Why you should get uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage

December 20, 2017 | 9:15 am


Do you have enough auto insurance coverage to protect you or a loved one in the case of an accident? That’s one of the most important questions you should consider before getting behind the wheel.

At the same time, you should consider the following:

  • Do you know what California’s minimum for auto insurance coverage?
  • Do you have uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage?
  • And did you know that the California minimum — which is $15,000/$30,000 coverage — will cover an ambulance ride and little else?

To dive deeper into these questions, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of attorney and senior partner Matt Clark, has recorded a short video on the topic of auto insurance coverage.

Below, Clark answers the big question, “Why should I get uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage?” In short, obtaining this coverage will help protect you and your family in the case of an motor vehicle accident.

Learn more by watching the video on chainlaw.com, or read more below. And if you have other questions related to an injury or accident, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page.

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By California law, you’re required to purchase at minimum a $15,000/$30,000 coverage. So what exactly does that mean?

If you’re in an accident and it’s your fault, your insurance will pay up so much to those involved in that accident. That small coverage satisfies the coverage for auto insurance. People are always surprised to learn, after learning more about the law, that California requires so little insurance because that $15,000 will cover an ambulance ride to the hospital and little else.

So how do you protect yourself when there are people driving around with this limited coverage, or none at all? You can purchase uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage.

How do these coverage work? You have to purchase this as part of your policy; however, insurance companies will not give you higher coverage than your auto insurance coverage. For example, if you have $100,000 in coverage, you can purchase up to 100,000 in uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance. But a lot of companies won’t tell you this. You typically have to sign a waiver to drop down your limits. Be very careful when you purchase auto insurance, and be sure it matches your liability limits. Don’t let the insurance companies sell you something less.

Once you have the coverage, if you’re in an accident and that person is at fault, uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will come in and pay. It covers you, but also blood relatives in your household and other passengers. For example, if your son is a passenger in his friend’s car, and they are involved in an accident, your uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will cover your son. Also, if you’re hit by a vehicle while walking in a parking lot, or hit by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, your uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will cover you.

If you have a $100,000 policy and the other driver at fault has only a $15,000 policy, you can collect that $15,000 and another $80,000 from your own policy for a total of $100,000, if your claim is worth that much. So this covers you if the driver at fault has little or no insurance.

This is the one of the most important coverages to protect you and your family. Far too often, people come to Chain | Cohn | Stiles with horrible injuries, and the driver at fault has little or no insurance, while they have limited coverage as well. Our sometimes attorneys have the sad task of telling people there is not much our lawyers can do to help because of limited or no insurance coverage. It’s not fair or just, but it’s reality.

This is a complicated issue. We advise you if you believe you have an injury or accident claim, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Meet with the lawyers and staff to learn the important steps to take.

And contact your insurance agent to learn more about uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage options available to you.

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If you or someone you know has a potential personal injury or workers’ compensation case, contact the lawyers for a free consultation at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Tips: Celebrate with safety this Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2014 | 9:30 am


Bakersfield is rich with culture, especially within our Hispanic community. This Cinco de Mayo (May 5) will undoubtedly bring celebration citywide.

It’s important, however, to keep safety in mind today whether you are celebrating around town, or are traveling through local streets during this holiday. The popularity of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, especially among young people, has brought about some problems — alcohol-involved crashes.

Bakersfield Police Department and other local law enforcement has traditionally bumped up enforcement around this holiday.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives some sobering stats:

  • From 2008 to 2012, 233 people were killed in drunken driving crashes on Cinco de Mayo. 
  • In 2012, almost half (45 percent) of all traffic crash deaths on Cinco de Mayo involved drunk driving.

To increase your chances of enjoying a safe Cinco de Mayo celebration, the safety administration recommends that you plan ahead, and:

  • Designate your sober driver before the festivities begin.
  • If you’ve been drinking, call a friend or taxi, or use public transportation to get home.
  • Contact your local police if you see a drunk driver on the road. 
  • If you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them find a safe ride home.

