How do Insurance Policies Work in Car Accident Cases?

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Every driver in California is legally responsible for insuring their vehicles. The minimum amounts of insurance required are set by state law, and insurance is designed to help individuals either recover compensation from an at-fault driver or pay compensation if they cause a crash. Here, we want to review how insurance policies work after a car accident in California.

What Types of Insurance are Actually Required?

Most everybody understands that they have to carry insurance when they own and operate a vehicle in California. Under state law, every individual must carry the following types and minimum amounts of insurance to remain legal on the roadway:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident minimum
  • Property damage liability coverage of $5,000 minimum

We do want to point out that these are the absolute minimums required in the state. It is not uncommon for drivers to carry insurance policies with higher minimums than these to obtain additional protection in the event they cause an accident on the roadway.

Additionally, please note that the state of California does not require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. These types of coverages are not very expensive and are strongly recommended to obtain additional protections from uninsured drivers or drivers who only have minimum policy coverages.

What Happens After an Accident?

After an accident occurs on California roadways, all of the parties involved typically file claims with their own insurance carriers. They notify the insurance carriers about the incident, and then the insurance carriers will work to determine who caused the incident and how much compensation is paid to whom.

For example, let us suppose Driver A rear-ends Driver B and Driver A is at fault. Both drivers would report the incident to their insurance carriers, and typically, Driver B would receive compensation for their property damage and any medical bills arising due to the incident. They would receive this compensation from Driver A’s insurance policy, up to the limits of the policy coverage.

However, insurance claims are not always this straightforward. Insurance carriers have one goal in mind, and that is to limit how much compensation they pay out. In this instance, it would not have been unheard of for Driver A’s insurance carrier to push back in various ways. This can include denying liability or disputing how much compensation should be paid to Driver B. 

In some cases, there may be more than one party at fault for an incident. This opens the door to California’s “pure comparative negligence” system. Under this system, individuals can recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for causing their own injuries, though they will receive reduced amounts of compensation depending on their percentage of fault.

Do You Need Personal Injury Protection Coverage?

Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage is a type of no-fault insurance coverage where individuals can turn to their own insurance policy to recover compensation for medical bills and property damage, up to the policy limits. This type of coverage is helpful if individuals cause an accident. They can turn to their own insurance carrier to recover compensation because they will not be able to recover compensation from the other driver’s carrier.

PIP coverage is not available in California, but this state does have an alternative known as Med Pay. 

Med Pay policies function similarly to personal injury protection policies and are offered by any insurance carrier in California as an add-on. These policies are usually not as expansive as PIP policies. Med Pay generally covers the cost of medical expenses for accidents caused by the insured. However, where most PIP policies will cover all economic expenses related to injuries, including lost wages, Med Pay will not cover lost income. Med Pay Will typically cover vehicle passengers and family members. If you’ve experienced a personal injury in Long Beach, reach out to our firm for a free consultation.