What Is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Auto policies in California obligate the insurer to pay for losses to the insured caused by negligent motorists who either lack insurance or are underinsured. California’s Uninsured Motorist Act is codified at section 11580.2 of the Insurance Code, and it is liberally construed by California courts in favor of coverage. If an insurer fails to include these coverages, they will simply be read into the policy.

The Act requires two separate types of coverage in every auto insurance policy: uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured coverage protects the insured from injuries received from an uninsured, negligent driver. Essentially, the insured’s insurance company will pay for the damage. Underinsured motorist coverage allows an insured to recover the difference between what is available on the negligent driver’s policy and the insured’s own policy limits from her own insurer. This coverage protects an insured from a driver who does not carry enough insurance to cover the cost of an accident. In this scenario, the insured’s insurance company will kick in once the underinsured motorist’s policy limits are exhausted.

It is important to note that a hit and run driver also counts as an uninsured motorist. However, in a hit and run accidents, an insured must meet California’s statutory requirements to recover under the uninsured motorist benefits. First, the accident must include physical contact with the hit-and-run vehicle. Second, the insured must report the incident to the police within 24 hours. Finally, the insured must file a claim with their insurance company within 30 days of the incident.

Uninsured or underinsured motorist claims may include property damage and bodily injury damage consisting of lost income, medical expenses, pain, and suffering, or wrongful death from injuries sustained in the accident.