I want some advice on how to handle a civil claim that was filed against me to pay for the damages of the boy who hit my car.

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I want some advice on how to handle a civil claim that was filed against me to pay for the damages of the boy who hit my car.

I wanted to get some advice on how I should handle this situation. My 17 year old son was in an accident with my car. He was hit on the drivers side, passenger door as he was going across traffic to make a left hand turn. Even though he was hit, it was deemed his fault because he was cutting across traffic. He was leaving a shopping center. He stopped at the sign and then went across. He was almost across when the boy who is also 17 hit him. Our car has damage on the door and the air bag was deployed.The other boys car was totaled and had to be towed. I called my insurance company and filed the claim. All was fine or so I thought. A few days later I get a notice from my insurance that my policy had cancelled and they were not covering anything. I never received anything in the mail, I never got the bill or the notice that they were cancelling the policy. My policy was showing active when I called in to file the claim as well as when I went online but they would cover anything. So the father of the boy who hit our car filed a civil case against me going after the cost of the damages which is $5,000. I am a single mom of 5 kids, I work 2 jobs and I don’t have that kind of money. Could you tell me what my options are?

Asked on January 27, 2017 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If your insurer did not cancel your policy for good cause, in accordance with any notice provisions or requirements in your policy (e.g. policies often require 10 or 15 or more days notice to the insured to cancel), you can sue the insurer for breach of contract (for violating their contractual obligations--and an insurance policy is a contract) for not covering you when they should have.
In this regard, however, notice that not listing a driver in your household is good grounds to cancel a policy: if you did not put your 17-year-old on the policy (and pay extra for having another, teen driver), they could validly cancel the policy and refuse to cover you.
2) You could try to defend against the lawsuit by a) showing that your son was not a fault; b) showing that the other boy was also at fault, which should at least reduce proportionately what they can get from you; and/or c) showing that the value of their car or cost to repair it (if it could be repaired) was less than $5,000, since they can only get the actual value of their damage/costs. However, if you son was in fact at fault, the other boy was not, and their car was worth $5,000, they will likely win and get his.
3) You can try to settle with them by working out payment arrangements or a payment amount you can live with, but settlement is voluntary on their part: they don't have to agree to anything less than all the money they are owed, now.


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