Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage in California: What You Should Know

While most states have minimum requirements for auto insurance, sometimes the coverage isn’t enough. Not every driver may be insured or have enough coverage. According to a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council, one in eight drivers were uninsured.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can help protect you if you get into an accident with a driver who doesn’t have liability coverage or is underinsured. Here’s what you need to know about the car insurance coverage in California.

Why uninsured motorist coverage California is important?

California has minimum auto insurance requirements for every driver on the road. The minimum liability coverage in California is:

  • $15,000 to cover the injury or death of a single person
  • $30,000 to cover the injury or death involving more than one person or per accident
  • $5,000 to cover property damage

But that doesn’t mean everyone is insured. It is estimated that 16.6 percent of motorists in California are uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. So, when these uninsured motorists in California end up getting into an at-fault accident, things can get messy. 

To help combat this issue, California car insurance providers must legally offer uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage. You can decline these coverages by signing a waiver, though that might not be the best idea. 
You can opt for uninsured motorist bodily injury, which covers medical costs for you as well as any passengers if an uninsured or underinsured motorist hits you. There’s also uninsured and underinsured motorist property damage, which covers the cost of physical damages to your vehicle after an accident.

Is uninsured motorist coverage in California required if I have health insurance?

If your primary concern is potential medical costs after an accident with an uninsured driver, you might wonder if you need uninsured motorist coverage in California if you already have health insurance. 

While health insurance can help lower costs and provide care, health insurance can also have pricey deductibles and copays. On top of that, your health insurance may not cover all the services you might need after a car accident, such as a chiropractor. 

Getting uninsured motorist coverage in California can help ensure you get access to the funds necessary for your health and wellbeing.

Getting the right amount of uninsured motorist coverage in California

If you’re considering uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage in California, you probably want to know just how much you need or what is the “right” amount. 

According to the California Department of Insurance, uninsured motorist bodily injury limits are equal to your liability coverage limits. If you get general underinsured motorist insurance, you’ll be covered for a limited amount if there is bodily injury due to an accident with someone who doesn’t have enough coverage to cover all the costs. 

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage in California offers up to $3,500 to cover vehicle damages due to an accident with another driver who is at-fault and doesn’t have insurance. It’s important to note that if you have collision coverage, you may not need this. On top of that, this coverage pays out only in cases where the driver is identified. So, if they drive off in a hurry, you may be out of luck if you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident.

How underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage in California works?

Let’s say that you’re on the road and get T-boned by another car. It’s not your fault, but there are major damages to your car, and you want to get your neck checked out. You have car insurance, but the other driver doesn’t. 

If you have uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance, and the driver has no coverage, your medical bills and any passengers’ will be paid for up to your overall coverage limit. The same goes for uninsured motorist property damage coverage in California. 

If the other driver is underinsured and can’t cover all the costs, both the uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage coverage can pay the difference for your medical bills and car repairs if the other party’s insurance doesn’t cover all the costs. 

For example, the other driver could have minimum liability coverage of $30,000 for injuries to more than one person. Let’s say your hospital bill is a whopping $55,000, and your car repairs that are required to fix your car total $25,000. The total cost of the accident is $80,000, but the other person only has $30,000 in coverage. When you have underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage in California, you can get help covering that difference. 

With Metromile, you can file a claim with the Metromile app soon after the accident. If you purchased underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage, and your claim is approved, a check will be on its way to help cover the costs to repair any damage to your car or other eligible expenses.

Other ways to recoup costs if an uninsured motorist hits you

If an uninsured motorist hits you, your health insurance plan may cover costs related to your healthcare. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your health insurance is legally entitled to any proceeds from the policy as part of something referred to as subrogation

One option to consider is medical payments coverage, sometimes referred to as “med pay,” which covers the cost of any injuries regardless of who is ultimately found at fault. These payments aren’t part of subrogation, but you should know that the limits may not be as extensive as you need. 

Your best bet is to get uninsured motorist coverage. You can also look into an umbrella insurance policy for additional coverage and protection. If needed, you may want to consult with a lawyer or financial advisor for additional support navigating your situation.

The bottom line

Getting into an accident can be jarring and frustrating. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can help cover costs if you have to deal with an uninsured motorist or someone without enough coverage.

Metromile offers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage so that you can stay protected.

Many drivers save money when they switch to Metromile and pay-per-mile auto insurance. Drivers can save $741 a year, according to a 2018 survey of new Metromile customers who saved, and they don’t have to sacrifice their coverage or experience. You can get a free quote to see whether you might save and how much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage costs to add to your policy.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.