Some victims who suffer injuries in car accidents that are caused by another driver’s negligence face a double tragedy: the tragedy of being hurt and the tragedy of learning that the responsible driver was uninsured.
California law requires drivers to have liability insurance before they drive on the state’s roads. That does not mean every driver obeys the law. According to a 2014 study by the Insurance Research Council, California has more than 4 million uninsured drivers. No state has more uninsured drivers than California.
Most uninsured drivers fail to maintain insurance because they cannot afford to pay their insurance premiums. I could sue them on behalf of an injured driver, but I would probably not be able to collect the judgment. Uninsured drivers usually have no significant assets. Maybe I could squeeze a few dollars a month from their paychecks, but the odds are good that an uninsured driver will file bankruptcy to avoid having wages garnished.
I always look for alternative sources from which to obtain compensation for accident victims. In some cases, the responsible driver’s employer might be held liable, or the driver might have some other form of insurance that will pay compensation for a driving accident. Most of the time, the sad truth is that accident victims who are struck by uninsured drivers are out of luck.
In addition to maintaining adequate liability insurance, drivers should always maintain significant uninsured motorist coverage. That coverage gives drivers an opportunity to recover from their own insurance company when they are injured by an uninsured driver. While I can help injury victims recover from their own insurance company if they have uninsured motorist coverage, it is often possible for drivers to pursue their own claims, particularly when the value of their injuries clearly exceeds the policy limits that they are entitled to recover. I do not want to take money from people to collect a claim that an insurer would pay without my intervention.
The minimum liability limit for an insured passenger vehicle in California — that is, the minimum amount that a driver’s insurance company must pay for one accident that injures one person — is $15,000. Unfortunately, many drivers who obey the law by purchasing insurance only buy the minimum coverage. That amount is often inadequate to cover the medical expenses incurred by a car accident victim, much less the victim’s wage loss or pain and suffering.
If I represent someone who is seriously insured and settle for the $15,000 limits, I will need to take a portion of that money for my fee. I do not want to do that. When liability is clear and the entitlement to compensation is obviously greater than the policy limits, I tell most injury victims that they do not need a lawyer. They can accept the policy limits without spending money on a legal fee.
I am always happy to talk to injury victims in order to determine whether other insurance coverage might be available, but I do not want to take money out of the pockets of needy victims when I cannot get more for them than they would receive without hiring a lawyer. I also encourage all drivers to buy underinsured motorist coverage as part of their own auto insurance policy.
I do not represent insurance scammers. I do not help people who fake an accident or injury and then file false insurance claims. There may be money to be made by doing that, but it is not money that I want. I will not help clients commit the crime of insurance fraud.
In my experience, too many insurance companies try to swindle accident victims. I would be no better than they are if I tried to swindle insurance companies. There are enough innocent accident victims in Orange County who need my help. It just isn’t worth the money to help someone receive compensation who does not deserve it. Need help? Get in touch with a Timothy J. Ryan auto accident lawyer today.
Attorney Tim Ryan, author of "The Personal Injury Victim's Bible", has assisted thousands of injury victims, obtaining more than $1 billion for his clients collectively since 1981.
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