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California Motor Vehicle Insurance Information
- If you have already been in a car or other type of motor vehicle accident in the State of California, we highly recommend that you stop reading right now, and call our law firm for a free telephone consultation at (800) 816-1529, Ext. 1. We will tell you over the telephone if we think that you have a case and whether we can help you.
- If we believe we can help you, and you decide to retain us, we can then send our investigator to you with all of the legal forms necessary for you to retain our law firm.
- If you do not have medical insurance or a medical provider, we can immediately refer you to an appropriate doctor near you for medical treatment. (Yes, even if you do not have medical insurance)
- Yes, this can all be accomplished with one phone call to our law firm. We try to make the process as simple as possible for you.
CALIFORNIA MINIMUM INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
Pursuant to California State Law, (Proposition 213) you must have minimum liability insurance coverage of $10,000 Property Damage, $15,000 bodily injury per person, and $30,000 per incident while you are driving on California Roads.
If you do not have minimum liability insurance coverage, you will NOT BE ENTITLED TO GENERAL DAMAGES (pain & suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.), and you may lose your driver’s license, and a fine. Even if the accident was not your fault!
Most personal injury attorneys will not represent you on a contingency basis unless you had liability insurance at the time of accident, because the value of your case is limited to out of pocket losses only such as: Property Damage, Medical Expenses, Medication Expenses, Loss of Wages, etc.
TYPES OF INSURANCE COVERAGE’S
There are many options when it comes to purchasing automobile, motorcycle, and other motor vehicle insurance. Like the old saying goes, you usually get what you pay for. This section is not meant to be a treatise on auto or other motor vehicle insurance coverage. However, we will generally discuss the different types of motor vehicle insurance coverage.
Liability Insurance Coverage
As discussed above, this coverage is required by law. This insurance coverage will cover you for any losses that you may have caused to others, or passengers in your vehicle, up to the dollar amount of your insurance coverage, for any accident that is your fault.
Some policies cover you for any car that you drive, including rental cars, and some policies only cover you for a specific car.
Make sure you check with your insurance company as to any limitations on your coverage, and actually read the policy to confirm what you are told.
We recommend that you obtain as much liability insurance coverage as possible because in the modern era, cars and medical expenses have become outrageously expensive.
A simple automobile accident could have $20,000.00 in property damage, and $30,000.00 in medical expenses. If you only carry the minimum insurance coverage allowed by law, you could be on the hook for the balance of any damage that you cause.
Some liability coverage’s also exclude members of your household or immediate family members who live with you from “suing you” the driver and/or recovering from your liability policy even if the accident is your fault.
We again recommend that you check with your insurance company. You want to make sure that your coverage includes your passengers and family members that may be injured in an auto accident.
Comprehensive and Collision Coverage (Comp/Coll.)
This type of coverage will cover the damage to your vehicle if you are in an accident that is your fault up to the “Fair Market Value,” of your vehicle.
It will also cover your vehicle up to Fair Market Value if it is stolen.
Most Comprehensive and Collision insurance will cover damage to your car even if the accident was not your fault. Check with your insurance company as discussed above.
If the cost of repairing your vehicle exceeds the Fair Market Value of your vehicle, than the insurance company will consider your car to be a “total loss,” and only pay you Fair Market Value for your care.
Now what is Fair Market Value? Fair Market Value is the amount of money that your vehicle is actually worth on the street. Many people confuse this issue. You may have paid $35,000.00 for your car, and you may owe $30,000.00 on your car, however, once you drive the car or vehicle off of the dealer’s lot, it automatically decreases in value. Although you have paid the above amount for your car, and you may owe the above amount for your car, the Fair Market Value of your car may only be $15,000.00!
Insurance companies value your car on many factors which include but are not limited to: Year, Make, Model, Mileage, Condition, what identical or similar cars are selling for in your area, etc.
Many times people find out the hard way when their car is totaled or the repair cost exceeds the Fair Market Value of the car, that the amount you will receive from the insurance company is way below the amount owed on the car.
