What Happens If You Get Into An Accident Without Auto Insurance in California? 2014 Update

Here is a list of the difficulties a driver faces if they get into an accident without auto liability insurance.

We will also include some free defense attorney tips for dealing with the problem if it already happened to you.



“No Proof of Insurance” Traffic Ticket Violation Following an Accident.

Every person with a California Drivers License is required to comply with California’s Financial Responsibility Law. (Vehicle Code section 16028.) Unless you post a cash bond with the Department of Motor Vehicles, this means drivers must have auto liability insurance.

Vehicle Code Section 16028 also requires drivers to carry proof of that liability insurance with them at all times while driving. A driver who has insurance, but fails to carry proof with them is actually in violation of the law and faces a fine. Although many judges will give people a break if they show up in court with proof of insurance that covers the date of the incident, the judge is not required to do so.

There are 2 main tips for dealing with this problem. The first is to get liability insurance coverage immediately. The second tip is to show up in court in person on or before the date listed on your citation with proof of insurance.

If you can appear in court in person with proof of insurance, there is a possibility you may get relief. A defendant accused of an auto insurance violation can appear for Arraignment or Trial with proof of insurance and ask the judge for dismissal. It may not happen, but there is nothing to lose. And you need insurance anyway, right? Maybe you can lock in a rate before that accident appears on your DMV Driver History Report.

As side from that, at the very least, if you have to pay a fine an in person court appearance makes it easy to ask for a payment plan and to make sure your citation does not melt into a “failure to appear” problem.

Many traffic citations for driving without valid auto insurance are issued after an accident, and are served upon the accused defendant by mail. If you are involved in an accident without insurance, make sure any responding officer(s) get your current mailing address to make sure the citation does not get ignored.

Uninsured’s Drivers License Is Suspended Automatically for 6 Months

When a person gets into an auto accident with damages more than about $500 (just about every accident), they are required by law to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of the accident within 10 days, regardless of fault. DMV has a standard form for these notices, called an SR-1, and it requires the driver to tell DMV their insurance policy number. DMV then uses the form to contact the insurance company and verify that there was a valid policy.

If the Department of Motor Vehicles cannot verify the liability insurance for one of the drivers, (or if there is no report), there is an automatic 6 months Drivers License Suspension for the violator that cannot be challenged. The suspension applies regardless of who was at fault for the collision.

After an auto accident report, the DMV verifies the insurance coverage with the insurance provider. DMV does not rely on a driver’s paper proof of insurance after an accident. The policy must be valid on the date and time of the accident or the drivers license is suspended.

People caught driving on a suspended license face criminal charges (for example, a Vehicle Code section 14601.1 violation), 2 points on their driving record (same as a DUI), arrest, and impoundment of the car for 30 days.

The secret to dealing with a drivers license suspension following an accident without insurance is to report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles as soon as possible (same day) so that the suspension starts – and ends – as soon as possible. A delay in reporting to DMV only delays the suspension.

Uninsured Drivers Must Pay Legal Costs and Liability Damages Out of Pocket If They Get Sued and/or Found Liable.

Auto Accidents that result in injuries or property damage often produce lawsuits in civil court. The types of damages that are often claimed in court after an auto accident are:

1) medical bills, 2) compensation for pain and suffering, 3) lost wages; 4) loss of enjoyment of life; 5) property damages, etc.

Even in a small accident, these “Damages” can be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

Drivers who get sued in civil court for these damages will need professional legal help, or risk getting railroaded. If you lose one of these lawsuits, the court will issue a judgment that may be executed against your bank accounts, your wages (current and future), your house, and even your personal property way in the future.

When you buy an auto liability insurance policy, you get 2 very valuable protections against this problem that most people do not fully understand. They are called the benefits of:

1) Defense and 2) Indemnification.

These protections become very important if you are unlucky enough to be at fault in an accident – or if you get unfairly sued for an accident you did not cause.

“What? What does that mean? I thought that insurance means they pay for my damage?”

A. Indemnification.

The benefit of “Indemnification” means that the insurance company (insurer) is required to pay for any damages you are responsible for up to the policy limits. When you have liability insurance coverage, if the court says you must pay, the insurance company must “indemnify” you for that loss up to the policy limits. That is what “Indemnification” means. The insurance company must pay for the damages the law says you are responsible for.

If the damages exceed your policy limits, then you have to pay the excess out of your own pocket. If you are uninsured and found liable for damages, you must pay it all out of your pocket.

And worse yet, if an injured person wins a civil judgment against you for an auto accident, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles will suspend your drivers license until the entire bill is completely paid off, even if it takes 20 years.

B. Defense Protection (Insurance Defense Attorneys).

If you get sued because of an auto accident for personal injuries, you will need help. There will probably be one or more plaintiff’s lawyers working very hard to make sure their damages are as high as possible, and to make sure they find all of your assets and money to collect. A person not trained as a trial attorney trying to deal with this alone has no chance of stopping the train.

If you have to hire a defense attorney to protect you from an auto accident lawsuit, they are going to charge you by the hour. A normal hourly rate for a defense attorney would be $150-200 per hour. And if the case drags on for 3 years (like one I have now) it would be a necessary expense that would completely bankrupt most people.

If you have auto liability insurance, most of the worries are over from the start. California Insurance Code law requires the insurance company to hire defense attorneys for you, and pay for their work in defending you against a covered claim.

The requirement that an insurer defend an insured driver following an accident begins even before a lawsuit begins. Under the requirements of California’s Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, auto liability insurance carriers are required to try to settle legitimate claims for their insured drivers/owners before a lawsuit is even filed.

That’s right – the insurance company would have to hire attorneys to defend you, even if the accident was your fault. Even better, the insurance company must pay for them until the end of the case, even if it takes 3 years. And these defense costs are not deducted from the policy limits. There is essentially no limit on how much the insurance company must pay to defend you in a law suit.

Bottom line here is that Auto Insurance is prepaid legal fees for personal injury lawsuits against you. And when you understand that, you understand that the cost of auto insurance is always, always worth the money.

Without auto liability insurance, you are on your own if you get sued in civil or small claims court.

What should you do if you are sued for auto accident damages without insurance? This is a complicated subject that we will address in a different post, but there are some basic rules.

Rule #1 Hire an Attorney If At All Possible.

When you are being sued, there is a danger the court may seize your assets, money, or property. Licensed Attorneys are trained in dealing with these problems, and solving them by settlement whenever possible. Professional help is always a priority if you are being sued.

Even if all you can afford is a few hours of legal advice on your problem, or a few hours of attorney time to draft a proposed settlement agreement, professional help will help you end the problem correctly.

Rule #2 Do Not Ignore the Case If You Get Sued Without Insurance.

When defendants ignore lawsuits, it usually results in a default judgement for damages. A default judgement is almost always higher in value that a contested judgement.

Even if you have to appear in court alone, without an attorney after an auto accident lawsuit is filed against you, it is better than ignoring the case. Courts often have help available in some form for defendants who get sued for auto accident claims without insurance. Such services, in some courts, may include access to free small claims legal advisers, free law library access, free mediation services, free settlement conferences, etc.

Rule #3: Settle the Claim Before Trial If Possible.

The good news here is that all lawsuits over auto accident can be settled by agreement. Almost all auto accident lawsuits end by settlement or agreement of the parties. Even after a lawsuit is filed with the court and a court date is set, a case may be settled by agreement at any time.

If you agree that you are liable for damages, and can come to an agree with the opposing party for payment, you can settle a lawsuit over an auto accident yourself at any time before trial. If you do settle an auto accident claim or lawsuit yourself, make sure you get the complete agreement in writing – using an attorney that you hire if at all possible. Settlement agreements can also be made at a court hearing, and put in the official court record during the hearing. If you cannot have an attorney prepare a settlement agreement for you, getting a settlement on the record in open court is usually just as good an option.

For a sample auto accident claim settlement agreement template for self help use, click here. (Release of All Claims Self Help Form)

Settlement agreements often contain terms for installment plan payments.

An Uninsured Driver’s Right to Recover Damages Is Limited By Law.

What if the accident was not your fault, and you were injured, but were also uninsured? California law puts limits on the damages an insured driver may recover following an accident. If you are uninsured, even if some rear ends you at 90 mph and paralyzes you, you cannot get paid for your pain and suffering, nor lost wages.

This is because “Prop 213″, also known as California Civil Code Section 3333.4 restricts drivers injured in a motor vehicle accident from recovering non-economic losses for compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary damages if the injured person was not insured at the time of the accident.

So even if the accident was not your fault, but in an instant you are severely injured, a failure to simply buy auto insurance as the law requires can jack your life and bankrupt you and your family.

I hate to be so blunt about it, but in the opinion of this defense attorney, Auto Insurance is always, always, worth the money. When you buy auto insurance you are not only complying with the law, but you are paying someone else to take a risk that you cannot afford.

If you have those moments (like we all do nowadays) where you say to yourself “I cannot afford auto insurance” – take a deep breath and think for a second. In reality, you cannot afford to not have it. A lack of auto insurance can jack your life in seconds.

More Info on This Topic:

California’s Department of Insurance Auto Claims Mediation Assistance

California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program for Low Income

Related Articles:

How to Write a Demand Letter to an Insurance Company
Tips for Writing a Settlement Agreement; Self Help Form

Questions? Leave a comment, we try to answer them all.

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
This entry was posted in Auto Accidents, Auto Liability Insurance, DMV News, Driving Safely, Going to Court, Suspended Drivers License, Traffic Court Trials and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

206 Responses to What Happens If You Get Into An Accident Without Auto Insurance in California? 2014 Update

  1. Phillip graham says:

    I got into an accident earlier this year, He sustained enough damage to need a new bumper while my car was totaled. We exchanged information, no police came to the scene even though they were called. The following morning i found out my insurance lapsed and was terminated. I had minimal contact with the individual that was hit at first. I paid his deductible for his insurance. 4 months go by with no word then i get a letter from a claims company that i owe 25k. What do you recommend i do? I was expecting to pay for damages but 25k seems like overkill.

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  4. Glenn says:

    Mr. Dort
    I would appreciate any advice you have to offer on my situation.
    My wife drove my vehicle while she is under a suspended license charge from the DMV without my permission while I was at work. She had a small accident. She is excluded from my policy while she is under her suspension. She has agreed verbally to pay the other party part of the damages of there vehicle out of pocket so they do not have to wait to have there vehicle repaired under there collision / non drivers policy. Which at a later date I am sure my wife will have to make payments to the insurance company for the repair of the rest of the damages.
    My questions are : What should she put in writing to the other party involved and is a personal check enough proof payment was made to the to the other party . On the police report it was documented that there were no injuries and that I did not give her permission to drive my vehicle. Can the other party still come back and try to sue my wife or my insurance company because I am the owner of the vehicle for injuries at a later date ? Is there something we should have wrote in agreement before we make a payment to cover any other situation that may be falsely made up in the future ?

    • Glenn,

      This is a great question.

      You can settle an auto accident claim on your own at any tie. No Problem. In fact, it is great.

      What do you need? If you pay, you need to end the claim forever. That means you need a Release of All Claims contract that releases all claims, known and unknown, against the (alleged) defendant(s).

      It’s not a big deal. Just a contract that releases all claims. No need to assign guilt or liability. Just a civil contract to end a dispute forever. Maybe I can find one for you. Check back later.

  5. Kristina says:

    Hi . I was in a small car accident in November. I stopped at the stop sign and when I proceeded to go I hit an oncoming car . I just did not see her. I was only pulling away from stop sign so my speed was 5mph. There were no injuries and only minimal damage to both cars. My license was previously suspended and I was given a citation for failure to reinstate. I was able to have my court date postposed while I am trying to reinstate my license before going to court. The car I was driving belongs to my husband and he is insured but I was not insured because I did not know I could be covered as a non driver. His insurance company had me down as an “excluded” driver. Anyhow I have been waiting to hear from the other drivers insurance company since November. It’s January and the other driver just came to my door last week and told me her estimate was $3000.00 and if I was able to pay this to her right now because she was tired of waiting for her car to be repaired. She said if I could not pay the $3000.00 out of my pocket that she would use her collision insurance and she would like me to pay her $500.00 deductible. I am assuming her collision insurance will make me reimburse them for repairing her car after she submits her claim. Am I also responsible for paying her $500.00 deductible ? And is she allowed to come to my door or should her insurance company be handling the entire situation ?

    • Kristina,

      These are great questions.

      The first thing I have to say is that there is no such thing as a violation for “Failure to Reinstate”. You made that up.

      Your drivers license was either suspended, or not.

      If you did not have your own auto liability insurance at the time, and were excluded from your husband’s policy, you are not going to be able to get your drivers license back. You can expect a new 6 mo suspension to begin as soon as the last suspension ends.

      There is no point in delaying your court case. Even if you got a valid drivers license, there is no guarantee it would help at all. And you are not going to be able to get one unless I am wrong.

      A valid drivers license is not required to resolve a “Driving on a Suspended Drivers License” or “Expired Drivers License” charge (Vehicle Code section 14601 et seq or Vehicle Code 12500a)

      The citation for driving on a suspended drivers license (and perhaps driving without insurance) is completely separate from the civil, or “damages” part of the problem.

      If you are legally liable for causing the collision because you were negligent, you are liable for all of her property damages and injury damages if there was an injury.

      Does that include the deductible? The damages are actually measured by cost of repair in most cases. Whether or not her insurance pays is completely irrelevant. If the cost of repair is $3000, and you were negligent, you are probably on the hook for $3000 – even if she only has to pay $500 out of pocket. If she pays her deductible and assigns her claim to her insurance company, then you may owe that money to the insurance company instead.

      Is her insurance company supposed to be the only one dealing with it?

      No. Ultimately, the other driver has the right to demand payment from you if you were negligent. You owe the injured party the money – not the insurance company. It is a private civil dispute. If you dont pay, then the other driver has the right to sue you in civil court to force you to pay.

      Can the other driver come to your house to demand payment? There is no law that I know of that prohibits such a visit. But there are laws against trespassing after being warned, laws prohibiting debt collection with threats, and restraining orders if it gets out of hand.

      The best way to deal with these problems is in writing with paper.

      If you cannot pay, or feel you do not have the money send the “claimant” (other driver) a letter that says:

      Thank you for the claim. I do not have insurance. I do not have money. I do not believe I was negligent. I will not pay you. Thank you.”

      Then, if she wants, she can sue you.

      A claim like this can be settled at any time. Before court in the front yard, or during the court process.

      • Kristina says:

        No I did not make that up ! I live in Ohio and maybe it is a new code that we have. But my ticket honestly has the Driver License box checked and there are 5 options :None, Not on Person , Revoked, Suspended , Failure to Reinstate , Expired .
        My ticket has the box Failure to Reinstate ORD 335.075 checked.
        Thank you for the reply and information. I know I’m responsible for her damages , I just thought within 2 monthsI would of received a formal letter and of course I thought if I went to court with my license reinstated , if I did get suspended again maybe I would be able to request driving privileged. Thank you for all the info though.

        • Oh! My bad. Ohio? Did you know this article was about a California problem? My information or help is not applicable to Ohio. Please disregard everything I said. Things may be completely different in Ohio.

          I have no idea what the law is in Ohio, and I am not licensed to practice there.

          But I do wish you luck!

          • Kristina says:

            Thank you very much . I did not realize that your advice was for California laws. I do appreciate your advice on the civil matter very much. I am not sure if civil laws are different state to state but I am sure I am negligent and with your advice I have made arrangement to pay her as she requested. Maybe you can’t answer this but I was wondering if I should make all payments thru certified mail or does that not matter ? I will need to send proof of my payments to her to her insurance company . As I was reading thru the questions & your comments , your advice was great , blunt and to the point. Reminded me of my cousin that practiced law here in Ohio . He passed away a year ago and was a great attorney as well. Reading your discussion and comments did make me realize I have no business behind the wheel of a vehicle without a valid license and insurance and I will never take that risk again. Thank you for having this discussion page and have you ever considered moving to Ohio , we need more lawyers like you .

  6. Carlos says:

    I got into an accident about 1month and a half ago. I didn’t have insurance at the time of accident. The other person was at fault. We first agreed to take care of the damages without using his insurance. Now he has changed his mind and wants to use his insurance.
    How will this affect me since i don’t have insurance? What will happen to me once he reports it to his insurance?

    • Carlos,

      This is a good question.

      It doesn’t really matter. From your point of view, you want your damages paid now. You dont care who pays them, but the driver who cause the accident is primarily responsible. Who cares if he gets his insurance company to pay? Who cares if he pays you and he then gets the insurance company to pay him back?

      However, it may make a difference in this small regard.

      If this is an accident that must be reported to the CA Department of Motor Vehicles (check their web site for the current reporting requirements) and you did not have valid auto insurance at the time of the accident, you can expect a (new) drivers license suspension process to start as soon as the DMV finds out.

      If you are a criminal and were planning on disregarding the DMV reporting law – and you knew the other guy was also going to disregard that law – insurance company involvement may lead to DMV finding out.

      Bottom line?

      If you and the other driver follow the law about reporting to DMV (if it is required for this accident) – it makes no difference at all who pays for your damages.

      Insurance company involvement does make it more likely that the accident will be correctly reported. But if the other driver follows the law himself, you’re screwed anyway.

      I am sorry if this makes no sense today. I have the flu.

      My best suggestion? Dont worry about who pays for your damages. Worry about when and how much they pay. If you have to report the accident to DMV (check their site for damage limits), report it right away (I think the form in CA is called an SR-1) and just deal with whatever happens.

      A lack of liability insurance at the time of the accident will not affect your property damages. It may limit your damages for injuries.

  7. Danica Ho says:

    My Sister got in a car accident in a vehicle that was in her husbands name only. The car was not insured at the time. it was a 3 car accident and my sister was the last vehicle, my sister had the biggest car out of the 3 cars and they are saying she hit the middle vehicle and made the middle vehicle hit the first one. So now there are 2 claims again my sister totaling to about $15K. The insurance companies keep trying to get money from her, she now has insurance but she doesn’t have $15K. She tried making payment arrangements and they will not accept they said they need at least $1,100 before they make any arrangement with her. They are telling her that they will suspend her and her husbands license if they don’t pay. The insurance company is constantly calling and “Threatening”. What is the extent that the insurance company can do? The insurance company is telling her that she will be sued also (civil suit). Can they suspend both my sister & bother in laws licensed? Can they go after my Brother in law or just my sister since she was the driver?

    • Danica,

      This is a great comment. I assume you are talking about a CA problem. There is so much in here. I cant cover it all. It seems who ever has this problem does not fully understand what is happening.

      First thing I have to say is that an insurance company’s determination of fault and damages in a car accident case is NOT BINDING ON ANYONE!!

      Only the court, through a judgment, can force a person to pay for car accident damages. An insurance company CANNOT FORCE ANYONE TO PAY DAMAGES.

      Also, an insurance company CANNOT SUSPEND A PERSON’s DRIVERS LICENSE. If they told her that, it is a lie.

      Can the other drivers force her to pay? Yes, if they sue her in court and win a judgement. But until that happens, she can tell everyone to go pound sand.

      So, no, they cannot suspend anyone’s drivers license.

      If this were me (I’m a defense attorney today), would I make arrangements with an insurance company to pay their claimed damages? No way. I’d tell them they owe me money.

      The owner of a vehicle can be liable for damages caused by their car, even if there were not there. There is a limit on those owner only claims by law ($15,000 I think right now).

      However, no one can force the owner to pay those damages unless and until they take court action and win.

      Or….unless that person promises an insurance company in writing that they will pay because they dont understand what is happening.

      This is a classic example of why people who get into auto accidents with lots of damages need real legal advice from an attorney familiar with all of the facts. A lack of understanding about the problem can be very, very, very, stressful and expensive.

      If this person had valid auto insurance at the time of the accident (like the law requires) she would not have this problem, because the insurance company that she paid would be required by law to hire an attorney to defend her from these claims if necessary.

      One last thing. Worrying about an insurance company suspending a drivers license in this situation is a bit silly because: 1) the insurance company cannot do that; and 2) if you have an auto accident without insurance the Department of Motor Vehicles is going to suspend your drivers license ANYWAY for at least 6 months, maybe more if you reported the accident late, or did not report it at all.

      What is the extent of what the insurance company can do?

      The insurance company can sue to recover its own damages. But what are those? Only the money it pays out to others.

      For example, if an insurance company pays $2000 for property damage to its own insured, and then decides you were the negligent party, the insurance company can sue to recover that money it paid out.

      Can an insurance company sue for the injuries to other people? No. The injured individual has to bring his or her own claim in court for medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.

      The insurance company can only sue to recover what it pays out. And if the claim is disputed, the insurance company has to sue in court and win before anyone can be forced to pay.

      If you agree to pay something you dont have to pay, you are screwed.

