Can I ask for punitive damages in a demand letter due to the fact that the party that hit my parked vehicle did not have insurance?

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Can I ask for punitive damages in a demand letter due to the fact that the party that hit my parked vehicle did not have insurance?

My vehicle was parked at work and a co-worker rammed another vehicle into mine. He was driving a rental, which he declined all insurance and did not have any personal insurance. He lied to 911 operator so no police came out, therefore he did not get cited.

Asked on August 16, 2011 Colorado

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Lawsuits in auto accident cases are based on negligence.  Punitive damages  would not be applicable in a case of negligence because punitive damages require intentional, malicious acts.  You said that co-worker "rammed" the other car into yours.  That sounds like an intentional act of destroying or damaging another's vehicle.  An intentional, malicious act may warrant punitive damages, but the problem here is that there wasn't any police report and it would be your word against his regarding ramming the other car.

The fact that the other driver was uninsured would not warrant punitive damages.  You could sue him for negligence; however, people who don't have auto insurance usually have few if any assets to go after to enforce a judgment in your court case.  If you get a judgment against him, you could get a wage garnishment to enforce the judgment.

If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you could file an uninsured motorist claim with your auto insurance company for the damage to your car to obtain compensation for the cost of repairs.  I understand that you want to sue the co-worker, but it would be easier to file an uninsured motorist claim and have your car repaired.  If the case is settled with  your insurance company, you wouldn't file a lawsuit.  However, your insurance company might subsequently sue the uninsured driver.

The co-worker will also be sued by the rental car company for the damage to the rental car since he was uninsured.


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