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What Happens if a Defendant Doesn’t Have Insurance or Has a Minimal Policy?

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Posted on December 4, 2020

In California, the minimum requirements for automobile liability insurance are $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident.  This means that in many cases you may only be able to recover a maximum of $15,000 from a defendant’s automobile liability insurance.  Some Californians also may qualify for California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance program which means that they only have $10,000 per person/$20,000 per accident liability coverage.  In other situations a person, in violation of California law, may not have insurance for you to recover from.  So what do you do if your case is worth more than a minimal policy or if the defendant doesn’t have insurance?

Minimal Policy Situation

If a person has a minimal $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident policy (and your case is worth more than $15,000), the first step is recovering the policy maximum from the defendant’s automobile liability insurance. The attorneys at Haffner & Morgan are extremely experienced in recovering policy limits in as fast as a time frame as possible.  In many situations we may be able to recover minimal policy limits before you are done treating with your doctors.

What Happens After a Minimal Policy Limits Recovery or If the Defendant Does Not Have Insurance?

After a minimal policy limits recovery or if the Defendant does not have insurance, the next step is to look at your own automobile insurance policy to determine whether or not you have Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). Automobile insurance companies offer this coverage to insure yourself from a Defendant either having a minimal policy or not having insurance at all.  When you have this coverage you ensure an amount of coverage (at your choosing) that will apply, at minimum, in any accident (that you are not at fault), regardless of the insurance status or limits of the Defendant.

Uninsured Motorist Scenario

If the Defendant does not have insurance, and you have UM Coverage, the next step is to initiate a claim against your own insurance company.  In this scenario your case will proceed in a similar fashion to if you had a claim directly against a liable party. However, unlike in a claim directly against a liable party, your case will never go to trial.

In a UM claim, the ultimate resolution (if the case does not settle) is through a binding arbitration.  A binding arbitration generally is a one day, or half day, “mini trial” where an experienced attorney or retired judge ultimately renders a binding decision.   In a binding UM arbitration the arbitrator effecively acts as both the judge and/or jury.

Underinsured Motorist Scenario

If a Defendant has a minimal or insufficient policy, and you recovery the policy limits, the next step is to also initiate a claim against your own insurance company through your UIM coverage.  Like an Underinsured Motorist claim, the ultimate resolution in a UIM claim is also through a binding arbitration. In the case of a UIM claim, your own auto insurance carrier will get a credit for whatever amount was paid out in the initial claim.  For example, if you had $100,000 in UIM coverage and you recovered the policy limits of $15,000 from a Defendant, you would have $85,000 maximum to recover against your own UIM auto policy.


Even if a Defendant has a minimal insurance policy or does not have insurance, you may be able to recover through your own UM/UIM automobile insurance policy. The attorneys at Haffner & Morgan have successfully handled many UM/UIM cases and obtained extremely favorable results via both settlement and after arbitration.  Contact us today for a free consultation.