Posted on Insurance Law Blog / Blog / Triggering Your California Underinsured Motorist Claim By Collecting Third-Party Policy Limits 101

Page Updated 12/09/2021

Triggering Your California Underinsured Motorist Claim By Collecting Third Party Policy Limits 101


If you sustained injuries in a car accident because of a negligent driver, the negligent driver’s auto insurance policy limit might not be high enough to cover the damages from the personal injuries.

In a case like this, you can bring an under-insured motorist coverage claim under your automobile policy, if that liability policy fails to exclude, you did not waive the coverage, or if you purchased said coverage.

Ehline Law Firm Can Help You Understand an Underinsured Motorist Claim

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

In California, uninsured motorist coverage may pay a policyholder’s damages if an accident involves a driver who has no insurance or is a hit-and-run. However, you have to discuss your needs with your insurance broker or an experienced attorney.

You can contact Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642 for a free consultation or use the contact form on our website.

It is not a good idea to waive uninsured motorist coverage under your insurance policy unless you have good health insurance with a renowned insurance company and either do not work or have a very comprehensive disability insurance policy because California law demands that all drivers maintain minimum insurance limits of “15/30/5.”

California law requires drivers to maintain a “15/30/5” liability insurance. It means that if the insured is responsible for an auto accident, the insurance company will pay around $15,000 for bodily injury coverage or death per person, and $30,000 for bodily injury or death per accident (to all people in the other car), and $5,000 for property damage to the other vehicle.

More times than not, uninsured drivers have fewer assets and less income than insured drivers. That means that someone an uninsured or underinsured driver injures in an accident may not be able to claim damages from the other driver for medical expenses, lost wages, lost income, car repair, pain and suffering, and other losses after a car accident in California.

What Is the Underinsured Motorist Coverage Limits Trigger?

Underinsured motorist coverage limits is one of two triggers that an insured party can specify to safeguard against damages that they incur in an accident involving an uninsured driver. The underinsured motorist coverage limits trigger assures coverage in the event of an accident resulting from the negligence of an uninsured driver and when the uninsured driver’s liability limit is less than the insured person’s or policyholder’s liability limit.

This is known as a coverage trigger. To be legitimate, the injured insured party insured collecting the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits must trigger the underinsured motorist coverage in California and submit proof to the underinsured driver’s insurance carrier.

This law is straightforward as the law specifies in California Insurance Code 11580.2(p)(3), and it stipulates that underinsured motorist coverage “is not applicable” until the parties have exhausted the liability policies of “all insured motor vehicles causing the injury .”

Underinsured motorist coverage is an auto insurance policy that provides for property and bodily damage caused by a driver with insufficient insurance.

Add UM to Auto Insurance Policy

Unless the irresponsible driver’s insurance company agrees to a settlement, the wounded insured must sue the negligent driver, bring the case to trial, and collect the policy limits. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage covers for injuries to you and any passengers in your vehicle in the event of a collision caused by an uninsured driver. The limitations are identical to those on your liability coverage.

This implies that the injured insured must file a claim and, if required, sue the irresponsible driver in order to preserve an uninsured motorist claim. In other words, in order to be qualified to file an underinsured motorist claim, the injured party must “take action against the tortfeasor [and] secure a settlement or judgment and produce proof of payment…” (Mercury Casualty Co. v. Quintano (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1049, 1055.)

If they do not, “there is no accessible underinsured motorist coverage.” (Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. Macri, 4 Cal.4th 318, 327 (1992). Taking action to collect the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits (known as third-party insurance) can be a tricky and difficult undertaking. Unless the negligent driver’s insurance company settles, an injured insured has to sue the negligent driver, take them to trial, and collect the policy limits. If legal action is necessary against the negligent driver, obtaining legal representation is often necessary and prudent.

All of this is just for the purpose of “becoming qualified to submit a claim.” (Quintano, op. cit., p. 1055.) This does not necessarily imply that an acceptable payment will be forthcoming. There are many provisions in underinsured motorist regulations, such as the amount available to cover an injury, that might come as a surprise to insureds when they file a claim.

Additional difficulties may emerge, necessitating a trial against the irresponsible motorist. For example, if it is uncertain whether the personal injury damages exceed the third-party insurance limitations, the reckless driver’s insurance company may refuse to pay the policy limits.

Nonetheless, the injured insured cannot accept less than the policy limitations without waiving her underinsured motorist claim.

Often, these situations must go to trial in order to collect the third-party limitations and initiate the underinsured motorist claim.

If a person is badly wounded in a vehicle accident in California and possesses an underinsured motorist policy, it is critical to understand the regulations governing the coverage’s activation.

However, to do so effectively, one may need the filing of legal action against the irresponsible motorist to collect the third-party insurance policy limitations.

Have You Sustained Injuries At The Hands of an Uninsured Driver?

If you have sustained injuries in an accident and the driver involved has no insurance, contact us for help right away. If an uninsured motorist has injured you or someone you know, contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Contact us to talk to a caring and knowledgeable California injury attorney, or you can call us anywhere in California and other practice areas here.

After a case evaluation, you may find that your insurance company owes you more than the compensation they offered.

Allow Michael Ehline, who also sustained serious injuries in the US Marines, to represent you with a high level of experience and integrity and his legal team.

Let us assist you when an uninsured driver has injured you in California.

Ehline Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC
Attorney at Law
Michael P. Ehline Esq,
Downtown Los Angeles Corporate Offices

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Los Angeles, CA 90071
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