Getting into a car accident can be a traumatic experience for both parties, but for the driver at fault, the legal aftermath could prove to be more detrimental than the damage to their car. Suppose you caused a car accident, do you know what’s at risk?
Firm co-founder and personal injury attorney Miguel Custodio spoke to Injury Experts about what drivers should know about the potential consequences after causing an accident. Read the full Q&A below:
Q. I caused a car accident, can I lose my house over this?
A. A plaintiff can seek to recover compensation from a defendant for all damages incurred, which can easily go above whatever insurance coverage you may have. This leaves personal assets, such as your house, vulnerable.
Q. What if I’m not insured?
A. If you don’t have insurance, the plaintiff will immediately go after your personal assets. By cutting out the insurance policy ‘buffer,’ all that is left when the plaintiff seeks damages is your personal property.
Q. What if I am insured?
A. Insurance acts as a buffer, allowing the plaintiff to seek the insurance policy limits rather than go after your personal assets. There are some cases where the injuries sustained exceed policy limits, which opens up the window for the plaintiff to also go after personal assets.
Q. If I signed up for the state minimums for car insurance, am I underinsured?
A. When it comes to insurance, by signing up for just the state minimums, legally, you’re not underinsured because you’re at the minimum required level. In reality, however, you are underinsured. Hospital bills can easily exceed minimum policy limits, leaving your personal property at risk to whatever the plaintiff is seeking for their damages.
Q. How much vehicle insurance is enough?
A. At the end of the day, you can never have enough insurance; it just depends on what you can afford to pay and what personal assets you have that would be in jeopardy in the event of a bad accident.
When it comes to choosing insurance plans, I would personally recommend at least a 50/100 plan, which is $50,000 coverage for one individual in one accident or $100,000 for multiple individuals in one accident. It’s important for any person to seriously consider higher coverages, especially if they have more personal assets than the average person, such as multiple properties or a business.
Q. My partner and I are both extremely cautious drivers. Should we pay extra to stack insurance coverage?
A. You should absolutely consider paying extra to stack insurance coverage with your partner no matter how good of a driver you think you are. Depending on your financial situation and what personal assets you have, this is something to seriously consider as anyone can cause an accident. You can never have enough insurance coverage.
Q. What is at risk if I'm at fault in a car accident?
A. Anything that you have as an asset is at risk if you’re at fault in a car accident. Even if you do have insurance to act as a buffer, if your policy is not enough to cover their damages, the plaintiff can go after you directly instead of through the insurance coverage.
In some cases, there are times where the plaintiff will get both the insurance policy and they’ll get a personal contribution from the defendant.
Q. Would filing for bankruptcy be a smart way out?
A. Filing for bankruptcy isn’t a common way for people to avoid going through their insurance or having their assets attacked after causing an accident, although it is an option. Most of the time, however, people will have their insurance handle it. If you have significant personal assets, you would be better off getting excess coverage through your insurance. Overall, bankruptcy is not a good choice, especially because it hurts you financially for a certain number of years. It should be the last option that you resort to.
Q. I've been served as a result of a car accident and facts are clear and easily explained. Can I attempt to represent myself?
A. If you get served as a result of a car accident, do not represent yourself. If you have insurance, you need to send it to your insurance company, who will then get legal counsel to represent you.
Q. How do lawyers defend clients in an at-fault car accident? Can we bring in other defendants to help limit exposure?
A. Lawyers will defend clients who are at fault in a car accident by trying to weaken the plaintiff’s case. In this case, since their client is at fault, the lawyer is mainly trying to minimize the damages. You can bring in other defendants to help limit exposure if the facts justify it.
Q. After an at-fault accident, is it too late to protect assets from being targeted in a lawsuit? If not, what can be done?
A. After you get into an accident where you’re at fault, anything you do after to protect your assets from being targeted can be seen as potentially fraudulent. For example, if you own a house and after your accident, you change it into someone else’s name, you would be putting yourself in hot water.
With over 25 years of experience, Custodio & Dubey LLP’s skilled Los Angeles personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for individuals and families who were harmed in accidents that could have been prevented.