What will happen if I don’t have auto insurance and caused an accident?

I was at-fault for an accident and came to know later that the car owner did not have insurance either. He did not tell me that insurance expired. The other car in the accident was totally damaged and the insurance company now says they will pay the other driver for damages and recoup the costs. Who will they go after? The car owner or the driver? If they go after the car owner, and the car owner comes after me, what options do I have? Am I legally liable to pay all the damages? I’m a student and cannot afford to pay a >$10K bill.

Asked on October 6, 2015 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The short answer is, if you were at-fault in causing the accident e.g. driving carelessly or negligently, then you are liable for all damages, injuries, costs, etc. you caused, and an injured party someone personally injured or whose car was damaged can sue you for their losses also, an insurer which had to pay out under its policy can sue you to recover the monies it paid. 
If sue, you can defend, by trying to prove you were not at fault, but if that doesn't work, you will be found liable. You can also try to minimize the losses, by showing that auto damage or other losses cost less than the other party is claiming, but if they are honestly suing based on their actual costs, that strategy will not likely work. 
You can try to settle the case, if sued--and note you only have to pay if sued and you lose if you are not sued, you can simply refuse to pay. It may be that you can get the other side to take less than full payment, or to accept payment over time. A settlement, however, is voluntary, and the other side does not have to agree.
At the end of the day, filing for bankruptcy is an option bankrutpcy works against debts arising from car accidents, so long as you were not DUI.

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The registered owner of the car you were driving is liable for the accident.  The other driver had uninsured motorist coverage and has filed a claim through his/her auto insurance company.  That auto insurance company will seek to recover the amount it pays on the claim from the owner of your vehicle.  If that insurance company files a lawsuit for negligence, both the owner and you will be named as defendants.  Although the owner is liable, the owner could sue you to recover the amount of the judgment against him and could sue you for the loss of his vehicle.
If that occurs, it would be advisable for you to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Chapter 7 is straight liquidation which will eliminate that debt.  It would be premature to file bankruptcy until there is a judgment against you as you will need to know the amount of the judgment if you file bankruptcy.

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