Recovering for Injuries Caused by an Uninsured Motorist


Everyday in Los Angeles, many persons become involved in automobile accidents with motorists who have no liability insurance. The person is without fault in causing the accident, and is faced with seeking recovery for injuries against a person who is uninsured. A person in such a scenario has several options. He can seek to recover against the driver at fault personally by instituting a lawsuit. Alternatively, he can seek to recover under uninsured motorist (“UM”) provisions.

With certain exceptions, the Uninsured Motorist Act (Insurance Code Secs. 11580.2-11580.5) requires every automobile liability insurance policy to include coverage for bodily injury or death caused by an owner or operator of an uninsured vehicle. If no coverage is expressly included, minimum coverage is deemed by law to be included.

UM coverage applies only in cases where injury or death arises out of the ownership, maintenance or use of an uninsured vehicle. In addition, UM coverage applies only when it is established that the aggrieved person has a legal right to recover against the uninsured motorist. This essentially means that the uninsured motorist must be at fault for the accident causing injury for UM coverage to apply.

If UM coverage is established, another question to consider is which persons are covered. Generally, coverage extends to “the named insured [on the policy] and the spouse of the named insured, and while residents of the same household, relatives of either while occupants of a motor vehicle or otherwise, and any other person while in or upon or entering into or alighting from an insured motor vehicle.” Insurance Code Sec. 11580.2(b).

Interestingly, broad coverage is provided to the named insured and the spouse of the named insured, and relatives of either while residents of the same household. For those persons, as aforementioned, coverage applies while occupants of a motor vehicle or otherwise. The “or otherwise” language has been interpreted to mean that those persons need only show that injury resulted due to the neglect of an uninsured motorist. Thus, for example, if the named insured, spouse, or relatives were injured as a result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist while a pedestrian, UM coverage would apply. Lopez v. State Farm Fire & Gas. Co. (1967) 250 CA2d 210, 58 CR 243.

An insured has certain time limitations to file suit on a UM claim. To preserve a UM claim, one must either file suit against the uninsured motorist, initiate arbitration proceedings, or settle the claim within a specified amount of time from the date of the accident. If you were involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, it is advised that you consult with an experienced attorney to get maximum recovery.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail; visit at

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