If I’m being sued for more than my auto insurance covers, what can happen?

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If I’m being sued for more than my auto insurance covers, what can happen?

A man is swindling me essentially. I never actually hit the guy with my car, he jumped in front of my car; he slapped the hood of my car and said I hit him. Now he has a lawyer and they want about $80,000 more than my insurance covers. What feasibly can happen? Can they take my car (as it’s the only asset I own)?

Asked on February 9, 2012 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Insurance doesn't limit what you can be sued for--it provides a mechanism for paying, at least partially, any judgment against you. The insurer should also pay for your attorney to defend against the suit.

IF the other side goes to trial and can prove their case--that you caused an injury, eiither intentionally or negligently; and also the extent or dollar value of the injury--they could receive a judgment against you. If that judgment exceeds the amount of your insurance, you would be liable for the balance.  If you do not pay it, they could potentially take some of your property (execute on physical property; levy on a bank account), put a lien on real estate, and/or garnish your wages.

Note that you do NOT have to assume that you are at fault or that the damages are what they claim--again, the have to prove their case, which includes proving the extent, cost (e.g. medical care), effect of, etc. any injuries.

Since you have insurance, the first step is to report the claim to your insurer and let them look into this; they may make a small offer, within policy limits, or decide to fight.


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