      But what if they do sue you (or her)? You have to hire a Defense Attorney to help you.

  8. Claudia says:

    Hi Chris, my boyfriend was in a car accident yesterday morning on his way to work, he said he closed his eyes for a couple of seconds and was not quick enough to avert the accident. He hit a large commercial truck from behind with his sedan, and thankfully, no physical harm was done to either driver. The truck was fine (other than a few bumper dents), but my boyfriends sedan was totaled. The police checked out the incident, took down information from both drivers, and my boyfriend called his insurance carrier to file the claim. The insurance carrier told him they could not locate him in the system but would take care of the claim for him. My boyfriend called a few hours later to follow up with the claim and was told his insurance policy had expired 2 weeks ago (he prepaid 6 months and was not on top of the expiration date, nor could we locate any mail notification from the carrier of the upcoming policy expiration). Can you please advise us on what to do now? I am hopeful that any damage claims, if any, brought forth by the truck he hit will be something that we can afford to handle, but I am worried about legal actions against his Drivers License for lack of insurance and the fact that he now has a totaled car (which he purchased new a year ago) that he has no coverage on… We pretty much got told “tough luck” by the insurance carrier… On top of this, my boyfriend is currently working towards community service he was ordered to do for paying a traffic fine 3 months late (he completely forgot he had a speeding ticket and thankfully was able to resolve the issue with a hefty fine and community service, no license suspension)…He has about 20 hours or so left to complete, but is this also something we need to worry about? Help!

    • Claudia,

      The bad news is that we live in a Capitalist society. Everyone here works on a profit motive.

      The insurance company is a “for profit” business. They only want to help you if: 1) they are legally required to do so; and 2) it is profitable.

      If his insurance policy was expired – there is nothing you can do about that. No coverage – you are on your own.

      Unless there was another registered owner of the car with valid insurance??? Maybe you can “tender” the claim to that policy?

      Without insurance, once the DMV finds out about the accident, they will suspend his drivers license. No way around that. Probably 6 mons.

      What to do now? Try to settle any (legitimate) claim informally between yourselves. Hire an attorney to prepare a proper settlement agreement and “release of all claims” before you pay anyone.

      This issue should not affect a traffic ticket community service problem.

      It would be a problem in a DUI probation case if he were order to “not drive without valid insurance”.

      That’s all I can say. Getting into an auto accident without insurance is almost always a disaster.

      I understand here it may have been a slip of the mind problem, but I always tell people:

      “If you cannot afford auto liability insurance, you cannot afford to drive at all.”

      • Del says:

        Hi Christopher,
        something similar like this just happened to me. I am financing my car, my mother in law and I are both on my vehicle’s registration, I was a day late on my insurance renewal payment, got into and accident and now the insurance company will not tender my claim due to me not having insurance for one day.
        My mother in law does have an active insurance policy but my vehicle is not on her policy, how likely is it for my mother in laws insurance company to accept my claim? I believe I was at fault, I’m not even sure at this point. I’m in California.

        Thanks!

        • Del,

          OK, so you do not have insurance. Your mother does. Your mother is one of the registered owners of the car.

          If you tell the claimant that you do not have insurance, but your mother does, they may shift their focus to her, since she may be on the hook if you cannot pay.

          Will your mother’s insurance coverage work for you? Probably not. But there is no harm in telling them that you are sending the claim to them for payment. See what happens. If they accept coverage, great. If they reject it, well, then you are uninsured, same situation as we have now.

          If the other driver sues the both of you (as usually is the case where there are injuries), her insurance company can settle the whole claim. But you have to talk them into it. To get that done, it may be necessary or wise to hire an attorney to do the work – if it is a big claim.

          You can settle your own accident claim at any time if you come to an agreement. You just have to pay out of your own pocket.

          • Del says:

            I actually decided not to file a claim under my mother’s insurance. I spoke with an attorney who says the other party may be liable for the accident because he was making a left hand turn and I was going straight, which gave me the right of way. The light turned yellow when i hit him. What are my chances of his insurance company finding their insured at fault and paying for my damages?

          • Del,

            This is a good question.

            Usually, a person who is being sued for an auto accident wants all of the insurance companies possible involved in the litigation. If you have coverage, they have to hire attorneys to defend you and pay for your covered damages.

            But what are the chances of the other driver’s insurance company deciding they are liable for the accident? Pretty much zero.

            Insurance companies are “For Profit” businesses. They are there to make a profit, not to take care of you. My opinion is that insurance companies always, always want to deny every single claim they possibly can get away with, and under pay all of those they must pay.

            That’s way auto accident claims end up in court when attorneys get involved. The attorneys use the courts to force the for profit insurance companies to pay the fair value of claims.

            Insurance companies can make subjective, biased liability decisions as they wish. You have no control over what they do until you sue the other driver and force them to play in court.

            Insurance company findings on liability are not binding on anyone, and are not admissible in court.

  9. Andrea says:

    I got into an accident recently where I had the right of way on the road and the other vehicle had a stop sign. The vehicle with the stop sign turned in front of me causing the accident. A police report was filed and they found the other driver at fault. Problem is I was not insured. The other vehicles insurance company is finding me 20% at fault. I gave an estimate of going maybe 30mph if that, in a 25 mph street. Can I fight the insurance company for the 20%? And if I do take them to court will I be fined for not having insurance?
    I already have received notice that my license will be suspended from the DMV but I have not received a fine. Would I be able to dodge the fine if I avoid going to court and simply apply for a restricted license?

    Thanks for the help.

    • Andrea,

      All I can say about this is that an Insurance Company’s determination of fault IS NOT BINDING ON ANYONE. You can completely ignore their biased determination of fault.

      If you think the other driver caused you property damage, you should sue that other driver, and if they dont offer to settle, get a judgement against them.

      Screw the insurance company. Tell them to go pound sand and that you are going to sue their customer. See what they say then.

      The insurance cannot sue you. The other driver can, but not the insurance company.

      Not having auto insurance does limit the damages you can win in court. I cannot tell you if you will be fined. If you do not get a traffic citation for not having liability insurance, you will not be fined. No citation – no traffic court problem.

      If you sue the other driver for damages, the insurance coverage for you will only be important to determine what damages you may win. You will not be able to recover for pain and suffering (in CA) for example. And that loss might be thousands of dollars more than any possible fine. That limitation on your damages is the big loss – because pain and suffering money is free money. All you have to due is suffer.

  10. Jason says:

    I caused a car accident without insurance, and we made agreement that let me pay for the damage, which means the other driver will not tell his insurance company. But, he called police at the first time, I told the police officer, I have bought insurance few days ago, haven’t get the paper work yet. Then he give me a ticket, told me I have to go to court, and show my insurance. When I back home, I bought insurance immediately, and the insurance effective date was the same day as accident. What will happen to me? By the way, on the ticket, there is nothing write about my insurance stuff. Just mentioned wrong left turn.

    • Jason,

      This is a great comment. I am going to write more on it, so check back later.

      For now, I will tell you that proof of insurance is not required to solve a standard insurance violation. Proof of insurance may help, but if you did not have insurance at the time, you did not have it.

      Do you really think your insurance company is going to provide coverage for the accident? No way.

      Do you really think the judge is going to believe that you bought liability insurance hours before you crashed? Please. That rodeo clown joke is old.

      Better option? Just show up on time, be honest. tell the judge you did not have currently insurance at the time of the incident, but corrected the problem immediately thereafter. Pure error.

      Maybe you can get a break for the new insurance. If not, no big deal.

      Dont get caught lying about it.

      Dont miss your court date. Maybe you can take care of it by mail, but you have to follow up and keep good records.

      I dont know your charges or facts, but I say go in person, be honest, it will be fine.

      • Jason says:

        I’m not gonna ask insurance company cover what I should pay, and also I know it is impossible. The reason I asked help here is I am a international student, I do not want to get in trouble, just trying to finish college life and back to home. I need some professional answers to help me when I in the court. Can you take a guess, if I say everything honestly, the heaviest penalty will be what? And thanks a lot to replay me.

        • Jason,

          If what you received was a simple citation for unlawful turn, or not having valid insurance, then that is all you will have to deal with in court. The traffic ticket court will not be addressing damages for the car accident. They will only deal with the alleged violations – not the crash. Did you make a bad turn or not, did you have valid insurance or not. That is all.

          If the other driver decides to sue you in small claims court, or in regular unlimited civil court for damages, you will have to address the crash then. If the other driver does not sue you because you settled the matter yourself – you dont have to worry about the crash at all.

          For the traffic ticket you received, you may be able to take care of than on line, and just pay the fine if you want. Make sure the court has your correct address. If you do not get anything in the mail from them by the date on the citation next to your signature, go to court in person and tell the court clerk you are there to take care of the citation (traffic ticket).

          Bottom line – if the other driver never sues you for damages in small claims or civil court, you do not have to worry about a court ordering you to pay for damages related to the accident.

  11. Eric says:

    Hello Christopher,

    My girlfriend, who was under the influence at the time, was involved in a car collision where she hit the first car and went into a ditch. A second car that was under the influence hit the car that she had just struck and caused a fatality. My girlfriend had recently purchased the vehicle so she had no insurance at the time. Now a couple of weeks after the accident a letter from the “wrongfully deceased” lawyer is asking for proof of insurance that has to be replied to within 5 days or they will ‘file and serve with the respective summons and complaint for damages arising from a wrongful death.’ She has not been charged or arrested with anything but the other driver has.

    How will having no insurance affect her case? If she were to be charged what would she be charged with? Lastly, does she need to respond to this lawyer within the 5 days time frame?

    Thank you for your time. I would greatly appreciate your valuable advice.

    Eric

    • Eric,

      Obviously this is one of those answers where I get to tell the rest of the world how bad things get when you kill someone after drinking and driving.

      If you are hoping I have something good to say . . . . stop reading here.

      If your GF caused the initial accident, (or if that is what a jury finds) she is screwed. She is responsible for the death, both in a criminal case and a civil case. Why? The other driver was DUI too you say?????

      Well, the bad news is that if that driver was going along fine, and lost control of his/her vehcle due to a collision with another criminally negligent driver, the first collision is almost certainly the proximate and legal cause of the death – not the second collision.

      “Legal and Proximate Cause?” What is that?

      If you fire an AK47 at your drug dealer friend across the street, and your bullet hits his gun, ricochets, and kills a 9yr old girl – you are responsible for the death because your shot was the legal and proximate cause of the death – not the other loser’s gun.

      Get it? If not, it’s OK. Just be thankful this is not you or your kid we are talking about.

      How will no insurance affect her? She has to pay for everything herself. She has to pay for the damages, the attorneys fees, everything.

      Likely result? Bankruptcy and/or loss of everything. And never ending attempts by the plaintiff’s attorney to collect a judgement.

      What will she be charged with if she is charged? Well, I dont know the facts of exactly how the accident took place (or what the evidence is), but if you walked into my office and wanted to hire me for the criminal case (which can come later), I would be charging you my retain fee for a murder case.

      Murder? Yes, that is definitely a possibility. Prison time? Yes, I’d tell her to get ready for a prison term, and pray for hope that it does not happen.

      The civil action to recover damages is completely separate from a criminal trial, and the burden of proof in a civil action is much lower than a criminal action. That means in civil court it will be easier for the plaintiff to get a jury to find her liable (if she has the money for a jury trial).

      Should she respond to the plaintiff’s attorney? I cant answer that question.

      If you were to hire me to defend a civil case like this, I would definitely respond with a letter that says: Client has no insurance, no money, and is going to file BK right in the middle of your case.

      What if she does have real money to go after? Well, there is a whole class of legal practice called “Asset Protection” that I know nothing about. I have no information on that subject for the public.

      Do I have anything helpful to say? Wish I did.

      What does she need to do now? Sell everything, raise as much $ as possible. Hire the best Defense Attorneys (civil and criminal separately) possible.

      Try to resolve everything by settlement ASAP. If possible.

      That is my best non advice suggestion.

  12. Shan says:

    Well about a month ago my son had an accident in my car and totaled it. He hit a SUV and I DID NOT have insurance and he had another person in the car with him. He was cited a ticket for running a light and he feels strongly that he did not run the light. But being that I didn’t have insurance I just sucked it up and paid the ticket because there was no way out of that. Now the other parties insurance company keeps calling and I got a letter from the DMV stating I need to get insurance and get all parties to release something or pay a deposit for damage. I don’t think the other car owner will sign but what do I do if I don’t have the car anymore, do I still get insurance….. I’m lost and scared, don’t know what to do. I have made arraignments with the other kids mother to pay his doctor bill but I made them go to the hospital just to be on the safe side, not because they were hurt. PLEASE TELL ME WHAT TO DO? O and by the way the other party was a Sherriff Detective!!!!!!!

    • Shan,

      I take it your son is under 18? If not, it’s not your problem.

      I dont understand what you are saying when you state:

      “I got a letter from the DMV stating I need to get insurance and get all parties to release something or pay a deposit for damage.”

      So I cannot help there. Have you been sued? Is DMV telling you that you have a judgment against you?

      Here is the rule on insurance: If you are going to drive at all, you must have auto liability insurance (in CA). If you are not going to drive, DMV cannot force you to buy insurance.

      Why did you pay your son’s ticket? That was a blunder. Screw him. It’s his fine. His punishment.

      If you were my client with these facts (you are not, and I dont know all the facts here) I would probably tell you to ignore everyone until and unless you get sued.

      If the other insurance company calls, either: 1) hand up on them; or 2) give the phone to your son.

      It might be time for your son to learn what it means to be a responsible driver. On his own.

      If you do get sued, unless it is small claims court, you will need to hire an attorney to hopefully settle the case.

      You can settle the claims prior to being sued, but you should hire an attorney to draft a settlement and release agreement.

      And finally, dont get caught up in telling the other people what to do. Stay out of it. Dont help them build up their damages. They have 2 years to sue your son, and you if he is under 18.

      For other parents out there with 17, 16 year olds driving: DO NOT EVER LET YOUR CHILD DRIVE WITHOUT VALID AUTO LIABILITY INSURANCE. Why? Because they are going to crash, and when they do, you are on the hook.

  13. julian hernandez says:

    the other night I was at a stop light waiting for a left turn, and the car behind me hit me, I have a motorcycle so the damage was all on me, he had none. I asked him what happened, he said, “my car idles too high and sometimes it jerks forward”.
    I have no insurance, im a full time student getting paid off the G.I Bill, and can’t afford the insurance, the money I get goes all to bills. is there anything I can do? what should I do?

    • Julian,

      Rear ended on a motorcycle? Cant afford insurance?

      You just missed out on a free $15,000 pay day.

      Cant afford insurance hun? Stop driving. It’s not helping you, and you drivers license is going to be suspended anyway (assuming CA) if the accident is properly reported to DMV. What if its not reported to DMV? Drivers license get suspended longer.

  14. Jolene says:

    I was just rear ended by another vehicle. At the time of the accident I did not have insurance but got insurance within the hr of the accident. It totaled my car. What do I do from here. It was proven it was the other vehicles fault clearly.

    • Jolene,

      If you bought insurance after the accident, and you try to convince them or the other driver it was valid at the time of the collision, you are committed fraud. Wait, I mean insurance fraud.

      Did you lie to the insurance company during the application process, or did you tell them you were just involved in a collision?

      What do you do from here? Stop driving, notify DMV of the accident as the law requires both you and the other driver to do, wait for your drivers license suspension notice to arrive.

      No Pain and suffering damages for you.

      I have a hard time feeling bad for people who get into accidents without insurance. If you cannot afford insurance, you cannot afford to drive. That is the bottom line. I dont want uninsured drivers next to me on the road.

  15. danae says:

    Hello this is my first time on this site, and I have a major question. My brother was in an accident where he was not at fault. We thought he was covered with insurance and everything, except we came to find out that my mother had missed one payment. The thing is that after looking at all the cost for repairing the vehicle, it amounts to more than the vehicle actually costs. Not to mention that my since we found out we have not insurance the party at fault is coming after my brother when it was clearly her fault. She crossed a red light. When the police came to the scene, they did not file a report because they said that the insurance would take care of everything. It is the first accident my brother has ever been in, so he didn’t know what to do. A police report was not filed, the party at fault is coming after my brother, we don’t have insurance, and on top of it all the party at fault is saying that they are not at fault. They managed to get a witness to testify that it wasn’t, but we have our witness who clearly says it was the girl’s fault.

    One more thing, the owner of the vehicle is not my brother, it is my father… please I need advice on this.
    It’s her insured words vs our non-insured brother… we tried contacting the buildings around if they had cameras so that we could demonstrate proof, but so far only two buildings have them, but don’t want to show us because there needs to be a lawyer!?!

    • Danae,

      Thank you for the good comment. There is a lot I can say here. I could write all day on this problem. But I cannot.

      I have some good news that you will not like. Here it is: This is your bother’s problem, not yours. If you were not driving, and did not own the car, you are not a party to this action, and you dont need any advice. Your brother is one who needs my advice. You should go to the movies.

      But I will give you some free advice anyway. Here it is: Dont ever drive a car without a valid drivers license and proof of current insurance in your pocket. Dont ever rely on someone else to maintain your auto insurance.

      Another piece of advice that may help you (but not your brother) is: If you do not know what to do if an accident happens, you should not be driving at all. If you do not know the rules of driving, dont drive at all. Please, stay off the road. For my sake. I’m on the road every freaking day.

      What would I do if I were in an auto accident? Assuming no injuries, Start video taping everything …. wait, we dont use video tape any more, do we? . . . start youtubing everything right away so that there is a video record of the scene, the people, the witness, any statements, etc. Then, exchange info as the law requires, call emergency help if needed. Maybe do that first.

      The police are not required to prepare a report if there was no injury. But the drivers can document the situation on their own. No problem with videoing everything.

      OK – back to your brother.

      He has a problem. If he feels the other driver was at fault, he can sue that other driver for property damages and out of pocket medical costs even if he does not have insurance. He can do it on his own, or hire an attorney himself. (I would not recommend letting him do it alone if he did not know what to do in an accident situation because he is not going to know what to do in court. Maybe he does, I dont know).

      If the other driver sues him, he has to defend himself or hire an attorney to defend him.

      If the other of the car gets sued by the other driver, then the owner has to defend herself or hire an attorney to defender her in court. If she had insurance coverage, this would be at the expense of the insurance company. No insurance coverage? Owner has to pay for everything out of pocket.

      Getting sued does not mean you have to pay the damages. The person suing (Plaintiff) has to win a judgment first, before defendant must pay. Unless the defendant(s) settle the case prior to the judgment. A claim or case over a vehicle accident can happen at any time.

      If you settle an accident claim on your own, you should pay an attorney to write a “Release of all Claims” settlement agreement.

      If there is no police report – that just means there is no evidence from the police. But the police were not witnesses to the accident anyway. They did not see it. They dont know what happened. The best evidence of what happened is video or eye witnesses statements and the property damages (and the pictures your brother should have taken).

      If your brother hired me (by the hour) to work on this case, I would probably use a private investigator to determine what cameras were around – including possible CALTRANS (in ca) street and intersection cameras. Then, once the investigator got me a complete list, I would send out letters demanding they preserve the video for a lawsuit, and I would begin to subpoena those videos from everyone once a law suit was started by some.

      If your brother never gets sued or never gets wacked with an adverse judgment — he can tell those people to go pound sand.

  16. Aleks says:

    I was driving in the #1 lane on the pacific coast highway, the other driver stuck in traffic was driving in the #2 lane, he swirved out in front of me and cut me off, only to slam the brakes because a pedestrian walked out in to the road. I did not have enough time to put on the brakes hard enough to not rear end him in the period in which he cut me off on the lane change. The police believed me to not be at fault, and he was driving on a suspended license. I thought my insurance was good at the time (my father pays for it) But later found out when filing a claim that there was a lapse in payment. What are my options? He is filing injury claims against me.

    • Aleks,

      My advice would be this:

      If you are being sued for personal injuries in civil court, you should hire an attorney to assist you in sorting it out.

      A police officer’s conclusion on who caused the accident is no binding on anyone, and is generally not admissible in court. Even if the cops says you are not liable, you can be found liable in court.

  17. Jay says:

    I was in a parking lot 3 weeks back and another driver reversed into the side of my car. My auto insurance lapsed a few months back and I carelessly did not get it reinstated. My car sustained most of the damage (I’d guess about $2k) and the others driver sustained a small scratch. I have not filed anything with the DMV because I figured I’d probably be slapped with a fine and suspended license which will have a financial impact on my wallet higher than the cost of repairing my car. The other driver reported the accident to his insurance and a rep for his insurance company called and left me one message to which I have not responded. I have not received any notices from the DMV. If I do not follow-up on the claim with the insurance, is it reasonable to assume that this problem may go away??? I would prefer to avoid the fine and suspension if possible. Thank you in advance.

    • Jay,

      Private property, or the courthouse parking lot?

