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Just because it’s mandatory to carry car insurance in the state of California does not mean every driver will obey the law. In fact, hundreds of uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads right now. Driving without insurance isn’t just a crime – it’s unfair to the law-abiding citizens who end up dealing with uninsured motorist claims. How do you navigate an accident claim if you aren’t sure if someone has car insurance? Start here, with these steps and strategies for answering the insurance question.
The easiest way to find out if someone has insurance is to ask them. It is common practice to ask all drivers involved in an accident for their insurance information, regardless of whether they were at fault for the crash. Drivers should have this information readily available because California insurance laws make it mandatory to carry proof of insurance with them in the vehicle. Be polite and calm when asking someone for insurance information.
Take photos of the front and back of the driver’s insurance card or write down the information somewhere. If the driver has an electronic version, ask him or her to send you a copy. Get the name of the insurance company as well as the policy number. Be sure to get the driver’s name, license plate number, and contact information. Tell the driver you will be reporting the accident.
Unfortunately, not every driver is willing to communicate with others after an accident – especially if he or she has something to hide. You might encounter a driver who refuses to admit fault, won’t show you proof of insurance, or won’t talk to you at all. You might also come across someone who says he or she has insurance but can’t provide proof. These are stressful situations that you need to maneuver wisely as the victim of a car accident.
Another way to find out if someone has car insurance is to call the police and let them handle the crash investigation. You legally must dial 911 and report a crash in California if it causes injuries, deaths, or more than $1,000 in property damages. Police can arrive on the scene, take official statements from involved parties, and ask everyone for proof of insurance. Law enforcement needs to know if the at-fault driver does not have insurance. They can issue a fine and get the uninsured driver off the road so similar incidents don’t happen in the future.
If the crash meets the criteria for calling the police, you must also file a traffic accident report with the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You have 10 days from the accident to file this report. The DMV can also investigate whether the other driver has auto insurance and get back to you with further information. If you called the police from the scene, they will most likely file a report with the DMV for you. Ask for the police report number for future reference.
If you’re one of the unlucky drivers who get into a collision with an uninsured or underinsured driver in California, your damage claim will look slightly different than a standard case. Since you don’t have the option of filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, your only choice is to file the claim with your own insurer. If you have uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, this type of policy (which is optional in California) will pay for your damages. Call your insurance agent to find out if it’s on your policy.
Contact a personal injury lawyer after an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance. A personal injury claim against a third party might be another option for damage recovery.