In today’s market where new cars average $30,000.00, this situation is not uncommon, especially when the cost of repairing simple bumper damage may exceed $5,000.00. We recommend that you always purchase Comprehensive and Collision Insurance. Without this type of coverage, you will get nothing for your property damage if the accident is your fault, and/or you will be at the mercy of the other driver’s insurance company if you are not at fault. Check with your insurance company and read your policy for any limitations of coverage.
GAP Insurance Coverage
This type of Insurance policy covers the difference between the Fair Market Value of your vehicle, as discussed in the Comprehensive and Collision section above, and what you actually owe on the car.
When you purchase a new or used vehicle on credit from a dealer, more often than not you are required to not only purchase Comprehensive and Collision insurance, but you are also required to purchase GAP insurance so that the finance company knows that it will be paid in full if the car is totaled.
Regardless of whether it is required or not, we always recommend purchasing GAP Insurance coverage if you owe third party money for a car.
As discussed above in the Comprehensive and Collision Section, you do not want to get stuck paying thousands of dollars on a car loan after an accident, when your car has been declared a total loss after an accident.
We cannot tell you how many times victims of accidents find out the hard way that their insurance company will not pay enough money on a property damage claim, to cover what is owed on the vehicle.
Nobody wants to get stuck for thousands of dollars in payments on a vehicle they no longer own. We recommend getting GAP Insurance on your vehicle if you owe money on the vehicle.
Under Insured Coverage
This type of insurance coverage will cover you for the difference between your actual damages, and the at fault persons insurance coverage.
In other words, let say you are hit by a person who has minimum insurance coverage, (10k/15k/30k) who is at fault in the accident. Under normal circumstances the most you will be able to recover from their insurance company your bodily injuries, and out of pocket loss, etc., would be $15,000.00.
Let’s say your actual medical bills and out of pocket loss are $100,000.00. What are you going to do? If the person who hit’s you does not have insurance or assets to pay you for your loss? There is little chance that you will ever collect the $95,000.00 difference from them if you sue to get a judgment.
If you do get a judgment, they could declare bankruptcy and discharge the debt they owe to you in its entirety.
We find that in many instances, an at fault persons coverage is not enough to cover our client’s actual damages and they get stuck in the catch 22 situation discussed above.
We believe that it is always better to error on the side of caution. We always recommend purchasing Under Insured Coverage for a minimum of $100,000.00 or more. The more the better. This is your way of insuring yourself, against an at fault persons deficient coverage.
In California most Uninsured Motorist insurance policies also include under insured coverage as well. Check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Bodily Injury (UM/BI)
The name speaks for itself. This type of insurance coverage will cover you for your “non-property” related damages if the other motorist who is “at fault,” has no liability insurance.
In the State of California we feel that this type of coverage is mandatory due to the vast amount of people driving around illegally without insurance, especially since the economy went into a recession.
This coverage will also cover hit and runs. We recommend purchasing the most UM/BI coverage you can afford and at least a minimum of $100,000.00.
If you are in an accident and the other motorist is uninsured, this coverage will be your only recourse in many instances to get a recovery for your losses.
Do not drive in California without some kind of UM/BI coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Property Damage (UM/PD)
This is the same as UM/BI discussed above except this insurance will cover you for the Property Damage to your vehicle if you are hit by an “at fault” or “hit and run” driver.
As discussed above, some Comp/Collision insurance policies will cover you if your vehicle is damaged or totaled by an at fault uninsured motorist, but some will not!
We always recommend to error on the side of caution and purchase insurance to cover you in this instance.
We have seen many accident victims lose their vehicles in accidents due to the fault of hit and run or uninsured motorist, and get stuck with no vehicle and massive vehicle payments because they did not have the proper insurance.
We always recommend that you insure your body and your property against the uninsured motorist, and hit and run driver.
Just like Comprehensive and Collision mentioned above, this coverage will on cover your vehicle up to the fair market value of your vehicle.
Even if you may have paid and/or owe $30,000.00 on your vehicle, and your buy $30,000.00 UM/PD coverage on your vehicle, the insurance companies will only cover you for the Fair Market Value of your vehicle only with this coverage.
