Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

My friend as a pedestrian was struck by a car and the driver ran. My friend has two witnesses, one being an off duty cop. My friend's injury is not severe but he did cost her a job interview. Later that same day, the same driver struck another pedestrian and ran before he was caught by police. Right now he is in jail for two counts of hit and run, DWI and driving WITHOUT a license and insurance.

So my question is can my friend sue the driver and what is the consequence or result if the driver doesn't have enough money to pay the lawsuit, even he has to give his away his car, house or any possessions that he has still isn't enough to pay up for the lawsuit because the second victim might be coming after him?

Asked on 3/28/12, 9:16 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

If your friend's injury is not severe then suing the driver might not make sense. She is entitled to compensation for medical bills and other out-of-pocket costs as well as for pain and suffering, but it doesn't sound like she had substantial losses.

She is also entitled to compensation for lost income, but that income has to be reasonably provable. She will almost certainly not be able to get such damages based upon missing a job interview, since a claim that she would have gotten the job and received a particular salary speculative.

Your friend may also be entitled to punitive damages if the driver hit her intentionally or at least recklessly. But the amount of punitive damages will depend, in part, on the driver's financial condition. If he can't afford to pay the compensatory damages, then he likely won't be ordered to pay any punitives regardless of his state of mind at the time of the accident. And even if he is ordered to pay punitives, he may not be able to do so.

Another factor in setting the amount of punitives is the amount of compensatory damages. Ordinarily punitive damages must be no more than ten times the amount of compensatories. Even that amount is normally allowed only in the most egregious cases (this one might or might not qualify), and only when the defendant can afford to pay it.

If your friend wants to sue for $10,000 or less, she can do it in small claims court. That process is quick and inexpensive. If she takes that route and then finds that the driver can't pay the judgment, at least she won't have invested a lot of time and money in the case.

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Answered on 3/28/12, 11:03 am
Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

Of course you can sue the driver and registered owners of the car. But, do they have any substantial assets and income to collect against after spending time and money suing and getting a judgment? If they actually do, feel free to contact me for legal help. If not, then pursue a victim claim for restitution through the criminal court case. Someone driving without license or insurance is unlikely to have anything of value, and remember, they are going to be convicted and spend some time in jail, and lose their job and have difficulty getting future employment.

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Answered on 3/25/13, 12:14 pm
Robert Worth Robert J. Worth , Professional Law Corporation

Without assets it is probably a waste of time to sue the hit and run driver. BUT your if your friend is has car insurance including uninsured motorist coverage a claim can be made for the medical bills pain and suffering and lst earnings. This may be the best way to proceed and then let te insurance company go after the idiot drunk driver, assuming the company wanted to waste it's time. That's probably your friend's approach. I handle these cases and I understand how te insurance companies work because I worked in claims before practicing law. Your friend can get a courtesy consultation to decide on how to proceed. Bob Worth (818) 222-2433

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Answered on 3/26/13, 8:05 am

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