Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Seems there was more damage than allotted by his insurance company. Passenger was injured (released from emergency after a few hours) but is claiming pain and suffering. I’m getting those calls (voice mails left) from what I assume to be law offices looking for me. My son has nothing but I have assets. Am I liable as co-owner but he was the sole driver with insurance? Thinking I may need to “move” some assets quickly. Willing to pay for consultation. Civil lawyer?
A. I can only speak to California law but you have nothing to worry about. The registered owner’s liability is limited to California’s minimum liability limits of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) for one person accidents and thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00) for accidents involving two or more persons. See California Vehicle Code Section 17151(a). So if you were not the driver, but only on title, you would be on the hook for a maximum of $30,000.00. As you said your son has insurance that insurance would meet those requirements. California does not allow “stacking” so the potentially injured party can NOT collect from your son’s insurance then come after you for additional money. Your son’s minimal insurance policy would extinguish your statutory obligations.
The only way around this would be if there was a negligent entrustment issue. This is a very rare instance when someone gives the keys (entrusts the car) to an unlicensed, incompetent, intoxicated, reckless or unfit driver, and knew or should have known (negligence) of that persons incompetence or unfitness to operate the vehicle. The incompetence or unfitness must also have been a “substantial factor” in causing the harm.
Please don’t make matters worse by engaging in fraud. The transferring of assets once you are on notice of a potential liability, would be considered a fraudulent transfer. California Civil Code Section 3439.04 provides: a fraudulent transfer exists when either: (1) a debtor makes a transfer or incurs an obligation with actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud any creditor, or (2) debtor receives less than reasonably equivalent value for the transfer or obligation and debtor is insolvent or is reasonably expected to become insolvent. California law provides for one year, 4 year, and 7 year statutes of limitation for fraudulent transfer actions, depending on the context. Suit, it would be considered a fraudulent transfer and would be set aside by a court.
Q. It was on the 24th of September 2014 I’m still in pain due to what happened. Can I sue for damages and will I lose my job if I try and sue for damages?
A. Whether or not you can sue for damages is a factual issue, under California Law you can NOT sue your employer for negligence the sole and exclusive remedy is a Worker Compensation claim. You could potentially sue a third party if there is one involved. Before going any further several things would need to be figured out. Who owned the machine? Your employer or a third party? How the wire got cut? Was the machine defectively manufactured with a cut wire? Was it damaged during the installation process? Did this occur on your employer’s property or that of a third party? No matter how you answer these questions you clearly have a Workers Compensation claim, but you may also have third party claim depending on how the rest of the questions get answered. Talk to a Workers Compensation attorney first to protect your known rights, then figure out if there is also a third party you can sue for additional compensation. You cannot lose your job for making a workers compensation claim, there are very strict consequences for an employer who retaliates against an employee for bringing a workers compensation claim.
Q. I was in the middle of the intersection waiting to make a left turn. When the light turned yellow the oncoming car stopped and then I turned my car and got hit by another oncoming car that I did not see. A witness told me that the person stepped on the gas when the light turned red and ran the red light and that is why I didn’t see the car. Will this be my fault?
A. California Vehicle Code section 21801(a) provides: The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a “hazard” at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety. If there was contact between your vehicle and the offending vehicle, the offending vehicle was obviously close enough to present a “hazard” thus you are in violation of Vehicle Code Section 21801(a).
However, if there is a solid witnesses that says the other driver ran the red light, you may not be at fault.
The typical situation when a left turning vehicle is not at fault is when the left turning vehicle gets “stuck” in the middle of an intersection on a stale yellow light that then turns red. In this situation the left turning vehicle is legally in “control of the intersection” by virtue of their vehicle being in the intersection and is legally allowed to complete their left turn on a red light. If another vehicle coming in the opposite direction runs a solid red light, when you have “control of the intersection” on a red light, the offending vehicle who ran the red will be responsible. California Vehicle Code Section 21453.(a) provides: A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown. Make sure it was a solid red, and not a stale yellow light when you engaged in the left turn.
A. You have several options depending on who is at fault for the accident and whether they have insurance. If you are the victim of the accident, meaning the other driver is at fault, you can pay the towing and storage fees and have the car towed to your residence or a shop of your choice, and then have the adverse insurance company reimburse you. You can wait until the adverse insurance company inspects the car and determines whether or not it is repairable and take it from there. If you are at fault and the car is a total loss you may be able to “trade” the pink slip in exchange for the towing and storage bills. This saves the tow yard from the trouble and expense of doing a lien sale and allows them to sell the car for scrape and recover their costs. If the vehicle is financed there is a chance the Finance Company will take the car out of the tow yard to prevent it being lien sold while the claim is pending.
