We were in a car accident in Los Angeles, California. Our car got hit from behind, 100% other car’s fault. We have no Uninsured Motorist and he has no insurance. Should I report and file a small claims suit?

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We were in a car accident in Los Angeles, California. Our car got hit from behind, 100% other car’s fault. We have no Uninsured Motorist and he has no insurance. Should I report and file a small claims suit?

Asked on May 19, 2009 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You should absolutely follow whatever car accident reporting requirements you have under the law.  I'm not a California lawyer, but some quick research on the internet suggests that you have to report the accident to the DMV within 10 days if the damage is $750 or more, or if anyone was hurt.  You should also report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible;  if you have collision coverage, that will pay for your repairs (less the deductible) regardless of fault.

You can sue in small claims court, of course -- but that doesn't guarantee you'll collect, if the other driver has no money.

It's always best, after an auto accident, to talk to a car accident attorney about your rights, and it is often cheaper, when all is said and done, than trying to do it all yourself.  One resource for finding qualified lawyers in Los Angeles is our AttorneyPages website.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

At this point I don't see that you have a choice.  Assuming the amount that you can claim in small claims court is enough to cover your expenses; you can sue fro up to $7,500.

If you suffered an injury, then you could sue him try to sue him outside of small claims; however if he didn't have insurance chances are that even if you won a large settlemnet he wouldn't be able to pay out on it.  In fact he may not even be able to pay out on a small claims judgement either.

Absent severe injury, small claims is probably the way to go here.

By the way, you should always file a report with the DMV within 10 days, it's the law.  You should notify your insurance company as soon as possible as well. 

Also, if you have collision (you didn't say) than your problem becomes somewhat easier.  Your insurance company will pay for any repairs less deductible.  You could then sue in in small claims for recovery of your deductible.  You probably have a better chance of collecting on this lesser amount.

Good luck.

L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You can certainly do that, but my guess is that if he has no insurance, it is because he has no money with which to buy it.  Therefore, he will not have any money to pay a judgment you will win against him in small claims court.  If you have collsion coverage on your auto policy, your insurance company will fix your car (minus your deductible) and they will try to get their money back from the responsible party by "subrogating" against him. Subrogation is legally filing a claim against him.  If they get the money back, they might even reimburse your deductible.  By the way, Uninsured Motorist coverage usually does not include coverage for property damage--only coverage for bodily injuries.


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