After an accident, who can I sue to cover replacement costs/damages and how long should I keep the vehicle?

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After an accident, who can I sue to cover replacement costs/damages and how long should I keep the vehicle?

My vehicle was in an accident. It was 1 of 2 parties with a combined damage of 22k-23k total damage. The person who hit us was underinsured. They have a total of 10k coverage. My vehicle was covered for liability only so I have uninsured coverage but not underinsured coverage. I have been offered 7k on my 17k replacement cost/repair cost. Can I sue the insurance company? Or can I only sue the insured? If I sue the insurance company do I need to keep the damage vehicle in my possession? If I sue the insured party do I need to keep the vehicle in my possession? I am trying to figure out when and where to discard this vehicle and still be in a position to collect my damages.

Asked on January 20, 2012 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) An insurer is only liable or responsible up to the policy limits; in this case, that means the other driver's insurance is only responsible for up to $10k. For amounts over that, you'd have to recover from the other driver directly; of course, if he or she doesn't bother maintaining enough insurance, that could be because he or she has little income or assets worth protecting; in other words, it may be difficult to collect.

2) The only time you ever sue an insurer directly is when an insurer doesn't honor its  obligations under a contract/policy or settlement--e.g. if your own insurer doesn't pay out as per your insurance policy. For an accident, you sue the other driver and his insurer should step in to defend and pay, at least up to its policy limits.

3) If you're going to sue, you probably need to keep the damaged car through the "discovery" phase of litigation, so that any experts (yours or the other sides) would have a chance to inspect/examine it.


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