      You can ignore the insurance company until they sue you. Tell them in writing you dispute liability, and that they owe you money.

      The safe thing to do is to notify DMV of the accident. DMV does not care who caused it, they just want to verify insurance.

      Private property?

      Some people might try not reporting to DMV (because their license is going to be suspended in this situation if they report) and seeing what happens. If DMV sends a notice out that says “We are suspending your license for failure to report” you can report late. What difference would it make, you are going to be suspended anyway if it does not work.

      What would I do? Notify DMV. Hope for the best.

      No, actually, I would research the details of the property and the law and see if I have to report to DMV by law. I say no. But if I actually was getting paid to look, I might say yes.

      Is it reasonable to assume it might go away? Private Property? No police contact? What Accident? What? What was that? sorry Siri is calling, gotta go. L8tr

  18. Nina says:

    My daughter just got her licence, hit a pole and was not on our insurance yet.. We live in california…Adjuster says they might not cover my car as full coverage because of her not on policy. She did say that since she just recently received her licence there is some period that i have to “add” her. Do you know what that is?

    • Nina,

      If I had this problem, I would pull out the Declarations page of the policy to see whether or not the policy I bought covered “all permissive drivers”. If so, you should have coverage.

      I would also check to see that she was not an “Excluded Person” on the policy.

      If your insurance company refuses to pay for a covered loss, you can sue them for “Bad Faith” and/or complain to Department of Insurance. http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0060-information-guides/0010-automobile/

      I might also send my daughter a demand letter for the damages, and notice that I might sue her if she does not pay in full. After all, she caused the damage.

  19. Elena says:

    I got into a car accident with my boyfriend’s car. I did not know that his insurance was cancelled, so I gave the cops his insurance info. It was my fault because I rear ended the woman. I asked her if there was anyway we could work something out to pay out of pocket but she said no. Now she wants me to call my non-owner insurance and report the accident, but my coverage was not in affect until after the accident. What do I do? How do I handle this? I am very scared of her trying to sue me.

    • Elena,

      She wont sue you if you agree to pay her damages. There is no requirement that an insurance company pays. Just wait until she makes a demand, and try to settle the claim. That is what I might do. Actually, a dude like me might wait until she sued me to do anything. Then I would take her deposition and start investigating those fake medical bills.

      You can settle an auto accident claim at any time if you decide to pay what the other party wants.

      There is no problem with telling her “I dont have coverage, sorry. Send me a bill if you want to. Call the cops, FBI, ATM, CID, whoever you want. I wish you luck.”

      Then, when she or her insurance company sends a bill to you, you can make a counter offer.

      But settling the case will not prevent DMV from suspending your drivers license for not having insurance coverage.

  20. Cathy says:

    My husband was involved in an accident on a public road while riding his bicycle. The driver of the car opened his door, causing my husband to collide with the door, throwing him from the bike and damaging the bike. A police report was taken at the time of the accident. We obtained a copy of the report and proceeded to contact our insurance as well as the driver’s insurance company. On the police report, the driver is not indicated as the owner of the vehicle. In addition, the driver’s license is from out-of-state. The insurance company of the driver had not been contacted by their insured prior to my husband’s contact.

    We have not reported the accident to DMV. It wasn’t until I was doing some research that I found out about the accident report.

    It doesn’t appear that the driver’s insurance was valid at the time of the accident, and the damages, medical bills, and such are still accumulating.

    We do have uninsured motorist coverage, and have notified our insurance company.

    What should be our next step?

  21. Jorge A. says:

    Hello,

    I got in a motorcycle accident last week in California. Nothing happened to the other car but only to my motorcycle. I just discovered that the insurance wasn’t valid and I wasn’t carrying anything at the time of the accident. The police took the report and issued a citation for no proof of insurance. They showed up at my house while I was absent and were asking for proof of insurance. Once I looked for it was when I found out that it wasn’t valid anymore. What should I do?

    Thank you.

    • Jorge,

      When a driver gets into an accident in CA where there is property damages or injuries, the accident must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by all drivers involved. In this case, that means you and the other driver.

      The purpose of notifying DMV is not so they can determine who is at fault – but rather so that the DMV can check the status of your insurance coverage at the time of the accident.

      If DMV discovers your insurance was not valid, they are going to suspend your driving privilege in CA (even if you do not have a CA drivers license).

      There is nothing you can do about that. Make sure you notify DMV of the accident right away. The accident reporting form is on the DMV web site.

      If you do not report it = the other driver and or the police will report it anyway, and your suspension will be longer than if you report correctly.

      As for the citation – I’d say buy insurance coverage immediately (before DMV suspends your drivers license) and show up for your court date on the citation (by your signature) on time and with proof of insurance. Ask for a reduction in the fine.

      Actually – technically – these facts do not present a correctable violation. See CA Vehicle Code 16020(a). But I would try to talk the judge into it. Might save you $1000. Who knows what sections the officer wrote this up as??

      What if you cannot get insurance? No problem. Just go to court on time. Deal with the citation the best you can. Ask for time to pay a fine if you need to.

  22. Glenn says:

    Hi – my mother’s car was hit in the hospital garage she works in. The woman driving the car does not own the vehicle because she just borrowed it. She openly accepted that it was her fault and is written down on the police rerport. She said she’ll pay the damages ($4500 per the dealerships invoice) out of pocket. It’s been two weeks and her communication with us diminished.

    I tried contacting the insurance listed on the police report. It does not seem legitimate. Even my mother’s insurance company can’t figure out who the insurance is and what (parent) company it belongs too.

    Can I bring the the driver and the owner of the vehicle (not present at the time of the accident) to claims court to pay for the damages? I really want to not have their car on the road again since they do not have insurance. What are my options?

    • Glenn,

      Good questions.

      If this is your mom’s car – you cannot do anything. You have no standing to sue for damage to another person’s vehicle – even if it is your mother. Unless you are her court appointed guardian.

      But your mother can sue in court for all of the damages. The proper defendants in CA are the 1) driver and 2) the owner(s). You must sue the driver and prove that the drivers was negligent before you can get a judgement against the owner(s). So sue both at once, prove your case against the driver, then ask the court to also issue a judgment against the owner immediately afterwards.

      If you get a judgment against the driver, remind the court to notify DMV of the judgement so that the driver’s driver’s license will be suspended until the judgement is paid.

  23. Rooz says:

    I was involved in an accident as a passenger. I was in my ex girlfriend car and she was a driver. She was driving over the speed limit (70mph) in a curve, that she lost control and we hit a electrical pole. Ambulance came and we went to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with a fractured rib and she had some pain in her chest. Also, she was drunk and police noted that and reflected in the police report. In addition, her license was suspended. After a month i had received the hospital bill for 45 thousand dollars. She claim that she does not have insurance to pay for my hospital bill. In general, she is a big lier and i cant trust what she say any more. The information that I have are as follows. She but a car in 2004. Her grandma cosigned her or maybe it was under grandma name. I am not sure. She is telling me different stories. Like her insurance was under her mom and her mom stop the payment 3 months prior to the accident. I found out her insurance was canceled a year prior to the accident. Not to mention that i have only liability insurance for my own car and i do not have UIM. It is very confusing and I do not know what to do. Please, you may be able to help me and tell what should I do?
    Thank you,
    Roozbeh

    • Rooz,

      Injured by a drunk driver who did not have insurance? $45,000? Holy crap. That is bad, bad, bad.

      Hire an attorney to sue her and instruct that attorney to show up at he sentencing hearing on the DUI Criminal case.

      You, as the victim of a crime, have the right to be present and heard at the defendant’s sentencing. I assume she was arrested? This sounds like a classic felony. Maybe the judge would find it interesting that you suffered $45,000 in unpaid medical bills?

      Chase her for the rest of her life with the judgment if you win. Garnish her wages. Seize her car. Levy her cash property when she leaves jail. Chase after her like a goldman on OJ.

      Can you do it alone, without hiring an attorney? No.

  24. Jackie R says:

    Okay here is my situation:

    I was on my way to drop off a friend at her house when I stopped at a red light. I saw a car coming straight behind me and figured they would hit the brakes in time. Well he hit me and completely messed up the back of my car. The other driver had cut off my friend who was driving behind me and in an attempt to cut me off he crashed into me since I stopped at the red light. He has no license and he claims the car is insured through his wife.
    A police report was made by an officer who was in the area. Insurance companies have been called and his wife’s insurance says that they are not going to pay for anything. Now I am stuck with no car, no way to get to work which I had to miss due to body pains from the accident. Since the wife’s insurance isnt going to pay my question is what do I do? I mean this person ADMITTED he was at fault. He said he was ‘late to work’ as if that excuses his actions. He originally wanted to pay out of pocket but the bill was $6,000. So my question is what steps to take from here. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    • Jackie,

      Regardless of whether or not a negligent driver has insurance, if they cause you damages, they owe you money.

      Sue the chit out of his unlicensed pinholio.

      Under $10 in damages (including pain and suffering) ? small claims. You have to do it yourself. $10k + ??? Continued pain? Hire an attorney if yo can find one that wants to garnish someone’s pay check.

      If you get a judgement against a negligent driver for car crash damages in CA, the DMV will (upon request) suspend the person’s drivers license until that judgement is satisfied.

  25. mike says:

    My wife and I recently purchased a used vehicle (a second vehicle to get my wife back to work). While in a parking lot I clipped a truck in the bumper and the owner received an estimate for damages at $4,000. I had not yet added the vehicle to my insurance policy and recently learned my insurer has no grace period for adding a recently purchased vehicle (it was also about 16 days since purchase, yes I know very dumb but when you have 2 small kids you get forgetful sometimes).

    Is my license in jeopardy?
    Also I don’t want to cheat the truck owner and I’m hoping by paying the damages I can stay out of court. But I’m already headed for bankruptcy and afraid that if I openly pay her the court will just come after her for the money in order to give it to creditors, when I file.

    Should I have a family member (whom I’m borrowing the money from) pay it by proxy?

    Any info would be helpful. Thanks

  26. SJ says:

    I was involved in an accident this past November and I had no insurance at the time of the accident. I hit one car and that car hit the one in front of it. There was no damage on the car that I had hit surprisingly, just a scratch on the bumper but the other car, the one that I did not hit which became involved got a bigger property damage. Today I received the bills of the car accident. The car that I hit that received no damage is charging me a ridiculous amount of money for a scratch on the bumper. The other car that I did not hit, but was hit by the car I hit is also charging me and threatening to damage my credit score if I do not pay up soon. They have not let me set up a payment plan to pay back and I really can not pay the money back all in one instant because I am a college freshman who barely turned 18 and with not job and I have to pay for my own education. From what I heard I am only responsible for the car I hit because that car had time to prevent hiting the car in front. Is this true? What can I do to fix my situation? Am I only responsible for one car?

    • SJ,

      You dont have to pay anyone if they dont have a judgment against you. An insurance company or other driver cannot damage your credit score for a car accident claim without a judgment.

      An insurance company’s determination of liability is not binding on anyone. Actually, neither is a police officer’s opinion about the cause of an accident.

      A failure to have valid liability insurance alone does not make you liable for damages. It just means if you are liable, no one is going to help you pay.

      Options? #1 Just tell them you dispute liability in writing. Wait until they sue you, defend yourself. (or hire an attorney to defend you)

      #2 Tell them to go pound sand
      #3 you can negotiate and settle the case at any time. If they want $10k, offer them $45, then see how far apart you are. You can settle today, or the day of a trial 2 years from now. Anytime before a judgment you can settle the claim(s). Make sure you get a release of all claims agreement for all parties if you settle.
      #4 pay in full whatever they claim you owe.

      There is no requirement that another insurance company or driver seeking to collect car collision damage offer you a payment plan. If you are liable for the damages, you have to pay (once there is a judgment).

      I have an exercise that may help some people fight off car accident claims for which they are not responsible:

      Put 7 or 8 marbles in your mouth first thing in the morning. Go into the bathroom, stare at the mirror, and repeat after me:

      “Go pound sand.”
      “Go pound sand.”
      “Go pound sand.”
      “Go pound sand.”
      and so on for 20 minutes.

      If you eventually lose a judgment, and the court orders you to pay damages, the “go pound sand” trick will not work.

  27. LL says:

    I just bought a used car from a dealer today. The dealer did not ask for insurance, and it was my first car so I did not have any insurance of my own. On my way home, I made a left turn at an intersection and crashed into another car that was headed straight. A police officer quickly appeared on the scene to write a report. I felt the other car was going way too fast, but I neglected to mention this to the officer. As I chatted with the officer, he told me that my car dealer should have provided me with insurance or made sure that I had it, and otherwise the dealer may be negligent.

    I am a poor student with very little in assets. I would like to know what my options are if I am found to be at fault. Can I get the dealer to cover me in any way? Is he responsible for not checking that I had insurance? If not, how much of my savings could the other party take? Would I possible be forced to declare bankruptcy? I am very worried and would greatly appreciate your help.

    • LL,

      This is a great comment. I dont really have any good news for you, and dont know all the important facts of your situation.

      If you did not have insurance, the damages and attorneys fees (if any) have to be paid by you. Maybe.

      I can discuss the issue in some detail to give you a sense of how a defense attorney would look at this.

      DOES CAR DEALER INSURANCE COVER ME FOR AN ACCIDENT I HAVE ON THE DAY I BOUGHT THE CAR?

      1. The DRIVER, and the DRIVER only is responsible for insuring a personal vehicle. If you were driving, insurance is 100% your responsibility – has nothing to do with the dealer at all.

      It does not matter that the dealer did not ask you for proof of insurance. If you did not know you were legally required to have insurance for any vehicle you drive in CA< you should not be driving and you should not have a drivers license. You should go back to the DMV and retake the test. And study the handbook. Then retake the test again.

      Or, just leave a comment here and I will tell you that it is the DRIVER's RESPONSIBILITY to make sure they have valid liability insurance in effect and proof of it with them at all times while driving.

      2. If you have new facts to add to your statement to the officer, you can call or visit the agency to add to your statement.

      If you want to add to or clarify your statement to the police, you can. It happens all the time. Sometimes it is not a good idea. But if you want to, contact the police agency and the officer. Tell them you need to add to your statement. Send it to them in writing. Do it ASAP.

      Ultimately it may not matter. The police officer's conclusion about the cause of the accident is generally not admissible in court, and cannot be used to punish you (except for a traffic citation maybe).

      If you were sued in court, the Plaintiff's attorney would take your statement under oath in a long question and answer session called a "Deposition". Your deposition testimony under oath and penalty of perjury would then become evidence in the court case.

      What happens if you lie in a deposition under oath? I'm not really sure. It might depend on how much money you have. I dont know. Ask Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Rodger Clemens, and Bill Clinton.

      Now if there are inconsistencies in your statements to the police officer and the deposition testimony, it can come out in the evidence at trial. If there is one.

      Even if the police report says you caused the accident – if the other driver wants to collect from you they either have to: 1) convince you to pay voluntarily; or 2) sue you in court and win. From a defense attorney’s point of view – this means that it does not matter at all what you told the officer. The most important evidence of your statement is your deposition testimony, not your confused statements after an accident that made you piss your pants.

      The officer’s report on the accident and statements contained therein are used by the insurance companies to try to figure out who is at fault – but their conclusion is not binding on anyone at all. You can ignore an insurance company’s determination of liability in an auto accident if you disagree with it. Tell them to go pound sand.

      The police report made be valuable for settlement negotiations prior to a court case. Maybe that is a good reason to make sure your statement in the report is full, complete and accurate. But I usually tell (told) my clients (sometimes) that it does not matter what they told the police at all.

      Unless they admitted drinking or being under the influence of drugs. That would be a bad fact.

      3. CAN I GET THE DEALER TO COVER ME IN ANY WAY???

      Maybe. This is the best question. If you are found to be at fault by the officer and the insurance company – you have the option of just ignoring them until they sue you. Up to that point, there is really not too much that I know of that you can do with the dealer issue. Other attorneys might say I am wrong.

      However, if I had a client that was sued for an accident that occurred on the day the vehicle was purchased, I would definitely sue the dealer in a “CROSS COMPLAINT” to bring them (and their insurance companies) into the case on theories of (CAUSES OF ACTION):

      1. Negligence;
      2. Failure to warn of dangerous condition;
      3. and . . . a violation of the . . . I would research the Beverly Song Consumer Warranty Act, Business and Professional Code section 17200 and the Unruh Act to see if I can find any other causes of action based upon statutes.

      This would ring them, and the resources of their insurance companies into the mediation, arbitration, and settlement negotiations. It would also cause the insurance companies for the dealer to investigate the accident independently with their experts at their expense.

      What dangerous condition you ask? We dont know yet, the incident is under investigation. Evidence is not required until trial.

      What if the dealer can prove prior to spending money that there was no dangerous condition that they did not warn you of? They cant. Dont worry about that.

      Is it legal to bring the dealer into this litigation this way? Hell yes. A creative defense attorney would definitely do it. As a Defense Attorney, I am not going to just blindly believe my client’s story. Sounds to me like that car did not have legal working flashing lights or other required safety equipment or something. We need to look for that evidence. Something is wrong with this story. We need all the potential defendants to join the party at the county meeting hall (Courthouse).

      Can the dealer get out of it by making a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgement or Demurr based upon the bill of sale and release agreement that you signed? . . . . . . Maybe yes. Maybe no. Maybe Maybe. But it will be a hell of a fight. Might take a year of more. Might have to be appealed a few times. It’s better to just try to mediate the case early. Settle the case completely. Get your dealer out of this today! We can do it! Lets end this case today and get some soooshe. I’m buying. I mean sushi. No sooshe for the insurance agents after mediation. That is illegal. Probably doesnt happen.

      What if you dont have an attorney and want to settle the case on your own? A defendant can settle an auto accident case at any time you come to an agreement WITH THE OTHER DRIVER (or their attorney). Make sure you get a solid release agreement.

      3.

  28. Kim and Isabelle says:

    I’ll try to keep this simple and with bare facts. I (mom) bought a 2005 Focus. My daughter (not insured to use this car but does have license) used the car to go eat with her brother. Was at red light when 81 year old man slammed her from behind coming down an over pass at full speed. Totalled the car. Evidence and admittance from at fault driver INSURER admits along with their car adjuster that she was slammed directly from the back. Whats aggravating is that this 81 yr old man IS deaf. His insurance keeps calling and sending letters that he’s got a certain time limit to respond or they’ll proceed with out him. HIS insurance left a message saying if he doesnt respond, they’ll only pay half of whats left of hte loan of $6500. Her father and I are the ones on the title and the loan contract. My daughters name is not. I have left messages to fight/discuss this accident to them because we (her parents) are the car owners and have told them to stop calling my daughter because she was not on the loan. They’re response was if she was over 18 then it was legal. How can they negotiate anything with her when its not her car. Initally on her own she called an attorney without our knowledge who was accepting to help her out. Her attorney related to her to ATTEND all medical visits. She missed 1 or 2 due to her job as a medical caregiver. HIS insurance informed her that if the attorney states he doesnt represnt her no longer they would work with her. So unbeknownto me she called and cancelled on that attorney. YES…. they went from nice to mean on her. telling her that if this 81 yr old man doesnt respond then his insurance gets cancelled and they dont have to pay. They’re now leaving her messages telling us that they’re prolonging this situation even IF I have told them to STOP calling her. Dont they need to be speaking to us, the car owners?? Is there anything I can do so I can sleep at night…. small claims court, fight back with them, harass them with calls?? I only make $13 and hour and support 6 people with that and i cant afford another car…. please anything would help. Just lead us to the right direction…. Thank you Kim, Isabelle, David

    • Kim and Isabelle says:

      I forgot to mention his HUGE dadge Ram type of truck was not really damaged. They have admitted that it was their insurers fault. My car sits at an auto body shop now for almost 2 months now. His profession has been around for over 30 years and has said that there is no doubt about it the whole rear end is pushed into the trunk and back seat totalling the car. He said he wouldnt even try to fix if he could because her being a young mom with a child he wouldnt allow child to be in the back seat of that totalled car. The police who showed up told her that it WAS his fault but that they wouldnt give a report because no one was hurt. Dont they have it recorded regardless that they attended that accident??

  29. William says:

    qq: backing out of parking spot in small parking lot and backing into by pizza delivery car. turns out my insurance was cancelled do to new cc card info wasn’t updated. This happened a year ago. Now I’m being pursued by a collections threatening to report this to DMV. Unless I arrange payments or settle for a lump sum of 2k of a $2500 total. This was not my fault and when I called my insurance the day of incident I was notified of the cancelled insurance. I was reinstated that day, but not covered for the incident.

    What will happen when/if I let them report this to DMV? Will I have to pay that fine and the cost that the other clients insurance is coming after me for? Should I make an offer to the collections company. I did at the initial call of $500 and he said that was unacceptable. I am sure his company wouldn’t make any $$$ on a $500 settlement. Your advice please……

    • William,

      Great comment.

