What can I do if my car was heavily damaged and the at fault driver’s insurer will only cover half the damage even though my car was parked when hit?

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What can I do if my car was heavily damaged and the at fault driver’s insurer will only cover half the damage even though my car was parked when hit?

About 4 months ago, my car was legally parked on the side of the street and was hit by someone I recognized as a customer at my place of employment. She jumped out of her car and fled the scene. The police couldn’t find her, so she got away with the hit and run. She does not have a license and the car is registered and insured to her significant other. My car sustained $6,000 worth of damage and the impact pushed my car into another vehicle, which sustained $2000 worth of damage. Her insurance is only willing to cover $3000 of the damage, and is paying $2000 to the other vehicle, because her policy only apparently covers $5000. If I accept the offer, I have to sign a release form to not sue the driver or her significant other. Obviously I do not want to do this because I cannot afford to pay the rest out of pocket. However, I also can’t afford to reject it and risk losing in court and getting nothing. What can I do to recoup the expenses? My own insurance had lapsed for a few days before my car was hit so my insurer cannot help me.

Asked on November 15, 2018 under Accident Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

From the nature of your question, we assume that you do not have insurance (e.g. collission) that would cover the loss. In that case, you only have two options: either accept the offer and sign the waiver of your right to sue, so this will be the only money you get; or reject the offer and sue the at-fault driver and the car's owner--both are potentially liable, and you can and should sue both. If you win--which you will; by definition, someone who hits a stationary, parked car is driving carelessly and is at fault--you will get a judgment for all your costs from the accident (other than legal fees for suing; those you have to bear yourself). The question then becomes: do the people you are suing have the money to pay a judgment against them? If they don't have money, it doesn't matter if you sue them and win; winning in court does not make money appear where there is none, so you will only be paid to the extent the people you sue have sufficient money and insurance to pay. People with low insurance limits generally have low insurance because either or both of 1) they can't afford more insurance, and/or 2) they don't have any assets worth protecting (i.e. they are not worried about being sued, because they can't pay anyway). Therefore, what you have to weigh is the substantial chance you could  sue for money, spend your own time and money on the lawsuit, win, but still not get anything. (You could get less than if you take the settlement: if her insurer pays for her lawyer, the insurance money could be used up on legal fees, leaving you only able to collect from the driver and cqr owner; and if they don't have anything, you would not get any money.)


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