between $100 and $200
  • Second (and subsequent) offense: A fine between $200 and $500
  • Filing of an SR-22 certificate
  • Possible suspension of the vehicle’s registration or license
  • Reinstatement fees 

Getting into an accident without insurance means you will lose your license for one year. After a year, you can get your license reinstated, but your insurance company must file an SR-22 on your behalf. This is a “Certificate of Financial Responsibility” that confirms you’re carrying the minimum amount of insurance in the state. You’ll need to keep SR-22 insurance for three years, which causes your car insurance to be much more expensive. 

If you are involved in a car accident in California without auto insurance, you are likely wondering how much trouble you are in and how you will pay for damages. 

How Can a Lawyer Help After an Accident With an Uninsured Driver in California

A lawyer can be instrumental in helping you navigate the legal complexities following an accident with an uninsured driver in California. Here’s how:

Assessment of Liability

A lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of the accident to determine who is at fault. This is crucial in establishing your right to compensation.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

If you have UM coverage in your own insurance policy, a lawyer can assist in filing a claim with your insurance company. They can help ensure you receive the maximum compensation allowed under your policy.

Identifying Alternative Options for Compensation

A lawyer can help explore other potential sources of compensation, such as personal assets of the at-fault driver, government programs, or other liable parties.

Legal Strategy and Guidance

A lawyer can develop a tailored legal strategy based on the specifics of your case, ensuring the best possible outcome.

Negotiation with the At-Fault Driver

If the at-fault driver has personal assets or resources, a lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to secure fair compensation.

Trial Representation

If necessary, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver to hold them liable in court. 

Protection from Legal Pitfalls

A lawyer can help protect you from potential legal pitfalls and ensure that all necessary documentation and procedures are followed correctly.

Peace of Mind

Having a lawyer on your side provides peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your recovery while they handle the legal aspects of your case.

Speak To a Trusted Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, arrange a free consultation with an experienced Riverside car accident attorney today. 

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