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What is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in California?

While auto insurance is required in California, it is a fact that some people for various reasons will not purchase auto insurance. When an accident is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, seeking compensation can become complicated. However, uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage may help those who are involved in such accidents.


What is uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM)? This type of coverage protects an individual if he or she is involved in a crash with a motorist who is underinsured or is uninsured. While insurance companies must make UMC and UIM coverage available, it is optional. However, if a driver decides not to purchase UMC or UIM coverage, that driver must sign a written waiver that they decided not to purchase UMC or UIM coverage.

One type of coverage that falls under the umbrella of UIM/UMC coverage is uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This coverage compensates for injuries sustained by the driver and any occupants of the driver's vehicle in a crash wherein the fault lays with an uninsured driver. Similarly, underinsured motorist coverage compensates for injuries an individual suffers if they are involved in a crash with another motorist whose insurance cannot cover the entire amount of damages.

Sometimes, unfortunately, car accidents are caused by those who do not have auto insurance. While your own UMC/UIM insurance may cover some injuries, it may not compensate for all the damages you have suffered. In addition, it is not unheard of for insurance companies to try to negotiate the amount of compensation they will pay or they may say they won't cover certain expenses. When this happens, it can help to have an attorney by your side, so that you can seek fair compensation from the insurance company and anyone else at fault in the accident.

Source: California Department of Insurance, "Automobile Insurance Information Guide," September 2014

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