What can I do if my car was totaled but I disagree with the settlement amount?

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What can I do if my car was totaled but I disagree with the settlement amount?

My car, parked in my apartment complex was hit by another car on the road. The car drifted from the road and hit my car. I called the driver’s insurance, and they came to inspect my car. After they inspected the car, they determined that the car will have to be salvaged. They agreed to pay me a sum of $5K. My car’s worth is $6.5K. When I told them that they will need to give me my car’s worth, they said that $5K is the maximum money I can get based on the driver’s collision coverage. Is it advisable to get an accident lawyer in order to sue this insurance company?

Asked on December 17, 2014 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, you don't sue the other driver's insurance--you sue the other driver him- or herself (since that's the person who was at fault and damaged your car). The insurer will then step in to defend him or her in court, and/or pay any amounts that he or she is found to owe you. Remember: the other driver's insurance is the *not* your insurer, and so does not owe you any obligation--their obligation is to their insured, and is to defend and/or indemnify (pay for) him or her, if he or she is sued.

Second, *if* the other driver's policy is only for $5,000 of coverage for property damage, that's all you can get from the insurer: insurance is a contract, and an insurer only has to pay up to the level of coverage that they contracted to pay (i.e. that the driver paid for).

If there is no settlement or release agreement containing a restriction on your ability to sue after taking the settlement offer, you could take the $5,000 and then sue, such as in small claims court, for the rest of the money you believe you are owed. If they do want you to give up the right to sue their insured driver in exchange for getting the money, you'd need to decide whether to take the $5,000 and give up the other $1,500, or turn down the $5,000 and go to the time, trouble and expense of a lawsuit to get the full $6,500--and bear in mind that a lawuit will take months at least, very possibly more than a year, to resolve.


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