      When you get into an auto accident in California with damages of more than $500 (I think that is the level today – check current level with California Department of Motor Vehicles Official Web Site) you must notify DMV. You have no choice. It is not optional.

      Once DMV learns that you were driving without insurance and had an accident, your fault or not, your drivers license will probably be suspended for 6 mos or more. There is nothing you can do about that. Failure to pay your insurance company is not a defense. The fact that the accident was not your fault is not a defense.

      That type of drivers license suspension is different than a suspension based upon a failure to pay a auto liability judgement. Do they have a civil court judgment against you? Traffic Court Tickets do not count. Did the other driver sue you in civil court? Did they win a judgement for damages? If not, they cannot force you to pay damages – collection agency or not. Tell them to go pound sand. Notify them in writing that the claim is disputed. If you feel they owe you money, tell them and make a demand. Tell them damages and liability are disputed, under investigation. In writing. Ask for their copy of the video of the incident, and all witness statements. All photos. All satellite data. All auto recording data from the vehicle of the other driver. Copies of the driver’s DMV report for the last 5 years. Declarations page of their insurance. Photographs of the current state of the other driver’s tires, and an appointment for your expert to test the reflexes and vision of the other driver. Maybe you are entitled to all of the prior to trial if they want to fight in court?

      Have they sued you yet? They may. But $2500 is a small claims matter. And Collections companies cannot sue you for a car accident. Only the other driver may sue you.

      Or maybe the insurance company that lost out under a theory of SUBROGATION but that is a different subject. The point to remember here is that a Collection Agency cannot sue you for a car accident in small claims court and win in CA.

      So if a collection agency came to me and demanded I pay $2500 for a car accident without a judgement, I would not even notice they were trying to contact me.

      Should you do that? Probably not.

      Now if there is a court judgement against you for the auto accident, or if you are about to lose a court case on the accident, it is different. If the court issues a civil judgement against you for an auto collision with damages, and you fail to pay the damages in time as the court orders, the DMV will be notified of a failure to pay the judgement, and will suspend your drivers license until it is paid or until you make payment arrangements that are accepted by the Plaintiff and the DMV.

  30. Robert Taylor says:

    A friend moved here from New Orleans and did not have insurance when a car backed into his truck parked on the street. Does not having insurance bar him from having the quilty persons insurance company pay for the damage to his truck?

    • Robert,

      Great question.

      You are not required to have liability insurance on a parked car. There is no limitation of damages in CA for property damage if the owner did not have insurance.

      There is a problem if he were driving and suffered injuries.

  31. alejandra says:

    Hi, I have a question, so I was at the gas station, and i car just parked in front of the gas station door. that wasn’t a parking lot and so I hit his back, but was really little then that person said she was going to tell me how much was it. two months later she called me that it is 600$ and she wants it in cash. I told her I wanted the number of the shop so I could call and pay with my card so she refused!
    I told her I am not going to pay her till I make sure that’s the price.
    Anyways now she is telling me she will call the police on me and make a report instead and that she has a witness.
    so first of all my car got damage too, she park right behind me and that’s not a parking lot.
    can she claim a report? can she call the police on me.
    by the way she already fix the car, she just needs me to pay the money!

    • Alejandra,

      Great question.

      I think it is safe to say that if it was a car accident at a gas station with no injuries, you dont have to worry about the police coming days later. There is nothing the police can do. Refusing to pay contested property damage is not a crime.

      She can sue you if she wants to try to get the court to help her collect. But the effort is not worth $600.

      You are smart to refuse to pay until you see proof of actual damages.

      If this happened to me, I might just tell the other person to “Go Pound Sand”.

  32. KLEE says:

    Mr. Dort

    Another CA question similar to one just asked.

    I bumped into another driver recently who has no insurance. Do I have any recourse against the other party since it is illegal to drive in CA without auto insurance?

  33. sandra says:

    California question. Example if I have insurance and hit someone’s car who doesn’t have insurance, are they liable to pay my insurance carrier for what thy paid to fix my car.

    • Sandra,

      This is a good question.

      The person who must pay damages for an accident (person who is “liable”) is the person who was “negligent” and thereby caused the accident and damages.

      The determination of liability has nothing to do with whether or not the person has insurance. A lack of insurance does not make you liable.

      But it does mean you are screwed if you have no insurance AND you are liable.

      A negligent driver without insurance must still pay for the damages they cause – they just have to pay out of their own pocket.

      So, to answer your question, if you caused the accident – and the other driver did not have insurance – no they are not liable to pay you or your insurance company anything.

      If they decide to sue you, without insurance, their own damages may be limited by law.

      But the lack of insurance in itself does not make a person liable for damages.

  34. Dinah says:

    Hello Mr Dort.
    I have a friend who recently got into a car accident. She was at a red light, four cars were involved in this situation. A car was in front of her and another behind her, the fourth car came and crashed into the person behind making a domino effect, bumper to bumper collision. The fourth person who was involved the police found empty alcohol bottles or cans right next to the driver’s seat. There is a police report. While my friend was trying to exchange information with the other people involved in the accident, one of the police officers said “no need, the driver(who caused the accident) will pay for all the damages, and just call this number.” Her car is new she only had it less than a five days, but her insurance was in the process prior to her accident. When the police asked for her insurance, she said she did not have it so they threatened to give her a ticket so she gave them her father’s insurance policy. Her father called the insurance right away of the accident but they did not do anything. As of yesterday she found out she was not approved by her father insurance. In result, my friend has no idea what to do and she fears of her license getting suspended, and we both do not know what to do. It was not her fault, but she realizes there are some consequences driving with no insurance. We need some clarification for our complicated situation.

    Thank you Mr Dort.

    • Dinah,

      This situation is not complicated.

      Here is how it works: Driver must notify DMV of the accident on the DMV Accident Reporting form (CA DMV Form # SR-1). On that form – DMV does not ask for or care about who caused the accident. All they want to know is 1) who was involved; and 2) did they have valid insurance coverage at the time of the accident.

      Here, sounds like driver did not have a valid insurance policy at the time of the accident. Driver either has proof of coverage or not. If not – then not – nothing you can do about that. No insurance.

      From that fact, certain consequences follow. Once reported to DMV, they will suspend the drivers license and the police may issue a citation by mail.

      But that does not mean she cannot recover from the negligent driver(s). Without insurance coverage, the law limits the damages available. However she can still claim (and sue for if necessary) property damage, out of pocket medical expenses, etc. from the negligent driver(s).

  35. Joann says:

    Hi I just got in a accident last week I was at a red light a car going the opposite way dint yield to another car coming his way he turn left hitting that car and then hit my car in the front but anyway there was witness saying he was at fault hitting my car the thing is I went to my insurance broker to find out my coverage and they found out my insurance had been canceled four about 14 days cause I had just change insurance for lower price and I was only with them less then two months but they said they canceled it cause I have 3 cars in insurance but they never reaceaved one of the registration of one of the cars so can I get in trouble for not having insurance at the time of accident even it wasn’t my fault and I’m also in pain my back neck shoulder hurts also hey never called to tell me insurance was cancelled they send a letter but I don’t get it till after accident also I’m I California so what can happened for me not having insurance please reply thanks

    • Joann,

      Well, if you do not have insurance coverage – then you dont have insurance coverage. You can still recover for some damages – like property damage, actual costs of medical care.

      If this were me I would probably send the insurance company a demand that they provide coverage for that date, based upon my proof of payment for coverage (hopefully you have that) and then I would sue everyone and sort it out at the pre trial settlement conference. And find a good physical therapist. And chiropractor. And get an MRI.

      If you believe you had insurance coverage on that date, when you will out the SR-1 form for DMV to notify them of the accident, put in all of the insurance info that you have and attach your prof of payment for the policy (hopefully you have this). Then if the insurance company responds – No Coverage for this Person – you can try to dispute it. I guess.

      If you believe that you did not have coverage, then you have to tell DMV that you did not have coverage and they will suspend your drivers license for a period to punish you.

  36. Ben says:

    Mr Dort,

    Thank you for doing what you are doing, i have spent hours trying to find a voice to answer my question but none of the official bodies could give me a straight answer.

    A while ago i had a rear end collision with another vehicle, me being at the back. I took photo of the damage, which was a slight scratch to the rear bumper. The other party is now quoting me for 1,150 dollars at BMW official dealer, whereas most workshop’s quote is only citing me for around 500 dollars.

    May i know if in California, do i have the driver’s rights to submit other quotation. Else is there another way for me to peacefully settle this at a reasonable amount?

    Thanks for taking time off to answer our questions, you have no idea how much it means to me.

    • Ben,

      Thank you for the new ad space.

      This appears to be a minor civil dispute. Liability is not disputed. You are ready to pay reasonable damages for your driving too close. Claimant wants more than you think is fair. Who makes the final decision? If you are paying out of pocket, you just have to work it out.

      You can just tell him/her to go pound sand if you feel that you are not liable for the claim. They have the right to sue you. Maybe in smal claims, maybe they hire a top notch chiropractor Attorney to go after you for pain and suffering damages related to a lessened and injured sex drive?

      It sounds like they have made an offer to you to settle the case. You can make a counter offer. Once you pay, get proof you paid and get a Release of All Claims signed by all potential plaintiffs.

      They cant force you to pay until there is a judgment from court. But no one wants to take a $2000 claim to court if they can avoid it.

      Make a reasonable offer with documentation if you have it. If they are unreasonable, tell them to go chase a kangaroo.

  37. Krystle says:

    I was involved in an accident. I had no insurance at the time. Me and the other driver exchanged info but the police were not called. 8 mos later I am now receiving a call from a law firm saying they have sent in paperwork to get my license suspended by the DMV unless I pay damages in full of over $2000, because it was determined that because I was making a left turn that I am at fault. Do they have the power to do this? It was a minor accident and the car was driveable just a minor dent in the other drivers door. How do I know for sure that even if I am at fault, that the $2000 dollars worth of damage was done by me? It was very low speed and my car had no damages.

  38. Hasnain says:

    Hi christopher,
    If I soo not have insurance but I get into a small accident in which the damage inflicted was a small removable scratch, what is the worst that can happen to me?

    • DortLaw says:

      Hasnain,

      Drivers license suspension – even if you do not have a drivers license. Citation for Vehicle Code sec 16028 (1000$ fine). Payment of damages to other driver.


  39. Johnny says:

    I returned to my parked car to find another car’s front end touching it. I called police and got a police report. The cop wrote it up as a hit and run and told me to give my insurance company the other car’s license plate number. I took pictures of the two cars “kissing”. My rear bumper was damaged a bit, it’s a 2009 vehicle so I’m guessing it would cost about $600 to fix it. When I called my insurance company it turned out that my policy had expired so they won’t help me. What can I do? All I have is a license plate number. Please help!

  40. adam says:

    I recently was involved in a accident. I dont have insurance. It was a double turn lane and the other car came from the inside lane and side swiped me. The police were called and they determined her to be at fault. My vehicle had little to no damage but hers was pretty bad. What will happen to me? I received a ticket for no insurance. Is there anything I need to do? Or just wait for my court date? I’m from Illinois

  41. Zack says:

    Mr. Dort

    I was involved in a car accident a couple days ago. I rear-ended the car in front of me due to slippery roads and his brakes being fantastic compared to mine. I know basically no matter what had happened I’m going to get blamed but when it happened I thought I had insurance coverage since it was my aunt’s car and she had given it to me but told me she’ll cover the insurance. Well she didn’t and I’m supposed to be getting on my company’s insurance plan shortly and in fact, was on the clock for my company and was going from a site to the shop. The police arrived on scene and took the report, at the time I did not know I did not have insurance and the cop did not tell me I wasn’t covered either (he probably didn’t call it in) but now that I’ve found out I wasn’t covered at the time I’m sort of freaking out because now the other driver found out and he is getting forceful asking for some proof. I was wondering what to do here. Do I contact his insurance and just pay out of pocket, or since I was on the clock for work and got picked up on their insurance ASAP, will I be covered since it was during and for work when this ll happened? Thank you for any help and the speediness in which you can reply for this accident is my first and “freaking out” would be putting it lightly.

    • Zack,

      This has happened to me a few times. I once got rear ended on my way home in the rain from a deposition of a cop witness in an auto accident case. And the cop who was the witness was the cop who showed up at my accident.

      You need to “Tender” the claim to the auto insurance carrier for your employer. They are on the hook. If they give you any crap about it – bust out the following Latin: Respondeat Superior Biatch!

      Make sure the plaintiff (or claimant, “other driver” is aware that you were working.)

      It’s going to hurt when your boss finds out. But when that happens, just picture me on the day I wrecked my brand new company car in the middle of the night back in 1991 and had to call my boss with a cop standing next to me from a pay phone at the scene and tell him that I destroyed 2 cars and needed the company’s insurance info. That was a rough phone call.

      _________
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  42. Jenny says:

    Mr. Dort,

    I have a couple of questions for you for an incident involving my brother this evening. He was going through an intersection when another car hit him. He didn’t realize that the cars going the other way didn’t have a stop sign. The police were called and when they pulled up his insurance, they found that his policy had be cancelled due to lack of payment. The other car was a much older civic that was already in bad condition but it was totalled and had to be towed away. The driver said she was fine but had some bruising from the seat belt. Realistically, how much trouble is my brother in and should he look into getting the services of a lawyer?

    The car is registered under my mom’s name and so was the insurance which is why he never knew that the policy had been cancelled. Would she be liable of anything?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Jenny,

      This is a great question.

      Bruising from the seat belt means there were injuries. That is a bad fact.

      If this were my client (the driver who caused the accident), I’d be saying “We need to settle this case and get a signed release TODAY!!!!!!!”

      If the other driver were my client and I say the bruise, I might say: “Holly Crap! You’re hurt! You have internal bleeding DUDE! Wait. Don’t Move. I need to get my list of doctors and my phone…and a fee agreement . . . .”

      The driver who caused the accident and the registered owners of the car are liable for damages usually. There is a limit on what the registered owner can owe. But there is no limit on the negligent driver.

      Should you hire an attorney? I would say you need an attorney to do a few hours worth of work to try to get an immediate settlement. The negligent driver needs to pay the damages of the other driver (and passengers?) ASAP and get a SIGNED RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS. Like now. Right now. If you can settle it cheap, that is. If they want an amount that is unreasonable – like a gagzidillion American $50 Gold Eagles – then Mr. Negligent has to hire an attorney to defend him against the unreasonable part of the claim.

      Or if its really, really bad, get a bankruptcy lawyer.

      Sadly, this is a situation were a missed $100 or $150 in payments can cost a person thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands in some cases. For some people in this situation, that missed payment can be the loss of everything, and garnished wages for years. And a suspended drivers license until the bill is paid.

      My advice to your brother? None. Except dont ignore the problem. Do everything right, communicate, and it will be easier. Hopefully there really are no injuries, and you can just pay some body work and end it. Make sure you get a release signed, because they have 2 years to sue you or so.

      My advice to you? Double check the status of your own liability insurance RIGHT NOW. get a new, updated copy of your proof of coverage.

      Do I have a form for a Release of All Claims? No. I’ve thought about writing one, but I do not want the liability. Or the questions. But writing one for you is something that I would charge about $400 for. Some attorneys might do it cheaper for you.

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  43. Cisco santos says:

    I was in a fender bender a few months back while driving my mother’s insured vehicle. I have a valid California license, and wasn’t explicitly barred from my mother’s insurance. The insurance company denied my claim and I am unsure of what to do in my current situation. Can you help?

    • Cisco,

      Sounds like you did not have your own insurance coverage.

      You need to get the “Declarations Page” for your mother’s policy. That is the page that lists all of the coverages. Read it. See if it covers “all permissive drivers” (drivers with permission to drive her car). If so, and if you get sued, you need to bring the insurance company into the case by filing and serving a “cross complaint” against the insurance company. And if you have balls of steel, sue your mother also to force her insurance company to send attorneys into the litigation.

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      • Cisco santos says:

        How do I get access to my mother’s “Decleration Page”? Would she have to ask for it?

        My Mother also contacted her insurance company and they terminated her service after an insurance broker failed to inform the insurance company who was living under her household. Furthermore, I received a RS-1 form from the DMV asking for the insurance provider when the accident took place, should I put down my mother’s insurance provider?

        Thanks for your response.

        • Cisco,

          If your mom is an organized person, the declarations page is in a File marked “Auto Insurance 2012″ in the family’s file cabinet.

          If she is a high tech organized person, it’s in a folder on her computer titled 2012 Insurance Docs.

          If she is a high tech disorganized person like me, it’s sitting in her inbox in her email in an email from some internet based auto insurance company.

          If she has no idea where it is, then you have to contact the insurance company and ask for a copy of it.

          There is a box on the SR-1 form from DMV to report an accident where they ask for the insurance policy info. There is also a box for “policy holder name” – all I can tell you about that is that the policy holder name is on the declarations page.

          The DMV is going to use that form to contact the insurance company to see if you were covered for the accident. If not, or if you do not respond in time, they are going to suspend your drivers license.

          RE: the insurance broker problem. I cant answer that question. Honestly, I thought insurance brokers for car insurance went extinct when Esurance was invented.

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        • Cisco santos says:

          Thank you again, and sorry for asking so many questions. i have one more; Under coverage it contains “BI and PD” is PD permission driver?

          • Cisco,

            I dont mind answering good questions for free at all. In fact, I have a sort of crazy idea that eventually, I will be able to make a lot of money by working for free. Seriously, I think it is possible. I’ve been working on it for 10 years. It’s going to happen. I know it. Maybe in year 20?

            Anyway, this is a great question.

            I have not read your contract, but I will tell you what I assume to be true. BI in an insurance policy (auto) means “Bodily Injury Coverage”. PD means “Property Damage Coverage”.

            The two types of coverages are separate.

            So if you have a 15/15 policy usually that really means BI15/PD15.

            and if you have a BI15/PD15 policy that really means BI $15,000 / PD $15,000.

            and if you have a BI $15,000 / PD $15,000 policy, that really means you have a $15,000 policy limit on Bodily Injury Coverage and a $15,000 limit on Property Damage coverage.

            Why dont the insurance companies explain it to you in a way you can understand it like I do? BECAUSE (in my defense attorney opinion today – sometimes I wear other hats) – THEY DONT WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND IT.

            So, what you are looking at are the COVERAGE LIMITS – not the COVERED DRIVERS.

            I know that is not the answer you were hoping for, but we are making the world smarter here.

            _________
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  44. Armando says:

    Hello Mr. Dort,

    Nearly a year ago, my wife and I were rear-ended in California. There were no injuries, only damage to both cars. The other driver had been tailgating us closely for some time, and as we signaled and slowed to make a left-turn into our driveway from the single-lane road, we were struck from behind with enough force to cause $5,000+ worth of damage (more than we had paid for the car.)
    At the time of the accident we did not have valid insurance coverage; and this being my first auto-accident, I admit to my fair share of inexperience and naivete. The other driver used these unfortunate facts to his advantage, effectively getting away without a police report or anyone filing an accident claim. Afterward, he provided a completely fabricated series of events to his own insurance company.
    Needless to say, a short while later we were found “at fault” by his insurance and subsequently harassed by collection agencies claiming that we were required to pay the damages for the other drivers car. Only recently, having gathered as much evidence as we could, have we been able to force Farmers Insurance that they do not have enough evidence to declare us at fault; a statement which we had demanded from Farmers in writing.
    However, my wife and I DO have evidence against the driver who hit us, including road-maps, photos, and a witness statement that directly contradicts his version of events. We can also prove that he actually moved the location of the accident.

    My question is this: 1) In the event that we should seek compensation for property damage, whom would we be pursuing? The driver himself? or Farmers Insurance?

    and

    2) In attempting to seek compensation, would I be at risk of having my license suspended for driving without liability insurance in the recent past? I am not concerned about paying a fine, but I could not risk losing my license for any prolonged period of time.

    (We have been insured for nearly a year now and always pay on time.)

    Thank you for your time.

    • Armando,

      There are actually dozens of great questions in here. I cannot answer them all.

      First thing I have to do is walk through the things that drive me crazy, so that I may help people in the future. I’ll help you later.

      The lack of valid auto liability insurance may have just cost you 20,000+ in free money. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

      And your statement that “The other driver used these unfortunate facts to his advantage, effectively getting away without a police report . . . ” is complete CRAP. If you did not call the police and get a report written up, and make sure you had all of the other driver’s correct info, and a police officer to become a witness to the accident scene, IT IS YOUR OWN FAULT.

      OK, now that helping other future people is out of the way, I will try to help you.

      Having a collision without valid auto liability insurance in California will limit the damages available to you, but not for your passengers! Cha Ching!

