What can I expect to pay on an auto collision claim?

UPDATED: May 30, 2012

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What can I expect to pay on an auto collision claim?

Last month I was involved in a non-injury auto collision for which I did not have liability insurance. I have received a notice requesting payment of approximately $7,000. Research indicated that amount to be near blue book value of the vehicle in question. Damage to the vehicle appeared to be to the rear bumper and possibly the hatch back door.

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You would be responsible--if you were sued and found liable in court--for the direct damage and costs caused by you. For auto damage, that is the lesser of the cost to repair (IF the car be cost-effectively repaired) or the then-current market value ("blue book value"), plus out-of-pocket costs like towing.

Depending on the age of the vehicle and whether or not there was frame damage, it could be the case that the vehicle needs to be totalled (if it can't be cost effectively repaired).

Until you are sued and lose, you don't have to pay anything--it is voluntary to pay prior to a judgment against you. Therefore, you can and should request documentation and substantiation of the alleged damage, costs, etc.--you have every right to ask that they satisfy you as the amount of damage before you decide to pay anything. If they refuse to provide evidence of the damage, its cost, and the value of the car, you can refuse to pay and  force them to sue you--they'll have to provide that material in a trial.

Also, bear in mind that you do not have pay--that is, you are not liable--unless you were at-fault in causing the accident. Typically, fault in an auto accident is based on negligence, or driving carelessly: e.g. speeding, ignoring traffic signals or signs, texting while driving, etc. If you were driving carefully and did nothing wrong, you should have to pay.

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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