Legal Question in Insurance Law in California

my parked vehicle was totaled by a hit an run driver. After fleeing the incident he inadvertently left his license plate of the vehicle. It still took four months for LAPD to provide the drivers information to me. Once received I was able to file a claim with his insurance company. The Insurance Co. took another 8 months to settle the claim and only upon my filing a complaint with the DOI in California. During the time that they had my claim, they made numerous errors in the handling of the claim, not issuing proper notices, not settling in a timely manner and not paying me for the loss of use of my vehicle during the time that they took to settle the claim, are only a few of the errors. These facts were all founded by DOI, which was told to me by my Rep. at DOI who handled my case for me. Unfortunately, DOI has no authority to order the Insurance Co. to pay me for the loss of use portion of the claim. I was paid for my vehicle loss.

My question is; now I am involved in a Restitution hearing in Criminal Court for the driver of the vehicle. This case has been on-going since 2015 and is almost at the end of the statute, so I am unsure how to proceed if they do not honor the loss of use claim for the time I was without my vehicle, (391 days). I am unable to get any records from the DOI regarding their findings on my claim because of the Privacy Act, which keeps all information in the record confidential. Even though I was the party who filed the complaint. Can you tell me how to proceed? Thank you for your assistance.

Asked on 3/20/17, 10:13 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

I'm afraid that you, like the majority of people, misunderstand how insurance legally works. You have zero legal rights against any insurance company except under a policy of insurance that you buy. Because it is more efficient from a business and legal standpoint for the insurance company to deal directly with the injured party when someone they insure causes an accident, and because they have an obligation to THEIR insured to avoid unnecessary litigation, people think the insurance company for the at-fault driver owes them coverage, claim processing and payment obligations. Legally, however, that is not true. An auto insurance company only owes a duty to defend or indemnify their insured. Even the claims handling regulations, which is what the DOI enforces, are primarily for the benefit of the insured, not you. The insured has the right to have claims against them that are valid, adjusted and paid promptly. That right belongs to them, not you, which is why you aren't entitled to any information from the DOI.

The reason for those rights and regulations is to keep the insured from being sued by the claimant, which is what you should have done a long long time ago. Your only legal rights are against the person who caused the accident, and if his insurance company won't pay the loss, you have to sue him. You have no rights against the insurance company directly, only through forcing them to defend or indemnify him. If you blow the statute of limitations, even those rights are gone and they can tell you to buzz off without a dime. So you need to get a lawsuit on file against the other driver right away. If your losses are $10,000 or less, you can do it in small claims. If more than that, you'll have to figure out how to do it in Superior Court yourself or hire a lawyer.

Read more
Answered on 3/21/17, 2:10 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Insurance Law questions and answers in California