      Your wife actually still has the right to sue the other driver for all of her damages! And she still has the right to sue you for all of her damages if liability is disputed! Ha! thinks about that for a minute. Should your wife sue you and the other driver at the same time and let the two of you fight over who caused the accident?

      Here is something super important to know: The insurance company’s determination of liability . . .

      wait. it’s freaking saturday morning. what am I doing? I have dishes to do. Garbage to take out. why in the world am I answering your question for free?

      Anyway, the insurance company’s determination of liability IS NOT BINDING ON ANYONE. YOU CAN COMPLETELY IGNORE IT. A LETTER FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANY ASSIGNING GUILT TO ANYONE IS COMPLETELY, TOTALLY USELESS.

      The insurance company was not there when the accident happened. Their findings are not admissible in court at all. They cannot force you to pay anything without a court judgment.

      You probably have 2 years to sue the other driver for damages. Double check the statute of limitation in CA for personal injury (motor vehicle) on your own to verify that.

      If the damages truly are $5000, and no injuries (one day of discomfort for your wife is pain and suffering), it may be a small claims case only. No attorneys allowed.

      But if there are any injuries to your wife (including soreness, fear of riding as a passenger, decreased sexual attraction to you due to the accident) they can lead to more damages if the other driver is proven to be negligent.

      At $5000 in damages, you are required to notify DMV of the accident and whether or not you had valid insurance at the time. If you notify them on time and tell the truth, without insurance, your drivers license should be suspended for 6 months. If you do not do it right, you can expect worse later.

      Can you win a case against the other driver? Well that depends on the evidence you get into court, and whether or not you can convince the tryer of fact that you are legally entitled to damages.

      One big question in this case will be: “Why no police report?” – that is a bad fact.

      Who do you sue? That is a great question. In a motor vehicle accident case, usually the plaintiff will sue: 1) the other driver; 2) the owner(s) of the car; and 3) the other driver’s employer if he/she was working at the time.

      You dont sue the insurance company because what you actually have to do in court is prove the OTHER DRIVER and OWNERS and EMPLOYERS are legally liable for the damages. Then, once that happens, the law requires the insurance company to INDEMNIFY (pay for or reimburse) their INSUREDs (customers) for the covered damages upto the limits of the policy. After that, you take money and property from the defendant directly.

      Your wife’s interests in this are not aligned with yours. She should seek an independent legal opinion – because – because – this is crazy but possible – it may be in her best interests to sue you and the other driver at the same time. One of you owes her. Possibly.

      trafficcourtblog.com out.

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  45. Kate says:

    Mr. Dort:

    I would like to thank you in advance for reading and perhaps helping me sort through a problem I am having. On Tuesday, I was involved in a car accident. I was making an unprotected (no designated left turn light) left turn when I collided with someone going straight. Initially, I only saw the car in front of the one I collided with. That car turned right so I began making my left turn. That’s when I saw the second car coming straight at me. I attempted to break but had a momentary lapse because my leg locked up and wouldn’t move so we collided. As soon as I was able, I got out of the car and asked if anyone needed an ambulance or if anyone was injured. Everyone said no. The other car’s driver had no insurance and he had 3 passengers. I do have insurance. I filed a police report, filed a DMV report and called my insurance agency but somehow I still feel uneasy. A little later, after the police refused to send dispatch out, I was asked to contact my insurance agency so the other driver could have a better idea of how the situation was going to be resolved. When I got their information, the passengers were now claiming injuries: backache (because she has scoliosis…she said) and neckache and glass in hair and face (no visible scratches or blood). My question is do I need to worry about a serious lawsuit that is outside of the realm of my insurance protection? (I have 100,000 per person for injuries). What kind of result should I expect from this case?

    I hope that what I said made sense. I’ve never been in an accident and my insurance adjustor is slow to get back to me. Thank you again for taking the time to read and review this. I appreciate it very much.

  46. Tony says:

    Sorry about the first submission, I’m a bit new to all this and this just occurred yesterday afternoon. My question is how do I find out more information about the other driver or can I even find out? Right after the accident he was on his phone immediately speaking to someone in Spanish. When I finally talked to him, he admits he has no driver license (had a copy of a ID from Mexico printed on a piece of paper) and has no insurance but mentions his uncle or family member owns a mechanic’s shop. Just this morning I receive a call from his insurance company asking for more information on the case and claiming right away that I am at fault. I tried to provide as much information on the case as I could without admitting to fault right away. His insurance company also claims that maybe “he” just forgot he had insurance. Is there a way to make sure that I will not be left with the short end of the stick (someone to request more information on the case, possible if the person who filed the insurance claim was actually the driver and not someone else)? I find it leery that the other person was driving someone else’s car with no license, documentation, or insurance pertaining to himself and admits all of this to me and yet now a insurance company is contacting me and claiming at I am at fault and even more strange that he took off once he found the police were coming.

  47. Tony says:

    I recently was involved in a accident in a parking lot on private property. I was backing out of the parking spot when a truck turned a corner in the lot quickly. I stopped immediately but still left a fist sized dent on the driver’s side door from the rear driver side corner of my car while he was turning while my car shows no damage whatsoever. I had gotten out to exchanged information with the driver but he seemed heavily reluctant.

    After trying to find out more information from him, I found out that he had no insurance and the vehicle was not his but a “friend.” He was from Mexico, did not have a driver’s license or American ID and admitted to not having any insurance. I still tried to exchange information with him best I could and received what turned out to be, a fake street address and a phone number that does not work. Then, early this morning I receive a call from his insurance company requesting me for more information and mentions that maybe the other driver “forgot” his insurance. Is this scenario correct? I have never been in an accident before, and never been involved with someone who admittedly had no driver’s license and no insurance and I have a feeling someone may be filing on behalf of the original driver or may be strong arming me for damages (paranoid due to seeing a case like this first hand with a friend’s mother). Is there any way to prevent that from happening?

    The police were called to the scene to create a report but the other driver would not stay for them and took off once he found out I was calling the police to file a accident report. Any information would be helpful and thank you.

    • Tony,

      This is a classic example of an unintelligible question. I understand the story, but I have no idea what the question is. If you want to resubmit, I’ll try to answer.

  48. JARJAM23 says:

    Was sitting still in my car in a mall outdoor parking lot 6 days ago waiting for car in front of me to move. suddenly was side struck by lady in SUV coming up parking lot ramp. Admitting she was at fault she said she wanted to handle this privately to avoid getting another point on her record that she was just about to get cleared up. I told her I understood her dilemmna, and would help her out if she would text me AND fax me a signed statement that she would agree to pay for the repair for my car plus rental car expenses while my car is being repaired. I got the faxed signed letter, plus text wih her admitting fault, and an email with her requesting me to not report the accident to the police to keep her DMV record clean. My wife called our insurance and our agent said that our insurance had lapsed one month prior to the accident becuse we renewed our lost debit card that our insurance was withdrawing from. Will I still be able to collect repair expenses from her insurance, with the tangible evidence of her admitting fault, but not having had insurance coverage during the accident. I sent her 3 estimates that were too high for her to pay ($4,200.00 > $3,200.00 ) which forced her to go through her insurance. She called them and sent me a case/claim no. 2 days ago. When I called to get status on case no. recording stated that adjustors are currently working on claim. Again will my no insurance coverage hinder my claim? THX ADVNC!

    • Jarjam,

      This is a great question.

      If the accident occurred on private property (which is seems like it did), and there were no injuries, chances are the police would not do anything at all anyway. They probably would not even come out in most CA cities.

      While reading this comment I suddenly thought “Jarjam should have used an Iphone to video a confession!!!!”. How’s that for a new idea people? Record a video confession at the scene of an accident on your phone! What great evidence that would be!

      I wonder if there is a business opportunity for a person to scan the police comms to local accidents – then go to the scene and video the scene and interview people – and then – and then – sell the evidence back to the not at fault driver! Ha! I gotta go.

      No wait. That is the worst Idea ever. It’s totally illegal to sell evidence. And who in their right mind would intentionally make themselves a witness to hundreds of car crash cases?

      Back to the comment. . .

      The fact that a driver involved in a collision did not have current liability insurance can limit the amount of damages available to that person for personal injuries. The lack of insurance could exclude you from collecting for pain and suffering, and some other damages in court. See California Civil Code s

      But that does not mean that you cannot collect for property damage. You can collect 100% of your property damage from the other driver if they were negligent and caused the damages. So I say if this were my problem I would continue to pursue the case. Dont let the insurance company push you around.

      If you want me to do it for you, I will. But I will charge 1/3 of whatever I collect. And you can probably handle it if you do your homework – which you have already started.

      And here is the part where I really provide real free legal self help. Here is an unofficial copy of the law (statute) in California that limit the damages available to a person injured in an auto accident without auto liability insurance.


      California Civil Code Section 3333.4 States:

      (a) Except as provided in subdivision (c), in any action to
      recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor
      vehicle, a person shall not recover non-economic losses to compensate
      for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment,
      disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary damages if any of the following
      applies:
      (1) n/a
      (2) The injured person was the owner of a vehicle involved in the
      accident and the vehicle was not insured as required by the financial
      responsibility laws of this state.

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  49. j says:

    I just was going to sell a third vehicle, on the way to show the car, I rear ended someone on the freeway. We pulled over. The police came to take a report, I had an old insurance card, and my license. They took the statements and told me I was free to leave. I get home, my wife informs me we are not insured on that one vehicle that we had taken it off our policy, although we have two other cars on it, and when she saw me driving off she had called to put the car back on the policy, Murphy’s law right? My concern is that I will get some crazy suspension or fine in the mail regarding my license even though the police let me go free. I have no problem fixing the car of the person I hit, I just don’t know what awaits me. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you for your time, we have been out of work and I am concerned.

  50. Jacqueline says:

    I live in CA. I was just contacted by an insurance company telling me someone was in an accident in my car about a year ago. The someone happens to be my exboyfriend. At the time of the accident my car was not insured…the insurance company has not been able to get a response from the EX so they have contacted me. They are telling me they will put in a request to the DMV for a suspension of my liscense if I do not pay the $1900 in damages tothe other car. (which by the way my car had no damages I didnt even know that this accident occured) My question is, can they realy do this to me and am I realy responsible to pay this?
    PLEASE PLEASE ANSWER ME!

    • Jacqueline,

      You left out the most important fact – whether or not they have a judgment against you. If they do, then, yes, in CA your drivers license can be suspended until you pay what ever the court said you have to pay.

      If there is no judgment – tell them to go pound sand. It’s an unproven claim. It is an unproven small claims court potential claim. might as well be a bill from a collection agency on the moon.

      The owner of a car is liable for damages caused with the car, upto a legal limit. The legal limit is . . dont quote me . . probably $15,000.

      You have to find out if there is a pending court case against you, or if there was a court case and now maybe a judgment. Find out. Go from there.

      • Jacqueline says:

        Thnak you so much… as far as I know there is no judgement against me. How can I find out? I have recieved nothing in the mail and nothing from the DMV. Do I call the traffic court house or the DMV?

  51. Jamuna says:

    I just came to California last week, my bad time i was into an accident last Friday :( . I had Insurance, but no collision ins, since we missied to give the details while changing the address in Progressive site just oneday before the day of accident. the other party who was driving the car does have driver license and its not her car. My ins comp said they cannt give any payment for us, same like other party’s insurance. they are telling the fault is from my end. but it is not, i didnt get Ticket for the accident. the mistake is the other driver couldnt control the car while trying to pass the Bus. Now ins company closed my claim and said tht we hv to take care of rest. we are holding the ins past 2 years and paid all dues well in advance. this is our first claim. Since the other party doesnt have driver license, they went to my Ins comp with attorney to ask abt my ins det and liability. i donno wat to do. i am planning to get the complete report from Police and sending the SR-1 form to DMV by today. But should i also need to go to an attorney for moving further?
    Also, the other party was fine after the accident, when i was checking her, but now they claimed my Ins comp tht she is injured in the accident. please help me…..

  52. Lomikia says:

    Hi,

    I bought a car with my Uncle now as you know to take it off the lot you have to have the car insured which it was. It was in my Uncle’s name because I didn’t have my license. I got my license a month later and without telling me he didn’t add me to the insurance despite the fact he had my info and I was giving him money for the insurance. Later I got into a minor accident thinking I was insured. I proceeded to find out he one didn’t add me as a driver and two didn’t pay the bill so the policy on the car was suspended. Will my license be taken for longer than 6 months for my Uncle’s deception? Are there any other repercussions legally? If I had known I wasn’t insured I wouldn’t have driven, I would have gone back to taking the bus.

    • Lomikia,

      Sadly, you are learning the hardway that you need to have proof of current liability insurance WITH YOU WHEN YOU DRIVE AT ALL TIMES.

      To the government, your story is kinda lame, because you were breaking the law every single time you drove without proof of current insurance with your name on it.

      You can learn from this incident. Dont rely on anyone else to get you insurance. Do it yourself. Carry proof with you.

      As far as repercussions, if you caused the accident and there were injuries, the injured people can sue you (and the registered owner of the car).

      If you lose, the court may issue a judgment and force you to pay their damages personally.

      If you had insurance, the insurance company would be required to hire attorneys to defend you against a personal injury law suit at no cost to you and they would be required to pay any covered loss if you are responsible.

      My advice? try and settle the “claim” quickly with everyone informally. Get them to sign a “release of all claims” if you do settle the claim yourself. Get insurance today. Learn from this as best you can.

      Maybe they owe you money? Get a handful of marbles, put them in your mouth every morning after brushing your teeth, and practice these words in front of the mirror for 20 minutes: “Borland End User Sales”, I mean: “Go Pound Sand!”

  53. John says:

    About two weeks ago I was hit by a lady who ran the red light at about 35mph (both my car and her car were totaled). Police report was filed and I was taken to the ER.
    I am wondering what will happen if the other lady has no insurance. I have pretty good coverage and my insurance is paying for my car but there are other expenses I would like her to pay (deductible, car rental, medical bills).
    Is it worth taking her to small claims court? It seems like she doesn’t have any money and I don’t want to waste my time if at the end of the trial she doesn’t pay me anything. Would she be required to pay for my attorney fees since she was at fault?

  54. Paige says:

    Hi,

    This morning me and my girlfriend were on our way to work, we were about to go through an intersection on a green when a taxi went to make left and crashed right into us.

    Our car is totaled, but that’s not saying much considering we have 1995 hail damaged dodge neon, so the car was worth little to nothing to being with. Unfortunately when I pulled out my insurance card I noticed the card expired the day before. I called my father so he could talk to to the insurance company and help me file my claim. While the Taxi’s accident investigator was on his way. When he arrived he told us it was clearly the cab drivers fault and there is video of the accident. I was told to contact the cab’s insurance agency after 24 hours when they could process al the information into their systems.

    Once my father called he found out my insurance company “left me a message” (which I never received or any other kind of notification like letters, additional phone calls etc.) that we were no longer covered since we now reside in a new state.

    I had NO idea I wasn’t covered until today, is there anything I can do to avoid license suspension and the fine?? I realize I’ve probably lost out on any kind of compensation …

    PLEASE HELP!! Thank you so much for your time.

  55. Anthony Harlow says:

    I was driving without insurance or a valid drivers license and slightly rear ended someone who them hit some in front of them. How she manages to hit the person in from I don’t know because I hit her so lightly that I have no damage at all. I live in Los Angeles County.

    Can someone help explain what can happen to me in this case?

  56. Julie says:

    Last thing, I promise. Went back to the scene and realized the parked cars that my sister hit were actually at a red curb. Might they be responsible for her damages for being illegally parked on a major street? The curbs are delapidated, maybe the city is responsible for failing to upkeep red cirbs where it is unsafe to park. Got the police report and it says legally parked. It was dark out and I guess they didn’t really bother checking.

  57. Julie says:

    I guess you don’t like my avatar, oh well… Anyway all of the other comments were extremely helpful, though no one seems to be in the same situation as I am where I wasn’t actually involved in the crash but the car was in my name.

  58. Julie says:

    Hi Chris,

    You are clearly the coolest person on the planet for answering all of these questions (flattery will get me everywhere?). My sister was in an accident in which she rolled an SUV and hit 4 parked cars causing varying amounts of damage, at least one of the parked cars being totaled. She is uninsured and was driving a car registered to me. I gave her the car about a year ago but she never transferred ownership and never insured it or herself. I did receive a letter many months ago from the CA DMV stating that the registration was suspended due to lack of insurance. I told her to handle it but she didn’t. I know an SR1 needs to be completed, but beyond that I have no clue what to do or what to expect. What’s a likely scenario at this point? Am I personally going to face any action by the DMV? What should I do next to make sure I don’t face any problems, and what should my sister do to handle/minimize her problems? Is her license going to be suspended, fines, charges from the court? She did not leave the scene and the police did take a report, but didn’t say anything about insurance because I guess they assumed she had it and the car was upside down so they didn’t ask her to get proof. It might not be relevant, but I also have another car registered to me and insured. Also, my sis is not doing well financially so might that be relevant now or in the future when it comes to fixing the other cars? Thanks!

  59. Kyle says:

    Hi Chris,
    I was involved in an accident over 6 weeks ago. I rear ended another driver that I believed was making a right turn, I hit my brakes which locked up my vehicle and slid into hers. I dented her bumper enough that her trunk couldn’t close. I know I am at fault however she didn’t want to make a police report. We exchanged insurance information and phone numbers and went on our ways (I was in a hurry to get to a grad rehearsal). She contacted me a half hour later and told me that her insurance had lapsed and she wasn’t covered so she didn’t want to make a claim and lose her license. I didn’t want to cause her any more trouble so I didn’t claim it either. She contacted me today and said if I didn’t compensate her for her car that she’d take legal action against me. I would happily help her out if I could but at this moment in my life I’m a recent grad school graduate with $190,000 in student loans and no job. Any advise?

    • Kyle,

      What accident?

      Practice this line in the mirror every morning for the next 6 weeks with marbles in your mouth:

      “Go pound sand.”

      Then, for the next 6 weeks, type it every morning for 1 hour over and over again.

      Follow these instructions young Jedi, and your problem could possibly go away.

  60. Jeffrey says:

    My card policy says 2/03 till 08/03 of 2012

  61. Jeffrey says:

    I have been paying insurance on the prior vehicle leading up to the accident is what I was getting at

    You are awesome for offering this type of help for the record even if nothing can be done to help me.

    • Jeffrey,

      If you had valid auto insurance coverage for that date of the accident – but on another car – you need to formaly, in writing send them notice of the claim and demand that they “Indemnify and Defend” you for the claim. Then, in writing, you need to notify the other driver of that insurance policy. Then, you need to notify DMV of the accident on their accident reporting form, and include that policy info on the DMV report, and let DMV contact them.

      If they still deny coverage, and you do get sued, the proper course of action is to sue the insurance company, and bring them into the case. Then the court can determine if there was coverage.

      If you had a valid insurance policy with your name on it – it probably covers (in CA) you for any car you drive.

      Check the expiration date of the policy.

  62. Jeffrey says:

    Hello chris

    I was in an accident on 2/24 with a vehicle I had purchased on 2/12 I had my wallet stolen and just gotten the money to register it and was going to the DMV to register it. On the way I hit a female and it was my fault. I was insured on a car but sold the car a year prior… But since I didn’t call my agent and said I was insured they are saying they can’t submit the claim… I thought in California you have 14 days to claim the car on your Insurance. I’m extremely worried… What’s the course of action. Your help is greatly appreciated.

    • Jeffrey,

      I am going to answer your question by re writing it:

      12 days after I bought a car, I caused an accident. The car was not registered in my name. I did not buy an auto liability insurance policy covering this car.

      I used to have insurance on a car I had a year ago. Is there any law that I can use to force the old insurance company to cover me on a different car this year? Do I magically get free insurance coverage?

      Will the government help me if she sues me? Do I really have to notify DMV of the accident? Is DMV really going to suspend my drivers license for 6 months because I had an accident without insurance coverage?

      What’s the course of action? 1) Notify DMV (to minimize the suspension period); 2) if you get sued in real court, hire an attorney to defend you; 3) if you get sued in small claims, study up and defend yourself.

      You can settle the (potential) claim yourself. But you have to make sure you get a full and complete release of all claims from all potential plaintiffs. And I cant help with that for free.

      I wish I had better news for you.

  63. Albert says:

    I hit a car and had no insurance. I was at fault, but I been saying I had no fault, even though I hit the other car from behind. She had AAA insurance. I called her insurance company because they called me first. I told them I had no insurance but the police report said I had “no prove of insurance”. I am not sure if I should have said to claim lady? In the police report it was stated the damage to her car was minimal but my damage was big. Probably her repair bill was going to be around 3000. The claim lady told that they weren’t going to contact me again and that they weren’t going to pay my expenses but that was obvious. My question is, is it possible that the insurance company will not come after me with this set of circumstances, or do insurance companies always come after one because they can. Could it be possible that she was fully covered against this type of accident, and could this, somehow cover my responsibility for paying for her car?