A. This is a very fact specific question, the insurance pays FMV (fair market value) when a car is a total loss. What is the reason you owe more than FMV? Was it a bad loan, did you roll over mileage or other fees from a previously leased vehicle, did the insurance company value the correct vehicle with the exact options and features as your vehicle? My first move would be to determine if they correctly valued your vehicle, next step if that’s correct why are you under water? Did you purchase GAP coverage, can you negotiate the payoff balance with the bank, and will the bank work with you if you refinance a replacement vehicle with them.
Q. I am preparing to file a case for damages caused to me. I couldn’t find a great checklist or whatever, but it seems that I am supposed to serve on the defendant a Statement of Damages and an ADR Packet, correct? Where can I find the official ADR packet. Having a hard time locating it. Anything else I might be missing or that is Orange County specific?
A. You should would check with the Orange County Superior Court website for further information. Orange County has recently converted to paperless filings, they require Attorneys to use a third party “e-filing” vendor. There are several approved vendors that can be used, the process is pretty straight forward, you email the paperwork to be filed, they electronically file it and return a conformed copy via email. The Vendor may be able to provide the ADR package as well. In pro per parties are encouraged to efile as well however it is not yet mandatory.
Pursuant to section 1010.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, rule 2.253(b)(2) of the California Rules of Court, Orange County Superior Court Local Rule 352, and Local Rule 601.01 all documents filed by attorneys in probate, limited civil, unlimited civil, and complex civil actions, other than the original documents specified below must be filed electronically unless the Court rules otherwise. Self-represented parties are exempt from the mandatory electronic filing requirement set forth in Orange County Superior Court Local Rule 352, and Local Rule 601.01 and but are strongly encouraged to participate voluntarily in electronic filing and service.
Q. If my car insurance denies a claim of personal loss/ injury to a person who claims I (my car) caused damage, and this person decides to go to small claims or to court…would my insurance have the obligation to represent me? And if my insurance doesn’t provide the support during this matter, what are my rights? Where can I file a complaint against my insurance?
A. If you had valid insurance coverage at the time of the accident then your insurance company has a legal contractual obligation to Defend the lawsuit or pay a judgment if one is obtained. If the plaintiff sues you in small claims court, notify your insurance immediately. An adjuster may come to the hearing with you to “hold your hand”. If a judgment is entered against you your insurance must pay the judgment. If a Superior Court Law Suit is field against you, your insurance will hire an attorney or have house counsel (an attorney who is an employee of the insurance company) defend the lawsuit and pay any settlement of judgment. The key is that you keep your insurance informed if you are served with any documents and you fully cooperate with the defense of the claim. Really the only way an insurance carrier can weasel out of paying a valid claim or defending you on a frivolous claim is if you, the insured, fail to cooperate with their investigation or defense of the claim. Otherwise you can sue your insurance for breach of contract; your insurance coverage is considered a contract between you and the company to pay for any covered losses within the policy period. You can also sue for additional damages if the denial of coverage or failure to defend was in “bad faith”. These cases can be worth substantial money but are highly fact specific and require someone who has experience in bad faith claims and insurance coverage issues. If you are concerned consult with a professional.
Q. So Somebody is making a claim of loss and injuries apparently by me ( car accident),I have no idea what they are talking about I did drive by there, actually I drive by there often since I go to the store and to visit family, the day this supposedly happened I was by there, but NOTHING happened, if I had run over or hit anyone I would remember, heard a noise, damage my car or I imagine there will be a police report, police would have been knocking at my door because hit and run is serious. I’m assuming is a pedestrian because the claim comes from an attorney not an insurance company. I don’t think my insurance is taking me serious, I made a report to let them know of the attorney’s letter I received and haven’t heard from my insurance in 2 days. What can I do?
A. A police report may or may not have any bearing on this case, often times, even when police respond to the scene of an accident they don’t make a report for whatever reason. Give your insurance company some time to conduct an investigation. If it has only been 2 days so the claim probably isn’t even assigned to an adjuster yet. Make sure you are honest, forthright and fully cooperate with your insurance company’s investigation of the claim. It could be a mistaken identity situation or a witness misidentified or transcribed a license plate number incorrectly. Despite your statements regarding the hit and run being taken seriously, depending on where you live the police may be back logged in their investigations. Unless it was a fatality or major injury it’s probably low on the list of priorities for law enforcement, there are very few officers assigned to these details. I would NOT contact the attorney directly, wait for your insurance to investigate further. If the delay is of concern it might be worth a few bucks and your peace of mind to consult with a local attorney who can make an inquiry to the alleged victim’s attorney get more information, for all you know maybe they think you were a witness to an accident. It would probably just take a phone call attorney to attorney to figure out what going on, you might even find someone in your area willing to make the call pro bono to garner some good will.