What to do if I was in a fender bender and the party involved is trying to demand for more than what my insurance covers?

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What to do if I was in a fender bender and the party involved is trying to demand for more than what my insurance covers?

I got into an accident last year. The accident was determined that it was my fault and the body damage done to my car was to the driver side front fender and was very minimal. The damage to her car was on the right side front and barely noticeable if at all. She is claiming bodily injury to my insurance company. I just now received a letter from my insurance company saying that I am covered for bodily injury for $15,000 and the person in the other party is trying, by the advice of her attorney, demanding payment of $30,000. What can I do about this?

Asked on April 30, 2012 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A person is only obligated to pay, assuming he or she is at fault in the accident, for the property damage and personal injury he or she causes. An injured party can sue you for more than your insurance coverage, however--the level of your coverage affects how much reimbursement or payment you get from your insurer, but does not limit what the injured party may claim for; he or she can sue you for any amount of damages which are provably the result of your wrongful actions (e.g. negligent or careless driving).

If his person has in fact suffered $30k or so of medical costs, lost wages, and "pain and suffering," she therefore can sue you for that amount.

First you need to determine what your insurer is doing: are they going to defend you, on the grounds that they are contesting your liabiltiy or fault (though it sounds like they are not) or because they feel she is improperly inflating her claim and is not entitled to that much? Or does the insurer think she validly has at least $15k of damages which are provably your fault, in which case they intend to pay out to their policy limit.

If the former--if they will defend you--you need to coordinate with their attorney. However, if the latter and they believe you owe this woman at least $15k and hence intend to simply pay, then you have three options for the remaining $15k of her presumptive claim (i.e. if she's claiming $30k total and your insurer pays $15k, she can then seek the other $15k from you):

1) You can agree to pay the amount, and work out a payment plan.

2) You can try to negotiage to a settlment, and see if you can resolve the remaining liabilty by paying some smaller amount (e.g. $5k - $10k).

3) You can refuse to pay, see if she does in fact sue you, and if she does, defend against her suit by trying to prove that either you were not at fault or that her injuries are worth less than she is claiming.

And of course, you could initially refuse to pay, then try to settle even as you defending yourself.

The best bet, if the insurer will not be defending you, would be to retain an attorney to represent you--for $15k of potential liability, it will be well worth it. Your lawyer can evaluate the situation and your potential liabilty and advise you as to which course of action is best.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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