    • Albert,

      Great question. Finally. I cant tell you how sick I am of terrible questions. My days of answering these for free are coming to an end. Butyour are in luck, because I actually want to answer your question. And I got more good news, I have handled hundreds of these cases as both an insurance defense attorney and plaintiff’s attorney. Shit, that is where I got the money to sit here and watch sports center while everyone else sits on the freeway breathing carcinogens.

      I would expect the other driver to sue you for both property damage and personal injury. They have 2 years to do so (in CA, I think – double check on your own).

      If the other driver has “uninsured motorist coverage” their own insurance company may pay them, and then subrogate the claim – and come after you for repayment. So, you are on the hook no matter what if you were negligent – and sounds like you may have been negligent (you have a legal duty to make sure your car does not hit the rear of another).

      If you were my client (you are not because you have not paid me) I would say DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE ABOUT THIS CASE EXCEPT FOR AN ATTORNEY YOU HIRE (or chris dort’s blog under a false name).

      Do not talk to the other insurance company. Do not talk to the other driver. Do not talk to your friends about the problem. Everything you say can be used in court to prove you were at fault, and everyone you tell can be dragged into court as a witness.

      You do not really have to do anything (except notify DMV and let them suspend your drivers license) until you actually get sued and served with a complaint and summons.

      Make sure the other driver has your current address at all times so that you do not get hammered with a default judgment that you did not know about.

      If you do get sued, you need to hire a defense attorney if you have anything to protect.

      • Albert says:

        Thanks for the info Chris,

        I don’t have much to protect. But I will try to protect myself none the less. I will incorporate just to be on the save side. Also, am I suppose to expect a card to come to my home address stating something about this from the other person’s insurance company? Or are they going to probably sue me right away without warning, because I had been doing some research and when they open a case against you, if you don’t know where to look, you may sometimes not even know you have a case against you, and this could be convenient for them. Also, I remember reading somewhere below that when the damage to the other person’s car is small they sometime don’t sue back. I could be mistaking though.

        • Albert,

          Incorporating will not help you. That is a creative idea, but a useless one. If the other driver sues, they are going to sue you personally no matter what. They are going to go after your personal assets. You cannot prevent them from doing that by incorporating anything.

          In order to sue you, they have to 1) file a complaint with the court and get a summons issued; 2) then they have to personally serve you with the Complaint and Summons. The case cannot move on until the service is completed. But if they cannot find you at the address you gave them, the judge will allow them to serve you by “publication”, which means by publishing the case in a newspaper of general circulation.

          To prevent getting hammered with a default judgment that you do not know about, you must keep them informed of your current address at all times. It is in your best interest.

          They have a lot of time to sue you.

          The property damage is not what you need to worry about – what you should worry about are the “chronic back spasms” and “restrictions in skeletal musculature movement” and “left side numbness” that people often claim after even low speed read end collisions. Even with little property damage to the Plaintiff’s car, you could still have a huge personal injury case.

          The good news is that if you do not have much to take, there may not be many attorneys out there willing to take the other driver’ case – because the risk of not getting paid at the end are high.

          Somewhere in these comments is a story of someone in your position who did get sued, suffered a judgment, and they kept coming after him for years – and suspended his drivers license for years. Read that one.

          The may not sue you at all if there are no injuries and little damage. And of course, you can settle the claim on your own with them any time you can get them to agree. But if you do settle it on your own, you need to get a Complete Release of All Claims signed by the other potential Plaintiffs to protect your self.

          I would not expect the other person’s insurance company to contact you at all except to either: 1) get you admit you were at fault; or 2) get you to pay for the money they give to their own insured.

  64. Jim says:

    I received a letter from the DMV stating my license is to be suspended on February 14th stemming from an auto accident in CA in 2005, and I did not have insurance at the time. The lawyers office and I have agreed on monthly repayment options until the loan was satisfied, but I have not been able to make payments as of late. I have contacted the lawyer to see if I could resume the monthly repayment option and am awaiting a reply. Assuming the lawyers office agrees to this option, what are the next steps to take with the DMV?

    • Jim,

      You left out some facts here. Sounds like you had an auto accident without insurance. Then, you got sued for damages caused by the accident and lost. The Plaintiff hired an attorney, who got a court judgment against you. Then, because you did not pay the judgement, and because you had no insurance policy to pay for the judgement, the Plaintiff’s attorney notified DMV of the failure to pay the judgement. DMV then suspended your drivers license until the judgment is paid.

      Well – that’s what happens when you drive without auto liability insurance – and I hope other people reading this without insurance understand what a disaster this is – and how it could have been avoided by (probably) buying a policy for a couple hundreds bucks. Maybe way less.

      So your real question is: “If I can get the plaintiff’s attorney to agree to accept payments and agree that I am fully in compliance with a payment plan, get I get my drivers license back before the judgment is paid in full?

      Normally it works like this – you pay the judgement in full, and get proof you paid it in full. Either you or the Plaintiff’s Attorney should file a notice of satisfaction of judgment with the court, and then, you take a copy of that file stamped notice to the DMV and ask them to reinstate your driver license.

      My advice: pay the judgement as soon as possible.

      My best idea: check the DMV web site thoroughly to see if there is some form or application for a license while you are paying off the judgment. I want to say there is no such thing, but in the back of my head I think I actually once saw such as thing.

      I am not going to look it up for you for free, but I encourage you to look. You certainly do not have a right to a drivers license before that judgment is paid, but there might be a tiny sliver of hope somewhere on the DMV site if you have proof you are fully complying with a payment plan.

      I can also tell you this: If you cannot pay for the damage you did while driving without insurance, the DMV is not going to let you drive again legally.

      And this my friends is the danger of driving without insurance.

      I hope something in here helps.

      • Jim says:

        Thank you Christopher for the straight advice. Question, on the form I received from the DMV it says “this action will continue until you file with dmv a copy of the satisfaction of judgement or a certified copy of a court installment order.”
        Does this mean that I can still retain my license as long as I have filed a form with the court showing that I am willing to make payments (and make them on time) until the judgement is satisfied?

        • Jim,

          That is actually a good question.

          I believe that means you need a court approved and filed stipulation (agreement) between plaintiff and defendant for payment of the judgment. That means that you probably need to get a written agreement form Plaintiff, and talk plaintiff into filing it with the court, and then talk the court into giving you something back.

          I actually dont know for sure. Maybe some other attorney reading can help.

          Wait – heres and idea.Call Plaintff’s attorney. Of course, they are not really going to be willing to help you out. I do not think there is anyway for you get a “Certified Copy of a Court Installment Order” without Plaintiff’s help and consent.

          Check the judicial council’s web site for small claims forms and see if there is a standard form for that “Certified” whatever.

          But you are better off selling your car and using that money to pay the judgment – and what ever else you have to pay it off ASAP.

  65. Gianna says:

    I got into a small car accident and the other driver didn’t have a licence because of a precious accident. We exchanged information but didn’t file a police report because we wanted to work it out independently. Is he at fault because he doesn’t have a lisence?

    • Gianna,

      This is a good question.

      No. The fact that a person does not have a drivers license does not mean that the driver is liable for damages.

      To be liable for damages, the other driver, licensed or not, must have been negligent in some way. That means they must have 1) failed to control their car at all times, and 2) that failure was the proximate (legal) cause of damages to you or your passengers.

      Not having a drivers license might be good proof that they do not know how to drive in CA though.

      Not having the police complete a report is usually a bad idea.

      Accident? What Accident? WHo? Me? No, I was not there at all. I dont drive. I dont have a license. What accident? When? What day? WHo? Where? What? Wrong number lady.

  66. Hungry for reality says:

    Pulled out in front of a car…no contact was made…but the other driver ran up on a median. I got out to see if he was ok…he was…there was no visible damage to the car….Gave him my number….told him I would pay for the allignment he thought he may need…no insurance was exchanged…just phone numbers….and my verbal admission of guilt…If he trys to go further with the damages…what can i do…did not have coverage at the time of accident…behind on payments. Made the payment…now I’m covered…Is there ne thing else I can do here?

    • Oh I had this happen to me. I was the other person though. Lucky for you, trying to sue the other person (or you in this case) takes too much damn time. Pray that the person is not an eager paper pusher who likes to see doctors for their neck pain. Never trust anyone. Definitely have insurance at all times. It’ll save you money in the long run.

  67. Manuel says:

    What do I do or can do if I rear ended a rental car without current registration, no insurance, and no driver’s license? I don’t know what to do or who to turn to for help on my stupidity. Please help if you can!

  68. Lady says:

    I got in a car accident today in California. I was driving on the street heading south to pick up my daughter. The car in front of me hit their breaks abruptly. When i saw this I did the same and came to a complete stop and was very close but did not hit the car in front of me. The car behind me however was coming too fast and did not have enough time to break and rear ended my car. The impact from the hit to my car was great enough that this made my car hit the other car in front of me. The police was called but there was no police report filed. There was only a very minor scratch done to the car that I hit but there was significant damage done to my car. I have no insurance due to financial problems that I have had. I am a single mother with a child and the income that I make is not enough for me to make a car insurance payment. I cannot afford to get my license suspended. Please help me and tell me what is my best options that are available to me so I can avoid having my lincense suspended even if it means me picking up the tab for my own damages to my car.

    • Lady,

      OK. I am going to put on my personal injury attorney costume here.

      So a woman walks into my office today and says what you said above. Here is what I say:

      Sounds like that driver who hit you from behind was negligent. And I bet you are going to be sore as hell tomorrow morning. Hopefully that negligent driver had insurance.

      There is good news here. Bad news too. The bad news is that the lack of auto insurance may have just cost you $20,000 in nearly free money.

      On this fact pattern, the driver who hit you is liable to you for all sorts of damages: 1) property damage; 2) medical bills; 4) out of pocket expenses; 4) . . . . 5) . . . . . . 6) . . . . . .7) . .. . . .

      If you had insurance, I would fill in 4) like: damages for emotional distress to you; 5) money for pain and suffering; 6) maybe loss of use of your car; 7) loss of earning capacity.

      My point is that your damages are limited if you did not have auto insurance.

      But the damages for your daughter are not limited! Hoorah.

      So the good news? You have a right to collect for your own limited damages from the driver who hit your from behind. You have a right to sue for damages on behalf of your child. One day of discomfort and fear are damages that you can collect for. That negligent sucker owes you money. The only question is how much.

      If you have the other drivers’ info like you should – I can give you some more help.

      If there are any injuries or discomfort at all, you should document it and seek medical attention if needed. Document all of the damage. Write down a person note about the location of the accident, exactly, the time, traffic conditions, etc. Address the note: “To my Attorney”. Start documenting your damages.

      If this is a case in a county where I like to work, it might be one I would take on a contingency fee basis if: There are real damages exceeding $15,000. With 2 plaintiffs (you and child) even with the limitation on your damages it may be worth working on.

      Or you can sue alone in small claims up to 10,000$ without an attorney.

      In CA, if a driver hits you from behind, the law presumes they were negligent. They have a duty to not hit you and to control their vehicle at all times. They breached that duty by hitting you. The breach of that duty caused property damage (and tomorrow – pain and suffering in all likelihood).

      There is pretty much no defense to hitting someone from behind – except maybe fraud or intentional collision.

      Hopefully you demanded an ambulance if there were any real injuries so you could get immediate treatment to limit the pain you will feel in the next few years.

      As for the drivers license issue with DMV . . . . I cannot help at all with that. If the DMV cannot confirm insurance, they are going to do what they do.

      Send me some more details on what happened and with who via email to cdort(at)dortlaw.com and I will give you a more detailed review or forward to someone who will if it is not in an area I cover. And if there is nothing there worth having an attorney for – I can direct you to the small claims court info.

      If you have the right facts, there may be a pay day in your future here. It’s possible. If you suffered because of that fool’s negligence, dont feel bad about demanding compensation. It is the american way: hurt someone or their property (car)? you must pay.

  69. Natalie says:

    I recently rear-ended a car going 4 miles an hour and had no insurance at that time. Of course, there was no visible damages to either cars so we just exchanged info and went our separate ways. She ended up calling me the same day saying she went to get an estimate for $1,200 at a body shop. We arranged a meeting that night so my dad can look at the estimate which was completely unreasonable. She claimed her left taillight was cracked and there were microscopic scratches on her bumper. Thing is, my car would have to be a foot higher to even reach her taillight! She also told me that she got rear-ended a couple months prior so I’m basically paying for the shitty job they did fixing up her car. Long story short, she filed with her insurance company and i just got a letter stating i have to pay $1,700 for the damages. I also got my liscence suspended for a year due to the accident. Please tell me what should i do. I live in an apartment with my parents who are on welfare and i have no job! Help.

  70. Stephanie says:

    I got my liscense suspended how does the sr22 work? And what are the steps on getting a restricted liscence?

  71. Vl says:

    Chris,
    I was in an accident in a parking lot today. I was backing out of a spot and so was the other driver. I was backing out first and was about to switch into drive when we touched rear bumpers. My car was not damaged at all but hers had a dent in the left corner of the rear bumper. I have no insurance and I’m not sure if she does. We exchanged info and thats it. What should I do in this situation?

    • VI,

      I could tell you how to be an asshole. But I say help her get he car fixed. Today. I mean that’s my advice today, because it’s sunday. Not get the car fixed today. You can be an asshole for a while if you want.

      Sounds like private property. If this were Monday, I might say “What accident?” Got any video?

  72. emmanuel says:

    I was involved in a accident two years ago and well I had no insurance and the outcome was that both cars totalled and one year later they asked for a hearing and the outcome of that was I have to pay them 12,000 for damages and after that I got sued by them and the outcome now I cant hire a attorney and I went and let him know I dont have any money or anything of value im 20 years old full time student and the attorney is the insurance companies not the guy I got in the accident with he didnt show up for the 3rd court and it got dismissed but now I got a letter with a notice of motion so what is this and what can be my outcome??

    • Emmanuel,

      1 sentence, 185 words. Not intelligible. Cannot understand. No comprendo.

      I would help you if the question was understandable. But it is not.

      My best advice? Stay in school. Work on effective writing. Keep your sentences limited to 10 words or less.

  73. Terry Balsley says:

    Help!! Our adult daughter is planning on buying our Suburban from us. She has been driving it for 10 months & has it insured in her name. Her insurance premium was due on Jan 1st – because it was a holiday she spoke with the customer support and was assured her payment would be accepted on the 2nd with full insurance coverage. On the 2nd her husband sent payment online & received an email confirming payment was received and insurance was in effect. In a horrible turn of events & a really bad way to start the New Year -Aprox 5 mins later my daughter was in an accident – origionally a claim # was given and an adjuster was to be sent out – now there’s a hold on adjuster – there is an investigator on the case questioning the time line & making threats. What happens now? How will this affect my daughter & also myself & my husband since the car is in our names? No one was injured in the accident – our car had a crunched fender & the other car had no visible damage. The other driver only took my daughters info because he had a rent a car.
    Thank you in advance! Terry

    • Terry,

      5 minutes later? Come on. Hard to believe.

      Well, if you have proof of the time of the accident, and proof of coverage for that time, sounds like you are covered.

      If there are injuries and / or everyone gets sued, tender the claim to all insurance companies. If any insurance carrier denies coverage, hire an attorney to get them into the case, and/or cooperate with the Plaintiffs’ attorney(s) to give them the info the need to bring the insurance companies who denied the claim into the law suit.

      Then, ultimately, get the judge to make a Declaratory Ruling to determine whether or not coverage actually exists through that policy for that lawsuit.

      If no one sues anyone, tell everyone to go pound sand.

  74. JP says:

    Chris,

    I have a quick question, if someone is driving with a suspended license and the car is in two peoples name, if the person driving has a SR 22 and fully coverage will insurance still be responsible for the tab. From what I was told, if you are driving illegally you insurance is not required to cover you and can void out the claim as on top of cancel coverage.

    • JP,

      If you do not have a valid drivers license, you dont have auto liability insurance coverage. THink about it, you were committing a crime. Can you buy insurance that covers your criminal activities? Hell no. But maybe I am wrong? Check the declarations page of your supposed policy to be sure. You will learn a lot in the process. But tender the claim to them anyway. Send the claim to every potential insurance company.

      • JP says:

        There has not been an accident, my brother has a new mustang and has an SR22. From what I understood if you don’t have a valid driver’s license insurance will not cover it. He has insured the car under his name and the car is registered to my mother and him. My worry was IF he did get in a car accident if insurance would cover it were would he and my mother be liable for all damages. I am not saying by any means that it is smart to drive on a suspended licenses but I was hoping ( which I am yet to find) some documentation stating that insurance does not cover someone driving on a suspended.

        • JP,

          If you do not have a drivers license, you cannot drive at all legally.

          If you do not have a drivers license, you do not have auto insurance no matter what your paperwork says. The insurance company proably sold him that SR 22 paper when he had a license. Or, they just plain ripped him off.

          Anyone who knowingly loans a car they own to a non licensed driver is per se negligent.

          In California, registered owners of a vehicle are liable for damage done by a non licensed or licensed driver (up to a limit, with exceptions).

          Would I let a non licensed driver driver my car? Hell No.

          If you want to read the part of your insurance policy that says the police is terminated immediately upon the loss of a valid drivers license, read the declarations page of the policy, which is the most important page of an insurance policy. It should not be hard to find. Might be the first sentence.

          Think about it. If you are not legally allowed to drive because you failed to comply with the laws relating to safe driving, do you think an private for profit business is going to take on the risk of having to pay for an accident you illegally cause? Hello no.

          Does the law require an insurance company to cover damage caused by an unlicensed driver who used to have a valid policy when they had a license?

          Now, auto insurance is a very flexible thing once you get sued and get into court. Sometimes coverage exists in court when it did not exist outside of court. But that is not going to help you . . . . .

          Wait here is an idea: Send the insurance company written notice that the drivers license is not valid, and ask them if you still have coverage. Guess what will happen if you tell them the truth?

          And just to point out a detail here – from what I read here it appears he DOES NOT HAVE AN “SR 22″ – rather it appears (from what I read here) that he has a piece of paper that says he paid for an SR 22 filing with DMV – but that does not mean you have valid insurance coverage today.

          Actually, yes the correct thing to do is to notify the insurance company in writing the status of the drivers license. If they fail to terminate the policy immediately, maybe once you get into court you would have an argument that you reasonably thought you had valid insurance coverage (promissory estopple). But it wont work if you have to commit a crime to drive.

          • JP says:

            Chris, thank you for you replies and let say that I do agree with you that you should not lend your car to someone with a suspended driver license but maybe I should be more clear. My mother and brother bought the car and both are on title. He then applied for insurance and the paid for the SR22. He did not at the time have a valid drivers license that he applied for the insurance. He (my brother) is taking the required steps to getting a restricted license but has not received it. The policy is solely in his name per the documentation I read. I will find the declaration page and I thank you for all your assistance.

            JP

  75. NicK says:

    Dear Chris,
    I was in an accident a little over a month ago while driving a business leased truck (with valid insurance) however WHILE CONDUCTING PERSONAL BUSINESS. There were two cars stopped on the freeway in front of me. Unable to stop in time, I hit one car from the rear who then hit the car in front of them. The business I worked for fired me for breach of company policy (using the business vehcile for personal use). And the busniness has not filed an insurance claim concerning the accident, and I do not believe they intend to file a claim. I gave the business’ insurance information at the scene of the accident.
    What has happened thus far: I have been contacted by the insurance company of the lead vehicle. They offered a settlement payment due by the end of this month (14 days) in exchange for not filing with CA DMV and I wouldn’t lose my license that way. (Reading your page it sounds like this is automatic and they have no say in the matter). I cannot pay the amount as I have no income and cannot borrow the money to pay. They offered a payment plan but will still report it as a default and I will lose my license. I know that the front driver has retained a personal injury lawyer and will most likely be suing me for personal injury. Also there is the matter of the middle vechicle still to be settled with a different insurance company.
    I guess my ultimate question is would it just be a waste of time for me to try to get a defense lawyer (which we cannot afford to pay)?
    Can I file bankruptcy concerning this matter to protect me from being penniless for the next 20 years?
    Should we pay the settlement amount on damages offered on the first car (in an effort to retain my license) or tell them to go pound sand?
    I most likely will have to move back to my home state to live with family as this is going to devastate us financially. Will this be considered “fleeing”?

    • Nicholas,

      This is actually a great problem. But honestly, it’s too big for me to give you real help for free.

      Do not pay anyone yourself. Wait until you are sued and lose. You do not need to declare bankruptcy unless you have no insurance at the end of the trial and you lose the trial (years from now). Chances are it will never get that far.

