If you are not at fault for an accident, who pays for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident?

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If you are not at fault for an accident, who pays for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident?

MY LEASED CAR WAS PARKED AND TOTALLED BY ANOTHER CAR, AS WAS THE CAR IN FRONT OF ME. THE DRIVER’S INSURANCE TELLS ME THEY CAN ONLY PAY $25K FOR THE 2CARS THAT HE TOTALLED. MY CAR IS $40K AND MY INSURANCE SUPPOSEDLY WILL PAY THE REST AND THEN WILL SUE THE DRIVER’S INSURANCE. I AM NOW WITHOUT A CAR AND FORCED TO TAKE A CAB TO WORK EVERYDAY, BUT I AM STILL PAYING THE LEASE FOR MY CAR WHICH IS $459 A MONTH. WHAT DO I DO TO GET THIS MONEY BACK AND FROM WHO? ALSO, CAN I GET A RENTAL FROM THE DRIVERS INSURANCE? MY INSURANCE ALSO TELLS ME THAT IT MAY GO UP SINCE HIS DIDN’T COVER THE TOTAL?

Asked on January 28, 2011 under Accident Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) IF another person was at fault in an accident and caused you a loss, you can sue them for anything that is not reimbursed by your own insurance. If there's no body at fault--e.g. without any warning, the driver had a heart attack and passed out--then you might not be able to recover from him, sine recovering in a lawsuit depends on fault.

2) Costs you may sue for include: property damage; cost to rent a replacement or take cabs or mass transit; additional amounts you owe under a lease.

3) The other driver's insurance will not usually pay for your rental upfront, though if you sue and win, you should be able to recover the cost from the driver or his insurance. Only your own insurance, if you have the applicable insurance, will pay for a rental for you.

4) Even if you sue and win, there must be money to collect or the effort is wasted. The other driver's insurance *only* has to pay up to its insurance limits; if those limits are quickly exceeded, then you'd have to get any extra money from the driver himself. If he has few or no assets and/or a small income--which may be the case if he also bought little insurance--it may be difficult to collect.

In the future, when you lease (or finance a car), you should buy "gap" insurance to pay off the balance of the amount owed--it saved us $10k one time, when our leased car was stolen one year into the lease.


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