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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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.


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