Rental Car Coverage
This type of coverage will pay you a certain amount of money per day to procure a rental car in case you are in an accident.
Check with your insurance company to ensure that you will be covered both when you are at fault, or the other person is at fault.
Sometimes insurance companies will require you to pay for the rental car out of your own pocket and then submit bills to them for reimbursement.
Most of the time this type of coverage only pays $20.00 to $30.00 per day up to a dollar maximum, or for a maximum of 30 days.
In many instances, the cost of getting a rental car and insuring the rental car against loss will exceed your rental car coverage policy. However, we always recommend buying rental car coverage in your insurance policy.
We cannot tell you how many times we are faced with clients who were not at fault in an accident, and they have lost their only transportation and have no way to get around.
If the at fault motorist’s insurance does not immediately cover you for rental car payments, you will be stuck paying the entire amount of the rental car on your own until either your vehicle is repaired, or you procure another vehicle.
We know this is not fair. This is why we always recommend getting Rental Car Insurance Coverage.
Medical Payment Insurance (Med Pay)
This type of insurance pays for your medical bills if you are in a car, motorcycle, truck, or other motor vehicle accident.
Many people already have Normal Medical or Health Insurance.
However, often time’s medical insurance does not cover Chiropractors, or there are co-payments that have to be met, and/or deductibles, as well as medication cost that your medical insurance will not cover.
It is important to get as much Med Pay insurance as possible.
When you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, often times Med Pay is the first payment your insurance company will make to you. Usually they will automatically pay this amount when presented with medical bills. We recommend getting this coverage.
Most Comprehensive/Collision, and Uninsured Motorist coverage’s have deductibles, meaning that you have to pay the first $500.00, $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 of any damages on these types of claims, then your insurance will cover the difference. You can even pay for zero deductible insurance coverage.
Often times a body shop will not release your vehicle from the shop until you pay them the deductible.
The bottom line here is let’s say you have a fender bender with $900.00 property damage with a $1,000.00 deductible, and you have Comp/Collision coverage.
Your insurance company will accept the claim, but since you have a $1,000.00 deductible, you will get no money because you have to pay the first $1,000.00 since that is your deductible.
The issue of deductibles is one of personal choice. Usually your premiums are lower with a higher deductible, but then again, you will have to pay a higher price or receive a lower settlement if you have a higher deductible.
If you can afford it, we recommend getting a low deductible.
We have seen clients who opted for high deductibles; lose their jobs after an accident. They were not able to get their vehicles out of the auto body shop until they covered the deductible.
You get the picture; the whole purpose of insurance is to protect yourself in case of lose. It may be better to pay a bit more for a lower deductible when you have a job and money, then risk not being able to cover the deductible in bad times.
Dealing with your temporary loss of wages, State Disability Insurance, Other Disability Insurance
If you are injured after a car, motorcycle, truck, or other motor vehicle accident, you will most likely be out of work for some time.
Personal Injury cases are not settled overnight especially if litigation is necessary.
Cases can sometimes take 1 to 2 years or more to resolve.
If you are placed in an off work status by your doctor, we highly recommend that you apply for California State Disability Insurance (SDI). (You must be eligible) SDI will not cover the entire amount of your lost wages, but it is better than receiving nothing if you cannot work.
You are eligible to apply for SDI after two weeks of being disabled, and your doctor will need to fill out the necessary forms to provide to the State.
You may also be entitled to sick pay and/or accrued vacation pay from your employer.
We recommend contacting your employer if you can to provide them with your off work order from the doctor, and request your accrued vacation pay and sick pay to give you money in the interim while you are waiting for SDI to start paying.
There are many private insurance options that will cover your entire salary if you become disabled as well. We highly recommend insuring yourself against becoming disabled due to vehicle accidents, but also illness.
If you employer terminates you because you cannot work, and you are not eligible for SDI you may be able to recover unemployment insurance benefits from the State, however these benefits are usually lower than SDI.
Do whatever you can to bring money in while you are waiting for your case to be prosecuted, and/or you can go back to work.