Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

Uninsured auto accident

I was injured in an auto accident last year. The driver was an 18 year old boy living at home who had just caused a crime and was being pursued by the police. He was driving at 92mph and T-boned my car at an intersection on which I had the green light. He was totally at fault and there were many witnesses. My daughter and I were involved in the accident. We were both taken to the hospital by ambulance and then released. My daughter seems to be ok but I still continue to have back pain. The driver was uninsured and unlicensed so my insurance has covered the medical bills under my uninsured driver policy. My question is can I sue the police, the driver, drivers family? My uninsured coverage is only 30,000. What is a fair settlement?

Asked on 4/04/02, 7:15 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Re: Uninsured auto accident

You can sue the driver, and you may or may not be able to collect from his family depending on what they own.

You probably cannot sue the police - they probably were exercising their duty of care in chasing the 18-year-old.

Feel free to contact me should you like further assistance.

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Answered on 4/08/02, 6:35 pm
John Bisnar Bisnar & Chase, LLP

Re: Uninsured auto accident

"How much are your damages worth?" This is the threshold question and dictates where to go from there.

If your injures are catastrophic it might be worth going beyond your uninsured motorist policy. If your damages do not have a value in excess of $100,000, I believe your best move is to collect the $30,000 uninsured motorist coverage and thank God that no one was killed. To pursue a $100,000 claim against either the police department or the parents will necessitate an attorney and the incurrence of costs ($45,000 - $60,000 attorneys’ fees and costs) which would leave you with a net recovery of $40,000 to $55,000 after a year of litigation, if you win. Take the $30,000 and be thankful.

If your injuries are catastrophic you may want to check into the propriety of the police chase and the particular department compliance with State law regarding chase procedures. Failure to comply with State law regarding chase procedures leaves the police department vulnerable to law suits, otherwise a chase case is almost impossible to win.

Pursuing the parents is a nearly impossible task. It can be won in certain fact situations, but they are rare. If the parents do not have substantial assets, the likelihood of collecting is slim to none.

John Bisnar, Senior Partner, 800-956-0123

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Answered on 4/08/02, 7:05 pm
Armen Tashjian Law Offices of Armen M. Tashjian

Re: Uninsured auto accident

First, you may/can sue the criminal/negligent 18 year-old, but it is highly unlikely that you'll ever get the judgment satisfied.

Second, you may sue the owner of the vehicle, but usually the owner's liability is limited to $15,000 under the statute. Unless, you can prove a neglegent entrustment in which case you may go against the owner for higher amounts.

Third, you mentioned that this incident occurred last year. If it was more than 6 months ago, then you have already blown the statute of limitation against the police department and the appropriate governmental agency.

Fourth, the police has a governmental immunity, which protects it from lawsuits provided the chase was performed under the appropriate guidelines and according to police manual.

Lastly, if your UM coverage is 30/60, then aske for the 60K. If however, it is 15/30, then you should be able to get that without any problem.

I recommend that you check to see who the registered owner was and pursue him/her. Also, demand the full policy limits from your UM carrier. If they fail to offer it to you, then contact me (323)782-0099. I will not charge attorney's fees for the amount of your UM, but I will charge a percentage for anything over and above your UM limits. Good luck.

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Answered on 4/09/02, 12:00 am
Patty Lewis Law Office of Patricia Ann Lewis

Re: Uninsured auto accident

I agree with the assessment of Mr. Armen Tashjian up to the point where he suggests you demand $60K from your UM carrier . . . That amount is available for all claimants . . . so you and your daughter could conceivably recover the $60 which would be apportioned between you in accord with the extent of your damages . . . however, on an individual claim you could only obtain the $30K.

Also . . .the UM coverage may be set off by coverage obtained through the owner ($15K if that's all his policy carried, assuming the owner of the other vehicle has any coverage at all). . . and then your claim would be for UIM, not UM . . .

As to the parents, unless they are the owners of the vehicle driven by the 18 year old, I do not see any claim against them . . . the boy is no longer a minor and not subject to their "guarantor" status when he turns 18 . . . double check his age though . . .

there definitely are statutes of limitations which will preclude you from ever recovering any $ for your damages . . . you must file a formal complaint in superior court within one (1) year from the date of the accident to recover even on a UM claim . . . If you want to file a claim against the police, they are a public entity and are subject to the 180 day administrative claim provisions . . .

you also want to be careful about potential liens from insurance . . . even your own carrier could assert a lien which they might claim would offset the UM recovery . . . depends on the policy and the carrier . . . and you should have counsel to protect you here . . .

You really need to consult with an attorney as there are too many "ifs" in your fact situation . . . Good luck to you . . . Patty Lewis . . .

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Answered on 4/09/02, 12:26 am

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