What options do I have if I had a car accident and the car is a total loss and the insurance company won’t pay for the repairs

My dad’s 2007 mini van was rear ended by an uninsured and out-of-state driver (without a driver’s license). After taking the mini van to the body shop it turns out that the State Farm insurance won’t cover the repairs due to some technicality (i.e., they did not receive a photo of the car prior to the accident). Now my dad is dealing with total repair costs summing over $10K and the original car loan (over $17K). What options does he have? Should he declare himself bankrupt? Can he take the liable party to court?

Asked on June 14, 2009 under Accident Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) How long did you have coverage? If the insurance company has been cashing your premiums for awhile (and presumably you can prove this), it may be too late for them to claim you didn't meet one of the original requirements for insurance, a photo of the car. You should be able to fight them and force them to pay if they've been treating you as fully covered and taking your money--they should have raised the photo issue much earlier.

2) You can file a complaint with the NYS dept. of insurance to pressure them to pay. Go to http://www.ins.state.ny.us/hpoffnos.htm for contact info.

3) Suing the other driver is an option, but probably won't get you anything--if they didn't have a license or insurance, they probably don't have assets. On the other hand, where on a company's business at the time--delivery person making a delivery, contractor going to a job, sales man on way to sales call, etc. If so, you might be able to sue the company.

4) Bankruptcy is always an option if you can't pay your debts, but because of the impact on credit rating or ability to get credit, it's an option of last resort.

The amount of money involved is enough that's it definitely worth getting an attorney. Look for one who is experienced in or specializes in auto accidents and suing insurance companies.

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