Recent figures put the number of uninsured motorists on California highways at about 15 percent. That means that even if you are fully insured, you stand the very real chance of getting in to an accident with an uninsured driver.

When that happens, what do you do?

The first steps

The first thing to do in any accident is to take care of yourself and anyone else who may have been injured. If you need to go to a hospital, do so. If anyone else needs medical attention, provide help and call 911 immediately.

Assuming everyone is OK, the next thing to do is call the police. You will need the information from the police report to help you file a claim.

Under normal circumstances, it is at this point that you would exchange information with the other driver. You would share each other’s driver’s license and insurance card information as well as exchanging phone numbers and email addresses.

But if the other driver has no insurance, usually one of two things happens: The driver stops and you can get information from their driver’s license, or the driver races away and the accident becomes a hit-and-run.

If the driver flees, tell the police as soon as they arrive. Even though you are quite understandably shaken, try to give police a good description of the vehicle. Ask police to canvass the area for witnesses or security camera footage that might also identify the vehicle.

If you have a camera-enabled phone, take photos of:

  • The other driver’s license, if available
  • Vehicle damage
  • The area around the crash, including nearby traffic lights or sign posts
  • Skid marks
  • Road conditions
  • Any other information that seems relevant

But be careful – sometimes after an accident your adrenaline is running and your hands may be shaking. Take several photos to make sure the information is legible.

Uninsured motorist coverage

Most auto insurance policies include coverage in case you are hit by an uninsured motorist or an underinsured motorist.

In fact, your insurance carrier must offer you this coverage and you have to sign a waiver if you choose not to pay for it.

After you have taken care of any medical and vehicle problems, call your insurance company to tell them about the accident. They will want details including a police report number as well as insurance information from the other driver.

If you have an uninsured motorist policy, this is when it will pay off. Fixing a vehicle is not cheap, and injuries sustained in an accident are not always immediately apparent. Having your health and transportation dependent on whether another driver has insurance or not is a roll of the dice.