As the statistics show, DUI crashes and incidents are still bound to happen. The Bakersfield accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some tips in the unfortunate case you are the victim in an accident.

The attorneys at CCS are passionate about keeping our streets as safe as possible. In fact, the law firm has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County in the first Bakersfield “Walk (Run) Like MADD” fundraiser, which will be held this September.

Below are several “Frequently Asked Questions” and answers from the Bakersfield law firm’s website related to DUI accidents, and what you should do if you are ever a victim. And remember, if you are ever involved in an accident, call the firm at 661-323-4000.

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Does the law differentiate between people who are killed or seriously injured by drunk drivers as opposed to people who are injured or killed by people driving under the influence of street drugs or prescription drugs?

No. The law makes no distinction between driving under the influence of alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs. That is why the term “DUI,” which means “driving under the influence” is used to describe the crime rather than “drunk driving.”

Who can sue in a DUI case?

Any person who is injured by the wrongful conduct of a person driving under the influence, or the survivors of someone who was killed by a defendant who was driving under the influence, can bring a lawsuit against the defendant driver and any other person or entity who was responsible for the accident.

Is it easier to prove a drunk driving case than a case in which a person is driving under the influence of drugs?

Yes. The relationship between a high blood alcohol level and driver impairment is well known and well established. The same relationship between prescription and street drugs has been far less studied and is not within the common knowledge of most drivers and jurors. Thus, drunk driving cases are easier to prove.

What if the person who injured me was found to be driving under the influence, but I feel like I also was probably at fault. Can I bring a lawsuit?

Yes. California is a comparative negligence State. This means that you can sue any responsible party even if you are partially at fault in the accident. However, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence.

How impaired must a defendant be for there to be a presumption under the law that the defendant was negligent?

A defendant will be presumed to be negligent for causing an accident if you can establish that the driver’s physical or mental abilities were so impaired by the drug or alcohol use that they could not drive with the caution or ability of a person of ordinary prudence and skill in similar circumstances. Thus, a person can have a few drinks or drive under the influence of prescription drugs without being presumed to be negligent.

Will expert testimony be necessary for me to establish that the other driver was under the influence?

Probably. Usually a toxicologist will have to be called at trial to establish the level of alcohol and/or drugs in a person’s body. In addition, a human factors expert may be necessary to testify to the relationship between the blood alcohol or drug level and driver impairment

What damages can I recover in a wrongful death or serious Drunk Driving Accidents case stemming from the negligence of a defendant who was driving under the influence?

The injured person is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Further, plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages. If the injured person dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the injured person’s death, as well as monetary damages which stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent.

What do I need to establish to prove punitive damages in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence?

First of all, punitive damages are not recoverable in California in any wrongful death case. If your loved one has died, you can only claim punitive damages if they survived for at least a few moments after the collision that killed them. To recover punitive damages in an injury or a “survivor” action against a person who was driving under the influence, you must prove that:

  • That the defendant voluntarily drank or took drugs to the point of intoxication/impairment before they knew that they would be driving;
  • That the defendant was convicted of a felony under Civil Code Section 3245(d).
  • They were aware of the probable dangerous consequences of their conduct; and,
  • They willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.

Special settlement considerations in drunk driving cases?

Whether or not an insurance company wants to admit it, the jurors’ focus in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence will be on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct more than it will be on the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. Thus, a plaintiff should never settle a case against a person who was driving under the influence for the same amount of money that they would settle any other case. The case will always be worth more money than a typical Drunk Driving Accidents or wrongful death case, and may be worth many more times the usual value of the case, depending upon the seriousness of defendant’s misconduct.

Do I need an attorney to pursue my case against a defendant who was driving under the influence?

Yes. You will need an attorney to help you establish the degree of impairment of the defendant. Further, a skilled attorney will understand that you will receive all of the benefit of the doubt that you will need in a case against a person driving under the influence and will prepare the damage part of your case accordingly. This will help you achieve a larger settlement or verdict than you would be able to achieve on your own.