If I was in an accident and it was my fault, what am I by law obligated to pay?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I was in an accident and it was my fault, what am I by law obligated to pay?

I am a 19 year old, I’m a full time student and I’m of independent status. I just came out of foster care. I was in an accident a month ago where I backed into another vehicle in the parking lot. I can not afford car insurance so I didn’t have any at the time of the accident.

I understand that I am responsible for cost of repair but if there are any additional charges imposed by the insurance provider, can I dispute those? The cost that the insurance is charging me seems extremely unreasonable to the amount of damage. Can I dispute any part of it for lack of ability to pay? I do work, I’m a full time student and I am paying rent, a phone bill, and all necessary bills, I just don’t know how I can afford this debt too. It’s going to take me over two years to pay this.

Asked on June 2, 2016 under Accident Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can refuse to pay charges you don't understand or don't agree with, but then they may sue you. If they sue you, they will have to prove the charges in court--that they are related to the accident and are reasonable--and you can challenge that, so they may not get the additional money they are looking for...but, of course, they also might, and you'll have to spend time and (if you hire an attorney) money defending yourself.
What they legally can get:
1) The reasonable and provable cost to repair, if the car you hit can be economically repaired; or its then-current fair market or blue book value if it could not be.
2) The cost to tow the damaged car, if necessary.
3) The reasonable cost to rent a replacement car for a reasonable period of time, while the car you hit is in the shop.
4) Lost wages, if the car's owner missed some work due to the accident.

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