      The employer’s insurance will get pulled in if you get sued. You probably dont have to do anything. The plaintiff’s attorneys are going to try very, very hard to make your employer liable for the damages, both because they employed you, loaned you the car, and separately, because they own the car and are on the hook for that reason.

      Make sure you give the plaintiff’s attorneys your employer’s insurance info. Wait til you get sued.

      Leaving the state will make the problem worse, not better.

      Do not pay any one until you lose a lawsuit (did I say that?)

      Do not admit to anyone you were on personal business. Maybe you thought you were, but the law says you were working????? Have you thought about that?

      You really need to hire an attorney to organize this for you, respond to things, and to make sure the employer’s insurance gets dragged in.

      DO not pay anyone until you lose a lawsuit. You were working you idiot! What is your job? Were you thinking about work? Were you scheduled to work that day at all? Has the employer let you go out to lunch in that car before? Did you have implied permission? Did your employer convince you through duress that you were on personal business when in fact you were legally working or in the middle of something called an agency relationship? Respondeate Superior you bubblehead!!!!!!

      You should hire me to organize the problem for you and to tender the claims to the employer and their insurance company. You can actually sue them yourself if you have to and pull in the insurance company yourself.

      Bad News: I would only do this on an hourly basis. And ouch, I really hate to write what I would charge an insurance company here: $200 per hour. Ouch, I know. But it’s not fun work, and I would rather be riding my mountain bike.

      Realistically, if you wanted my help, you would need a budget of about $5000. And yes, you’d have to pay in advance. But, I could do a hell of a lot of good here for you. You think you are pucked, but you are probably just getting screwed by more powerful forces of evil at the moment.

      This problem seems really bad now, but 2 years from now, it’s probably a whole different thing, and if you can get the employer in, you’ll be fine.

      Check with other attorneys if you want. Some charge less.

      If we got lucky and got the employer in quick, it might just be 10 hours worth of work.

      Dont panic. Dont pay. Dont talk. Get help. May the force be with you.

      • NicK says:

        Dear Chris,

        First, thank you for such a prompt & thorough reply.
        There are additional details of this situation you should know in order to better understand my situation fully.
        my email is submitted and would not be opposed to possibly retaining you in this matter. ($5K is steep for me right now, but have recently been offered new employment that would make it less painful.)

        I would prefer not to post these personal details in a forum, but feel they are VERY relavant to how this situation would be handled and may impact your opinion of being able to help. Yea, I’m a bubblehead… I really have no grasp on law, and am generally too forthcoming with information. I know your time is valuable, I would not try to occupy it at length.

        • NicK,

          Just so everyone know, blog posts here should not show your contact info (email) and you do not need to enter your real name. We try to not publish any identifying info here. I see the email address. But otherwise I do not intentionally share it with anyone at all. And I often take out people’s last names (I did here afterwards).

          You can use a fake name if you want – no problem I will still answer the ?s.

          OK – If you want to hire me to help, here are some specifics.

          1) I make it really easy to hire me. No office visit necessary. We can even have a video conference if you want. I use the web more efficiently than any attorney on the planet.

          2) I can start work for less than $5000 up front on a matter like this. We can do it piece by piece if necessary.

          3) Step 1 is telling everyone involved that you have hired an attorney so that all notices and demands go to one central place and are organized and responded to in writing. In this way, we can make sure you do not get hammered with a default judgement because you did not understand the paperwork.

          4) We have to officially tender the claim(s) to your employer’s insurance carrier (which is actually your insurer as well). We have to research some law and tell them in writing that the law requires they cover you (indemnify and defend you on the claims).

          Also tender it to other companies that may be involved (your own policy?? – Wife’s policy???)

          5) Tell everyone in writing to go pound sand.

          If we do all of that, and are successful in getting the employer’s insurance company in, problem solved in 10 hours.

          Employers insurance company may come in with a “reservation of rights” and ask the court to decide if there is coverage for you.

          If that happens, more work is involved.

          Those are the first steps. Once you do that, nothing really happens until you get served with a Complaint and Summons which starts the lawsuit process.

          Remember, just because you get sued does not mean you lose or have to pay. It is just a process.

          You can email me the details at cdort (at) dortlaw.com. We can start today if you want.

  76. Victor says:

    Hello Chris, I was hoping you could answer this question as I have been searching high and low. I recently lost control in the rain, my car smashed into the curb and was declared totaled by my insurance. I was the only party involved in the accident and the insurance company sent me the SR1. Aside from the skid marks on the curb, and a shrub that was torn out of the ground. My car is the only thing damaged. A police officer found my car which was parked around the corner from the crash site. Stopped by my house in the morning to ask me what happened and said good luck. He said he was not going to file a police report, but wanted my phone number in case he got a call from an HOA for the curb damage. Do I have to file the sr1? It’s been 2 weeks, and I haven’t heard from the police officer.

    I also found this article on DMV http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d07/vc16000_1.htm which states: (b) A “reportable off-highway accident” does not include any accident which occurs off-highway in which damage occurs only to the property of the driver or owner of the motor vehicle and no bodily injury or death of a person occurs.

    If i can avoid the point on my license that would be great, but i just don’t want to find out my license has been suspended down the line for a failure to report. Thanks for reading.

    • Victor,

      This is a great question.

      My understanding is that you have to report is there is ANY damage in excess of the reportable limit, which I think is $750 – but check.

      So then the question is “Does this accident qualify as an ‘off highway’ accident”?

      Hum . . . . did the crash start on the road? Or did it start after you left the road (involuntarily)? Hum . . .

      This is real legal analysis here. Any court of appear or supreme court decisions defining “off highway”? My instincts tell me that the definition does not mean what you think it means. I doubt very seriously it refers to the pavement only. “Off highway” probably means “somewhere where the vehicle code does not apply”. But am not sure, and you are not paying me to look it up.

      Hum . . . . .Does the damage limit refer to damage that actually happens on the pavement? Or to damage that was a proximate result of an accident that started on the pavement and ended in the Forrest?

      Hum . .. .What if you are on a bridge. Driving on ice. Over the grand canyon. You start to skid, this way and that, and that way and this, and then . . flipppppp . . . over the edge, no damage to your car as you fly off the bridge. You fly into the canyon, and demolish 7 cars, all Ferraris, in a National Park parking lot where the vehicle code does not apply. It is federal land, and also, strangely, an indian reservation. It is also located in the state of Jefferson, which has seceded form the Union, but has since be ignored by Obama. You are ejected from the car, and land in a nice hot springs. No injuries.

      Do you have to report the accident to DMV?

      Now that is a real possible bar exam question. Your question is much more simple.

      I’d say yes, your accident started on the pavement. The damage was a proximate result of the accident that started on the pavement.

      But, it is up to you. You can not do it, and if they suspend your drivers license, immediately report, and try to undo it. Good luck with that option.

  77. Nathan says:

    I have recently got into a car accident and my insurance policy was with progressive drive insurance under my fathers name, when I didn’t have a license he was forced to put me under excluded drivers list, but when I got my car and license and I paid the insurance with a check from my account I added my car and included me in the policy, for some reason drive is saying the inclusion was never processed correctly when I have an email stating the car was added, by the way the car is registered solely under my name, but i was never taken off the list, Is there any way I can still be covered possibly through a clause or since it was a computer error on their behalf?

    • Nathan,

      Excellent question.

      Insurance company’s almost always start out by denying coverage for a claim or denying liability for a claim. But their decision on these issues is not binding on anyone. Ultimately the court has the final decision. Insurance coverage is a flexible thing. Just because they deny coverage does not mean they do not have to cover you.

      Here is how an attorney would handle this:

      1) Send them written notice of the bare facts of the accident, a copy of your proof that you paid for coverage, and a demand that they “indemnify and defend” you on the claim (if there is one made). Threaten to sue them for Bad Faith Insurance Practices.

      2) Send a copy of that written notice called a “Tender” notice to the plaintiff’s attorney, if any.

      3) if they deny your coverage in writing, make a complaint to the Insurance Commission (there will be instructions on the bottom of the denial notice).

      4) If they deny your coverage and you do eventually get served with a Complaint and Summons, you sue the insurance company in 2 ways at once: a) file a Cross Complaint against them alleging that they are responsible for coverage (declaratory relief); and b) file a separate law suit (action) for compensatory and punitive damages against the insurance company for Bad Faith Practices and Fraud.

      5) send a copy of the lawsuits against the insurance company to the insurance commission for follow up on the complaint.

      If you do all of that, and you are right about paying for the insurance coverage, you will get what you want.

      And you may get lucky if you get sued, because the plaintiff’s attorney may do much of it for you, because he/she wants you to have coverage so that they can get paid.

      • Nathan says:

        So even if it didn’t process correctly to put myself on the insurance as a rated driver but the mere fact that the car did go through I could possibly have a case?

      • Mat says:

        Hello, I just arrived to US and bought a car, but didnt had Insuranc and during parking i scretch the car and went to other place,but come back in1o min( it was urgent, and pick up money to pay him cuz knew that i was guilty) but after i came the huy started to frighten me that u hit the car and ran away i ll call police….etc, but i tried to explain that didnt know rules and ll pay for the damage and he agried not to call the police, but he only wants to fix it in dealership which is really expensice i said him that i could fix in auto shop or any other mechanic who does the same job but less expensive, he didnt agried. i’m an intern. student and hasnt got that much money. what should i do??? i gave him all info about me and writtent form that i ll fix his car, but he even does not gave me time to earn money and time by time pay him back. if even i ll pay him, should he provide me receips cuz i think he just want to earn money from me.

        • Mat,

          This is actually a good question.

          He cannot legally force you to pay until and unless he sues you in the local county superior court (probably small claims division).

          I’m a crazy defense attorney, so I say wait until he sues you and wins before you pay.

          But, if you want to be a reasonable person who does what is right – get a receipt (or written estimates from 3 places) for the work to repair damage you caused and pay for that repair only.

          Dont talk to him or her in person or over the phone. Do it by mail or email only. Do not admit anything. Just say you want to be reasonable and resolve the disputed collision by paying for the reasonable cost of a reasonable repair.

          And that is it. Get proof you paid (receipt from the US Postal Service Money Order). Get proof you sent it (Proof of Delivery from US Postal Service).

          And that is how you settle a car accident case.

          Or you can tell him to go pound sand, it is his fault, and send him a bill for your shoulder MRI and a report from your Psychologist. . . . . no dont do that.

  78. yellow says:

    Hi Mr Dort,

    I am an international student currently studying in California, and recently my friend got into an accident with a rented car. Friend A was driving the car but Friend B was the one who rented the car, so we told the other driver the details of Friend B so that we can also claim insurance. Unfortunately, we only had a loss damage waiver coverage but not liability coverage (we didn’t know it’s against the law, because we just got here), so now DMV sent us a letter in the mail saying that they’re going to suspend Friend B’s license for a year. Is it possible for us to make any changes (like tell them Friend A was actually the one driving the car) so Friend B wouldn’t get suspended?

    By the way, the car only had scratches/minor dents and none of us got hurt, and we did take photos of the scene.

    I hope it all makes sense and I hope you would help please because we’re here for barely 3 months and we don’t have money to ask for legal help. Thank you.

    • Yellow,

      Obviously, by providing false information at an accident scene, the real driver and the person who claimed to be the real drive both committed real crimes.

      That was a terrible decision. What is the fake driver going to do if he/she gets sued for damages?

      And to correct the problem, you have to tell everyone they committed a fraud – which can land you in jail and then summarily deported.

      well, it makes me sad to say this, but I think the correct answer to is say this: The fraud has to be corrected. But bad things are going to happen if you do correct it, and then there is a chance no one will believe the truth now anyway.

      Wish I had good news.

  79. Zenny says:

    Hi,
    I had a little fender bender two years back 09/06/09. It was just a scratch on my car and the other car also lost some paints. The accident was so little we decided to finish it there. Since the other driver did not have any license what he claimed to leave at home I just let the guy go (Kind but stupid decision). He did not take any pic but fortunately I took pic of his car and mine. None of us made any police report or notified DMV (damage was not even $300 in any car ). When I came home and called my insurance company I found out that my insurance was canceled due to nonpayment. I paid right away and my insurance was reinstated next day. After two years the guy is suing me for personal injury with his whole family members who were not with them. His attorney filed the the complain on 09/06/11 in CA san bernardino county where we both live. My question is how it will effect my driving license and what should I do.

    • Zenny,

      Great question. I have to write a whole blog article on this one so that I can explain what a nasty insurance defense trial attorney like me back in 2001-2 would do to this case with an unlimited budget.

      But the bad news is that if you did not have insurance coverage on the date of the accident, you have to hire an attorney on your own or get railroaded.

      If you had insurance on that date, they have to hire attorneys to defend you.

      Are you sure you are sure of the date of the accident? Dont make assumptions based on things that are not in evidence. What evidence is there of the date of the accident? Maybe it was a day before, and the statute of limitations has run out? Maybe it was a day later and you had insurance? Maybe no one really has proof of the date of the accident? Maybe no one has proof of an accident?

      These are the things a defense attorney would be thinking about.

      I’ll write the article today, I think.

      • Zenny says:

        Thanks Chris for your reply and help. That was the accident date their attorney claimed in the complain. I don’t know what proof they have of the accident. I heard some attorney just hire witness to prove the accident. Also somebody told me that they are already one day over of statute of limitations since the last day should be 09/05/2011 (two years from 09/06/2009 mentioned in the complain). If I call my insurance company they won’t help since they dated the accident when it was in canceled status. I don’t even have enough money to hire an attorney.I don’t know what should I do at this point.

  80. Dave says:

    I need your advice. I just got a ticket for no proof of insurance (CA) but the car I was driving is still under the previous owners name and my application for the title transfer is still pending on a bill of sale.
    Long story short, I do not have any type of contacts with the previous owner because the person who sold me the car did not complete the title transfer from the original owner due to registration fees and unable to smog the car so I got stuck with trying to get a bill of sale from the person who originally had the title.
    Because my name is on the application for title, does this mean I am the liable party that needs to show proof of insurance when the car is not technically mine yet?

    • Dave,

      This is a common question. People have a hard time understanding this one.

      It does not matter who ones the car. It does not matter who the registered owner is or will be.

      If you drive a car, whether it be yours, your wife’s, a rental car, a borrowed car, or even a stolen car, the law requires you to carry in your pocket proof that your driving is covered by an Auto Liability Insurance Policy.

      To comply with the law, you should have had a copy of your own proof of insurance in your wallet that states if covers you for any car that you drive.

      Oh – and by the way – it is the DRIVER’s responsibility to make sure the car registered and that the windows are not tinted too much – not the owner’s responsibility.

  81. Tonya says:

    I was involved in a minor accident the other day and I have no insurance (California). I work for an auto dealer that requires me to have a valid license in order to keep my job. I called the other parties insurance company to make arrangements to just pay out of pocket for the damage on their vehicle and the rep from aaa said that if the party agrees, they will not send notification to the DMV and I will not lose my license. However, there was a police report filed. I got insurance right after the accident and my insurance company said that worse case scenario, I will just have to provide an s22 to the DMV and that will prevent my license from being suspended. Any insight on this matter?

    • Tonya,

      I dont like helping people who get into accidents without auto insurance for a lot of reasons, mainly because I cant make any more doing it, and you dont deserve free help. But I like your avatar, so I am going to try to hep for free anyway.

      You got some bad info some where. Here is how it works. If there was property damage (total) of $750, the law requires ALL DRIVERS to report the incident to DMV using form SR 1 (http://dmv.ca.gov/forms/sr/sr1.htm).

      Of course the insurance company said they were not going to report it!!!!!! Duh . . . . . Insurance companies are not the ones responsible for reporting to DMV. They dont care who reports, they just want as much of your money as they can get. They are going to tell you all sorts of lies until they get your money. Duh.

      The reason that you are required by law to report to DMV is so that they can confirm you had valid liability insurance on the date of the accident.

      THIS HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH AN SR22. That insurance company just wants to charge you more. Forget about that part of the story.

      The other driver is required to report to DMV (assuming over $750). You are required to report.

      If you do not report and the other driver follows the law, your drivers license is going to be suspended for longer than necessary.

      If you do everything right, DMV is going to find out you did not have auto insurance and your drivers license will be suspended for 6 months.

      My advice? Report it, do everything right, get back on track ASAP. Dont not make the problem worse. Unless you are one of those people who like to make things worse for themselves.

      If the police made a report on the incident and determined fault, they can issue a citation to you (or the other driver) after the fact via mail. If that happens, there is a possibility DMV may find out even if you and they other driver do not report.

  82. Elizabeth says:

    Hello. I was in an accident some time ago in FL (that’s where both drivers live). Both cars were totaled, and I, of course, had no insurance. I was told by two different people that my license would not be suspended (by the police officer that came to the site of the accident, the woman at the courthouse where I paid my ticket and showed valid insurance on the new car I was driving). Atleast two months after the wreck I recieved a letter from the county courthouse saying that my license would be suspended if I did not pay 8000 dollars to the owner of the other vehicle by a certain time. I called the courthouse as soon as I opened the letter and the two people I talked to said that the letter must have been a mistake, my fines were paid and their records showed suspension. So I wrote it off as a mistake, like they said. I check online just to make sure that a suspension had not been added, there was. So now, since I haven’t 8000 dollars to pay this woman, I’ve had to drop out of college because I have no way to get to school.

    If it means anything her insurance claimed that she was 80% at fault (No police report ever determined fault). They paid for me to get a new car, which was a little over 6000 dollars (80% of what my car was worth), they also wrote me a check for 80% of my medical bills. So Mr. Dort, is there anything I can do to get the suspension on my license dropped? (The people I’ve spoken to will not allow me to pay a little at a time to get my license reinstated.) I’m at a loss for what to do.

    • Elizabeth,

      You are probably getting 2 things confused here: 1) Civil Court and 2) Traffic Court.

      They are 2 completely different things, and they do not talk to each other.

      Sounds like you either were sued in civil court, or are being sued in civil court.

      You need to contact the civil court clerk today (listed on the papers you received I am sure) and find out if there is a civil case pending with you as a defendant. Sounds like the other driver is suing you for injuries.

      Hopefully the case is not over (no judgment issued yet). If there was a judgement without you, (default judgement) you need to hire an attorney to try to get it re opened today. If you ignore it, there is a danger the can attach your wages or raid your bank account.

      If no judgement yet, you need to get the case number and talk with a civil attorney about it today.

      If you had valid insurance at the time of the accident, and the other driver sued you, your insurance company would be required to hire attorneys to defend you.

      So this sounds like it is not a Drivers LIcense Suspension Problem. It is a lawsuit problem.

      It does not matter what findings the insurance company can to. The court is the final decider, and the insurance company findings are not admissible in court. In fact, what they decide means nothing at all unless you just follow along with what they say.

      That is the best I can say. Oh yea, and i am not licensed to practice law there. So I am not qualified to answer the question. Do not rely on this as your only source of info on the problem. Talk to a local attorney today.

      The bad news is that you are probably going to have to pay by the hour, but you need to do it to find out what is going on before it gets worse.

  83. Shannon Fluttera says:

    I was driving the other night in my guy friends car, i did not have a lisence and it was at night? I live in Louisiana. Also, what would the damages be if i were to be driving and I hit someone else. (with me having no lisence)

  84. Ianne says:

    I bought a used Hyundai car and called my insurance to add the vehicle onto my insurance policy on Oct. 4. I have homeowner’s and two other vehicles already set up with them, and I had called my agent to get this vehicle added. I paid the initial deposit for a comprehensive coverage. She emailed me a temporary isurance card and the binding agreement which include the summary of all my policies that states my monthly isurance payment will be automatically withdrawn from my checking account every 21st day of the month. It also indicated which cars are insured, what date the next payment will be withdrawn, the account number of the bank the payment will be withdrawn, and the amount (which has obviously increased due to additional car coverage). On Nov. 4, I got involved in a car accident where my car hydroplaned and I lost control of the vehicle. I went from the slow lane all the way to the median, then bounced off back to the slow lane and finally hit the tail end of another person’s car. We exchange info. No police report filed because the cop who helped us said they were busy all day long and have no time for report. It was raining pretty bad. No tickets issued either. When I got home, I called the 24-hour hotline and the lady told me that they cannot find my policy number on their system. THey further told me that because I used an agent to add it, that it has not yet mapped into their system. I checked my temporary insurance card and the expiration date state Nov. 2. I have the binding agreement emailed to me and it stated there that I should have full coverage. I checked my bank account and I noticed that the payment withdrawn was my usual amount. Not including the additional amount to reflect the additional car coverage. The accident happened on a Friday and there is just no way to call my agent till Monday. I am worried sick that I might not really have any insurance. Please advice. Can my insurance company agent just cancel my policy with no notice? If it was their fault that the payment I authorized was not set up to be withdrawn automatically, am I still considered covered?

