What are our rights if a drunk driver drove though our garage last night?

My mother-in-law’s car was damaged and the garage is totaled. The state troopers would release the drivers info to us. And also my tools for my job were a complete loss as well. Do we need to get a lawyer?

Asked on November 10, 2013 under Accident Law, New York


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

There should soon be a police report available with the information about the drunk driver and if someone other than the drunk was the registered owner of the vehicle and their insurance information.

If the registered owner of the vehicle had insurance, you would file a property damage claim with that auto insurance carrier for the damage to your garage. the loss of your tools, any wage loss resulting from the loss of your tools, and your mother-in-law would have a claim for the damage (cost of repairs) to her car.  If there wasn't any insurance, but your mother-in-law had uninsured motorist coverage on her auto insurance policy, she could file an uninsured motorist claim with her auto insurance company.  Her damages (monetary compensation) would be the cost of repairs to her car.  Her damages should also include the cost of a rental car while her car is being repaired.

If the registered owner of the drunk's vehicle had insurance and your property damage claim is settled with that insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.  This also applies to your mother-in-law's claim regarding her car.

If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the at-fault party's insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit for negligence against the registered owner of the drunk's vehicle (if someone other than the drunk) and the drunk driver. That lawsuit must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter. If there wasn't any insurance, you will need to file your lawsuit for negligence against the registered owner of the vehicle and the drunk.

If there wasn't any insurance and your mother-in-law did not have uninsured motorist coverage on her auto insurance policy, she will need to sue the registered owner of the drunk's vehicle and the drunk for negligence.

After obtaining a judgement against the registered owner of the drunk's vehicle and the drunk, you and your mother-in-law should obtain a wage garnishment against the drunk and registered owner of the vehicle to enforce the judgment.  If the drunk and/or registered owner of the vehicle own any property, consider placing a lien on the property to enforce the judgment.

It would also be advisable to contact your homeowner's insurance carrier if the at-fault party does not have insurance to determine if there is any provision in your policy providing for compensation when the at-fault party does not have insurance.

It would be advisable to be represented by an attorney. 

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