Negligent Driver Who Hits Your Car Has Expired Auto Insurance?

How did I know the title of this article was exactly what you were searching for? Because this is a very common question. Here, we take a look at a boiled down user’s question, and provide free self help answers from an plaintiff attorney’s point of view.

“Help! A negligent idiot hit my car and caused property damage. There were no injuries. I made a claim to the Biatches’ insurance company. I sent the insurance company a legit estimate. They denied coverage for the claim. I called her, demanded payment, but she did not pay me. Now she wont answer my calls. What do I do?”

Well, If a negligent driver causes damage to your car, that driver, and the owner of the car probably owe you money. With or without insurance coverage, you can use the courts to get that debt paid.

What Is Negligence?

There are 4 elements to negligence (if you have to prove it in court): 1) the other driver had a legal duty to maintain control of there vehicle at all times and to make sure you were not injured by it; 2) the other driver breached that duty by failing to control the car and causing property damage; 3) that breach of duty caused; 4) Damages (property or personal injury damages.

Violation of a vehicle code statute intended to protect a person or property is usually “per se”, or “automatic” negligence. Run a red light an hit someone? Per se negligence.

A negligent driver must pay for the damages that he/she causes.

You can demand that money for your damages from either: 1) the driver; 2) the registered owner of the car; 3) the driver’s insurance company; and / or 4) the owner’s insurance company.

If there is an employer involved to, you can probably legally demand money for the damages from the employer and or their insurance company.

If everyone refuses to pay you, you have to sue. If the amount you want is less than $7500, you can probably pursue the claim in small claims court alone, without hiring an attorney. In California, the forms needed to file a Small Claims Court Case are free on line. They come with pretty simple instructions.

Describe your case on a Small Claims “Complaint” form, Have Sheriff Personally serve Defendants with “Summons” and Complaint” and “Notice of Court Date” – and Boom! UR Rollin. Each state may vary. Check your local court’s web site for info and instructions on Small Claims. Usually you can sue a person where the accident happened, or where they live (your choice).

If the amount is more than $7500 (in some places, check your local court), you probably need an attorney’s help to sue in big boy court.

Realistic Tips for Making Demands to Auto Insurance Companies and Defendant(s)

Send the claim to everyone in writing, even if an insurance company denies coverage. You have to explore and document all possible sources of payment, which in this situation includes all possible insurance companies and Defendant(s).

This process of giving notice of a claim in writing is called “tendering a Claim”. Even if the insurance company says the policy was expired, send them a demand letter. Send the negligent driver a letter also as soon as possible.

A “Demand Letter” is really just a bill with a description of its basis. It states that you are going to collect on the claim from the insurance company and the driver personally if he/she does not get their own auto insurance coverage to pay first. If the negligent driver was working at the time they negligently caused you damages, make a claim letter to the employer as well. Employers are liable for the accidents caused by employees while working.

Claim letters should include the bare bones facts, a statement that the driver was negligent and that the owners are legally liable. It should include a demand for payment of damages and an itemized list of what the damages are for. It should include instructions on how to end the claim (send me a check, I will sign your release).

Demand letters need to be sent in writing, with proof of delivery at least. Include photos, estimates, and your contact info. Tell them all you are telling them all.

You need to provide a deadline for response and payment. Include a statement that you will sue on a specific date. Tell the defendants (potential defendants I guess) that your damages in court will be higher.

Then, after every receives the letters, make phone calls and ask each one how much money they are authorized to offer on the claim. Negotiate the best you can. Never accept the first or third offers. Not the ninth either. Then, after you top out the offer(s) – decide if you want legal advice to consider suing in big boy court, or if you want to sue on your own.

Tender the Claim to Your Own Uninsured Motorist Coverage If you Have It

Most auto insurance companies offer “uninsured motorist coverage” which is supposed to cover damages caused to you by a motorist who cannot pay. If you have this type of coverage, it may save the day. Send then notice of the claim, a statement that you believe the other driver has no valid insurance, and ask for payment.

Once you notify a auto insurance company that you have a valid claim, they must check it court. In the context of an uninsured motorist claim, your own insurance company can do the work of searching for insurance coverage for you.

Related Articles:

Collecting a Small Claims Judgement for Auto Accident? Suspended that Sucker’s Drivers License.

More Info:

California Judicial Council on How to Collect a Small Claims Judgement

Questions? Lave a Comment.

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.
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