  85. Steve says:

    I had a minor car accident. A guy began to change lanes and brushed against my right rear bumper/fender. The damage was about $600. The guy that hit me did not have his billfold, thus no drivers license or insurance card was available to show me. He said he’d rather pay me cash for the damage since it was minimal. I got his name, license plate number, year and make of the car, and cellphone number. I called him after getting three estimates for the damage. He said he’d like to arrange a payment plan since he’d just moved to L.A. from northern California and had just started a new job. We haven’t arranged a plan as of yet.

    What are my legal possibilities if he doesn’t pay? And, how much trouble can he get into?

    • Steve,

      I have a friend named Steve who has a remarkable talent for seeing through bullshit like this. Here is what he would say about it (I know because I heard him say it):

      1) Dude hit you and caused you $600 damages;
      2) Dude did not have a license or insurance;
      3) Dude did not pay you;
      4) You did not call police;
      5) Dude scammed you pretty good; you got no proof he hit you.

      How much trouble can he get into? Zero. You got scammed.

      It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. “Sorry dude, lost my wallet. My name is Steve. Here is my (drug dealer’s) phone number.”

  86. Jaden says:

    We moved to the US about 8 months ago. After I go my license for about a month or so, I got into an accident (my fault). At the time, my dad is the only primary person that was insured for the vehicle and did not got a chance to add me in his policy yet. When the accident took place, my dad was in the car with me ( we work right next to each other, and he did not feel good that day so I drove us home). We called his insurance the next day and they refused to pay the other party stating that I was not on the policy though I have the permission to drive the car (with my dad in it too). Now the other party’s insurance send us a bill for more than 16K and demand us to pay within 10 days. What are my options now? Please help ASAP!!!!! Thank you very much!

    • Jaden,

      This is a great question. I once handled 191 of these cases in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties all at once. My brain is damaged from that work, so this info may not be perfect. It is the product of a burnt out attorney who would wait to do anything until a trial date was set.

      First of all – you can ignore the other person’s insurance company. Screw them. Tell them to go pound sand. Go fly a kite in a hurricane. Go put salt on your cherrios. Get lost.

      They cant make you pay unless they sue you in court and win. And that is years away.

      You dont need to actually do anything unless you get served in person with a real, file stamped Complaint (lawsuit) and Summons (order to go to court) from the courthouse.

      If I were your lawyer, I’d say shut up – dont talk to any of those people. The facts are disputed, the damages inflated and fake. There were no injuries, there was no accident, and even if there was, you were not at fault. The doctors are fake doctors, the auto repair sop is run by gang members who make up prices. Discovery of the facts is in process were are search for all available evidence that may be relevant to the question of who was legally at fault. Go pound sand.

      Here is some more good news: Your father, assuming he owns the car, is also liable for the damages (upto 15,000 in CA I think). And if he had auto liability insurance coverage, even if he was not driving, they have to: 1) defend and 2) indemnify him for any covered loss.

      OK – here is how it might play out. You ignore the other insurance company. The other driver may sue you. His insurance company may pay him and sue you. Doesnt matter. They are going to sue your father also as the owner of the car, and is good for everyone – because it will trigger coverage from his carrier.

      Tricky, I know, but that is how it works. Any attorney trying to sue you would know that you did not have coverage, and would sue the owners of the car also – to get at their insurance policy. And owners are liable upto a limit even if they were not driving.

      And hopefully your dad’s insurance policy will just pay the claim to get him out.

      Most first demands in car crash claims (cases) are way, way inflated.

      What would I recommend now? Have your dad send the letters (claim letters) to his insurance company with a letter stating that he may be liable as a non-operator owner. He should ask them to handle the claim ASAP (indemnify and defend). When you send a claim to an insurance company and demand they handle it, it is called a “Tender”. Tender the claim to your dad’s insurance company.

      You can also just ignore them and see if they sue you later. They probably have 1 or 2 years. If they know you have no insurance they will sue the owner(s) – so the end result will be the same.

      And somewhere don the road, claims like this usually settle in a mediation between the insurance companies once they get involved.

      If your dad’s insurance company refuses to accept the claim prior to a lawsuit, you can initiate action by telling the claimant insurance company (or their attorney) that the non operator owner had coverage that may cover the claim and give them your dad’s insurance info. They will then suck the other insurance company in.

      No matter what happens you cant go to jail for something like this.

  87. Oscar says:

    I have a quick question. Last year i got into an accident where i got T-boned. technically it was fault, but the driver that hit me had no license and no insurance. The car was not his. It belonged to a lady and she had the car insured but only under her name. I ended getting paid for my car because i had coverage under uninsured motorist. Recently I got a letter in the mail saying pretty much that I would have to pay for the mans medical bills which was around 8,000. Is this even possible. The police officer said that the accident looked pretty much 50/50. That he would not be able to fight anything because he was not covered under the insurance and he had no license. What would I do in this case? this also took place in Ca.

    • Oscar,

      This is actually a great question. A detailed answer would be super complicated. Too long for here.

      But this happens everyday. I’ve handled hundreds of these cases as both an insurance defense attorney and as a plaintiff’s attorney.

      The bottom line is this: as long as you had valid insurance, you have nothing to worry about.

      Ignore the claim completely until they sue and serve you in person. If you do get served with a Complaint and Summons, no problem – send it immediately to your insurance carrier, tell them you think you are not liable. Then, they are required by law to defend you. That means hire Attorneys for you – which they will do right away. And they will fight the case and end it for you one way or another. That is the great thing about insurance.

      If the other driver did not have insurance, that is an important fact. His damages are limited by law. No pain & suffering $$$ available on his claim.

      My advice based on this incomplete imaginary scenario? Ignore the claim until you get sued in a court (Probably be a County Superior Court, Civil Division, where it happened). You may never get sued, because few attorneys have any interest in a disputed liability case where the plaintiff was uninsured and unlicensed. Notify your insurance carrier of the claim, send them any claim letters you get. Do not communicate with the other driver or their attorney.

      Some attorney might take the case hoping to make a little from your insurance as a quick settlement – but it is not a good case for any attorney if there are only $8k in medical bills to fight over.

      Imagine the trial !

      Great question. Tell your insurance carrier to hire me to defend you. Im good at squashing car crash claims with bogus damages. I once handled 191 Insurance Defense Car Crash claims at ONCE… No kidding. San DIego Insurance Defense firm. Had to drive from San Diego to Downtown LA nearly every morning at 4:30 am. Once took 5 depositions in the same day. Once had a 5 day deposition.

      Never mind. I dont want your case.

  88. Elaine says:

    Hi I have a question, I was recently in an accident where the cops said no one was at fault and that it was left up to the insurance to determine. I didnt know my insurance had lapsed and Im assuming the dmv will find out I wasnt covered during the accident. I was wondering if you know whether or not my license will be suspended? or what else might happen? I got a letter from the other guys insurance saying they didnt find him at fault and they will only pay for his damages. So I was just wondering what might happen next? I dont think his damages were more than 1500 dollars. Mine were but his car looked less damaged and he had an older model.

    • Elaine,

      I have to assume this is a CA problem. If you get into an accident in CA without valid auto liability insurance, your drivers license will be suspended. Nothing you can do about that.

      Then I have to say this: AN INSURANCE COMPANY’s DETERMINATION AS TO LIABILITY IS NOT BINDING ON ANYONE.

      Screw them. A court is the final decider on the question of liability in auto accident cases. Not DMV, not an insurance company, not the cops.

      I’ve handled dozens of auto accident cases were the final determination of liability and who got paid was completely different then what it says in the insurance company reports or police reports.

      Police are not experts in accident reconstruction, and they dont have time to do a full investigation on a standard car crash case. And the insurance companies just want to keep you from getting their money.

      Of course the insurance company told you that their insured was not at fault. I used to have that job. “Go pound sand!” was what my boss told me to say – no matter what the facts were. Lets see if they afford a trial.

      If this were a more serious case, I’d say get an attorney and sue the bad driver. And the people who made the road.

      But if it were an injury case where you got hurt and wanted to sue for damages, no Attorney would take the case because without insurance, your damages are limited to basically the cost of your medical bills if everything goes perfectly for you. That means you get nothing for your injuries, pain, scars, brain damage, future psychological care and long term nurse case and wheelchair maintenance simple because you did not have a $200 auto insurance policy.

      And if the bad driver decides to sue you, even if you are right, you have to pay out of pocket to defend yourself in court. Then you have to pay the judgment, if any, out of your own wages and bank accounts if you do not have insurance to cover the loss.

  89. Nat says:

    4 days ago I got into an accident in an intersection, it was definitely not my fault . I was uninsured because I hardly use the car (school distance is about 1 mile or less from my apt.) although I was planning on getting insurance that same day! I ended up getting GEICO the next day. Anyway, the guy hit me while I was turning left on a green arrow, he was on the opposite direction going straight. My car was damaged, front bumper fell off basically and the hood is dented. The guy did not say anything to me but called the cops. We exchanged info, and no tickets were given except for my citation of not having insurance which i got for $450 w/ proof of insurance today. Cops recommend me present myself in court. They did not tell me his position or anything though they let me drive my car home if I taped my bumper back on, so I did. I honestly did not know what to do when this happen because I am unemployed and am a full time student. I basically depend on fasfa. So I called his insurance and filed a claim against him to get my car damages paid. He has not answered his insurance company it has been 4 days, what would be the best thing to do? I am willing to go to court if he denies it was his fault. Also, what will happen if he does not contact his insurance? I acknowledge that I was driving irresponsibly and for that, I would drop the claim if he was to ask for that. It would affect him to admit the claim causing increase rates so I am thinking he will deny. Should I contact him to see if we can resolve this situation? or just keep waiting for him to answer?

    • Nat, great question.

      1. Get a Copy of the Police Report;
      2. Do not contact the other driver at all if he has insurance;
      3. Send the police report to the insurance company with a demand for payment (insert the money amount you want);
      4. Give them a deadline;
      5. If you were injured, get an attorney like me to review it.

      He does not have to contact the insurance company. The company has to pay a covered loss whether or not he answers anything.

      If this was in CA, you need to report it to DMV on their accident reporting form if the damage was more than $500. DMV does not care who caused the accident.

      Make sure DMV has your current address. They may suspend your drivers license, and if that happens, you want to get the letter so that you do not make the problem worse.

      • Nat says:

        I turned in the SR-1 form today as you advised me, and did get my license suspended. However I am confused about the letter you mentioned, where do I get that? or is it the form? Thank you so much.

  90. Phillip says:

    Yesterday I was t-boned in an accident and it flipped my truck over. I was pulling on to a major road from a small one and I was unable to see the other driver who was speeding and did not have a license. I think both cars are totaled and the only injuries were to the driver of the other car and they are fairly minor. Now I found out my insurance lapped and I don’t know what to do. Will I be sued?

    • Phillip,

      If the other driver thinks this accident was your fault, and if he wants payment for his injuries (and property damage, and the passenger’s injuries, etc), yes you are going to get sued. Unless you pay in full before they sue you.

      Whether or not you had insurance is completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not you are going to be sued. You can be sued with or without insurance.

      Whether or not the other driver had insurance will not stop him from suing you, but in some states it will place a limit on the damages he can collect from you.

      If you had valid auto liability insurance, the insurance company would be required to hire defense attorneys for you, and to pay any judgement upto the policy limits.

      Without insurance, you are completely screwed. If you are liable, they can take everything, including future wages. Not to mention the costs of trying to defend yourself before they get the judgement.

      Please excuse me for a minute while I talk to the rest of the audience:

      1. Auto insurance is always, always worth the money;
      2. If you cannot afford auto liability insurance, you cannot afford to drive at all;
      3. Driving without valid auto liability insurance is not only stupid, but can ruin your life in a few seconds.

      Wish I had better news for you. But I dont.

      I do have some more bad news: if this happened in CA, your drivers license will be suspended for 6 months regardless of who caused the accident.

      And because I know this question is coming from someone out there reading this: No, There is no right to a public defender in a civil case when someone sues you for personal injuries and property damage. If you do not have insurance, you are on your own in court.

      Dont drive at all without insurance people!

  91. chris says:

    I live in Los Angeles, CA. I got into a car accident. I did not have insurance at the time. The insurance agency decided it was my fault, I do not believe it was my fault because the diver of the other car hit me on my rear driver bumper with his front driver side bumper. The insurance company decided their driver was not at fault because i side swiped him. They contacted me and said I owed them over $6,000 in damage. The insurance company never cam to look at my car. They are based out of state and said i was at fault in a mater of 3 hours. I know i should have had insurance, that is my fault but the accident it self was not. What do I do? I called small claims court and they said the agency has to take me to court. they have not sent me any kind of bill.. i think they are trying to get me because my insurance lapped and i didnt have insurance at the time.. i know ima have to pay a DMV fine and im fine with that but the accident was not my fault. the guy rear ended me! What do i do?

    • Chris, good questions. It’s always a pleasure to answer a real, well written question (hint to the rest of you out there).

      First let me say that if you would have had insurance at the time of this accident, your insurance company would be required to hire attorneys to defend you at no cost to you. So you blew it. You did not save any money. But you already know that.

      Ok – the other driver’s insurance company says you owe them? And they have not sued you yet? I would ignore them if it were me. Screw them. Their decision on liability is not binding on anyone. Of course they said it was your fault.

      You dont have to do anything unless they sue you. Maybe send them a letter stating that you dispute everything (but dont put anything else in the letter).

      If they sue you, then you have a bigger problem, because you have no way to defend yourself even if you are right. There is no Public Defender in civil court, which means you would have to pay an attorney by the hour to defend you. If they sue you, you are screwed.

      But they probably will not sue for $6,000 – they would for $10,000, but $6,000 is a small problem.

      This is why driving without auto liability insurance is so dangerous. Fortunately for you this is a $6,000 problem, and not one where someone is claiming you caused a concussion, or ran over a cyclist, or . . . .

  92. jay says:

    I just arrived from out of the US a couple days ago, & my parents tried to add me in his insurance just recently. The insurance told him it will take a couple days to determine if i am eligible to be in under their insurance policy.

    My dad permitted me to drive his car to school because he had a severe headache, & he knew it was not confirmed yet that i was insured.

    That day, i got into a car accident. It was not my fault, but since i hit his car from behind, it would still consider to be my fault. It was a very minor dent on his plastic bumper & No one was injured. There was no damage to my car. the other driver decided to call the Police campus.

    Police campus came & made sure that no one was injured. Everyone (me & 2 other people in the other car) was not injured & the police gave us a card to file out (a collision information with the police officer’s name on it) & exchange information with eachother. Police recommended to settle with eachother rather than going to the insurance. But couldn’t decide, so we decided to make a decision the next day.

    Next day, his insurance called me without letting me know he already called in ( i was not able to answer the phone in time). so we decided to go to our insurance to see if I was able to get in. & unfortunately i wasn’t.

    His insurance wrote me the letter asking for information about the accident the next day, but my parents told me just to wait & see if i get in before responding to his insurance.

    Next day, i find out i’m in the system under my parent’s insurance (2 days after the accident happened). So we tried to call his insurance, but they don’t answer.

    Straight to the question;
    would i be covered since my dad did permit me to drive?
    will i get fined even though there were no police incident report?
    What does the insurance do in this case?
    My parents does not want to contact the insurance until they contact us, is that even a good thing to do???

  93. Safiyyah says:

    I recently got into a accident i was hit by another driver. I was in a residential area and got hit by someone who ran the stop sign. Come to find out he may have no insurance from what his insurance company is telling me. What are my rights?

    • Safiyyah, Wow! Another great question. That is two in a row for me this morning. I dont feel like I am wasting my time today.

      The problem is I can write a book on this subject, and there is no simple answer.

      Answer: Who cares if he has insurance? He still owes you money if he is at fault. You can still sue him in court, and go after his bank accounts, his house (if any), you can attach his wages to collect over time, and you can repossess his goats and chickens for sale at auction, if any.

      Insurance only affects who pays for your damages. Not whether or not you can get paid for your damages.

      But . . . it is harder to get paid if the other dude does not have insurance. It takes more work, and you actually end up damaging a real person and their family if you follow through with everything.

      If you are really hurt get an attorney and start collecting for your damages even if he does not have insurance.

      But . . . if you have UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE as part of your own coverage – your own insurance company is on the hook for the damages he caused you (upto your policy limits).

      So if you hired a personal injury attorney like me to handle this case – and if you had real damages like medical bills exceeding $40,000 – I would start by suing him, and by presenting the entire claim to your own insurance company and asking for payment under your UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE.

      If you have that coverage, and they will not pay the claim correctly, you have the right to arbitration and possibly court action against your own insurance company.

      But . . . . If I were your attorney, I would not just accept the insurance company’s denial of coverage. Sue them too. Sort it out in court. Insurance companies often hire lawyers like me to write DENIAL OF COVERAGE LETTERS when the coverage is questionable. That does not mean there is no coverage when you have a good trial attorney.

      And how do I know this? I used to be the asshole that wrote the DENIAL OF COVERAGE letters for an insurance company called A . . …….. for those poor suckers with HURRICANE DAMAGE. Remember the old “that was water damage, not wind damage” trick?

  94. Kevin says:

    My daughter was in an accident, (no one got hurt) but two cars were totaled and mine was messed up bad. My insurance Mercury said that she was not covered as she was an “excluded” driver. My wife said she called and had her added as a permitted driver but we never received any documents from the insurance that we would need to sign. we forgot to follow up (now the insurance company has no record of us calling) many months later when my daughter got her license. we did not call immediately to have here added as a licensed driver. as she is a licensed driver we thought she was covered like all other drivers that could drive our car. we knew that we would need to call and let them know that she got her license but like all notifications to Mercury we thought we had 30 days. Well two weeks later she got into this accident….. now we are looking about some hefty bills…..

    • Kevin, this is an interesting problem. Almost straight out of a bar exam. Can you force an insurance company to honor a policy that was not quite completely issued?

      Unfortunately, the bar exam part of my brain is dead. I am sorry.

      But you are in luck! I spent years as an insurance defense attorney after the bar exam injury. I’m even listed as a “Nationally Preeminent” Attorney in the field of insurance defense (Bar Registry of Nationally Preeminent Attorneys 2000). And I used to be the asshole who secretly ghost wrote the insurance company letters denying coverage in cases like this. Yes, I was the asshole who wrote one or more of those: “I’m sorry, but the hurricane damage to your house was caused by wind, not by water, so there is no coverage” letters.

      So I might be qualified to tell you this:

      If you do not have proof you paid for an insurance policy, and you do not have a declarations page for a policy that states your daughter is covered, your daughter probably does not have direct coverage. You cannot invent coverage if you have no proof you paid for it.

      Insurance coverage is a flexible thing sometimes. So is the list of target defendants.

      Assuming your wife and you have auto liability coverage, there is something you can do.

      1. If any of the other drivers make a claim against your daughter you should “Tender” (official word for “present claim for defense”) to every single insurance policy issuer you can think of. Hers, yours, your wife’s, everyone’s.

      If there are injuries, you should also tender it to your homeowners insurer also if you have one. Homeowners insurance usually has a general liability coverage that may cover some or all of your liability not covered by auto liability coverage.

      Ask each insurer to “Indemnify and Defend” you, your wife and your daughter in the claim separately.

      Wait! What do I mean by YOUR liability? Why do you and your wife need “indemnification and Defense”?

      Well, if your daughter was 17 or younger at the time of the accident, you as a parent are the one who would be sued. Especially if the driver (your daughter) has no coverage),

      A plaintiff’s attorney who sues for an auto injury is going to sue everyone to try to implicate as many insurers as possible. The more policies that have a duty to defend and indemnify, the better. And you can also be sued as the owner of the car if you are the registered owner of the vehicle, and that would implicate your own policy as well.

      Anyway, Tender the claim to everyone and let them sort it out. If any of the insurers deny coverage, they will have to give you a written reason for the denial of coverage, and then you can start challenging the denial(s) if necessary.



      If an attorney were looking to sue for this accident, they are interested in finding an insurance company with coverage. Any coverage. 90% of all accident claims are settled over the phone between an attorney and insurance adjuster. It is more informal than you may think.

      Coverage for the parents or owner(s) will give a plaintiff’s attorney someone to negotiate with, and with coverage for you, an insurance company would have to to provide a defense to you (which would in effective end up covering your daughter too – because any insurer can settle the case completely – does not matter who they are covering in fact).

      Any insurer that has coverage for you or your wife will be required to defend you, and the cost of that defense gives them motivation to settle the whole thing, especially if you are on the hook for your daughter’s actions anyway.

      And from your perspective, you should not care whether it is your defense policy that ends up with the claim, or one for your daughter. In the end, you just want the case settled, and releases signed.

      But you also have to keep this in mind: 1) never admit liability; and 2) it’s not a real problem unless they sue and serve you. Until then, if this were my case, I’ll tell everyone to “Go Pound Sand”.