If our client has been in a car accident and the other motorist doesn’t have insurance, the first place we look is to the auto insurance policy of our client.
In California, the law requires auto insurance companies to provide a type of insurance called uninsured motorist coverage and/or under insured motorists’ coverage. If you are struck by a driver who has no insurance, we look to your uninsured motorists coverage to determine what your policy limits are. Then we file a claim with your company under your uninsured motorists’ provision.
Normally, you do not have the right to a jury trial when you are making an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim against your own insurer. If you are not able to settle the case, you go to arbitration.
Some of my clients express reluctance to bring a claim against their own insurance company because they fear that it might create an adversarial relationship that results in their insurance premiums increasing.
On the face of it, that is a legitimate concern. However, it would be completely improper for your insurance company to increase your rates as a result of making a claim that you rightfully have under your own policy. Remember, if you are making an uninsured motorists claim against your insurance company, (1) you were not at fault for causing the incident, and (2) you paid a premium for uninsured motorist insurance coverage. The intent of uninsured motorists’ coverage is to protect you in this very scenario, where you were unfortunately struck and injured by an uninsured driver. Insurance companies are prohibited from raising your rates when you make a legitimate uninsured motorist claim. If your insurance company raises your rates in response to your legitimate uninsured motorist claim, we would possibly have a lawsuit against your insurance company for bad faith. And, in a bad faith case, you can recover both compensatory and punitive damages.