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A family sued me for a car crash accident and they want nearly $150,000 that I do not have. Is there anything I can do?

Chula Vista, CA |

I have so much debt on my name and I make less than $600 a month. This family sue me for nearly $150,000 for the car crash accident and they want to send me to court on August. As my life is right now, I may file for bankruptcy because of everything I owe. Should I do it now before my August court with them, or should I do it after? Either way, I simply cannot make it. Will the court understand my situation? That family went to the restaurant I work at and they looked fine. They have an even bigger and better car and according to what he is suing me for, his right wrist surgery, he was doing everything with his right hand. I even have witnesses and a video recording. What should I do? I want to get a lawyer, but I don't even have money to pay him/her. What are my options?

Attorney Answers 9

Posted

If you go to court yourself you will probably accomplish very little; the judge might have sympathy for you but your financial situation will play no role in the ultimate result of the personal injury case. You might end up with a large judgment against you and the only way you will be able to escape it is to declare bankruptcy.

Your best option is to gather up some cash and pay a local lawyer now, to review the facts of your case and figure out the best way to contain the problem. It may mean you settle before the case goes any further, and pay them over time. Another option is to declare bankruptcy immediately, which will put the lawsuit against you on hold.

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Asker

Posted

See that is where I stand right now. Whether to declare bankruptcy now before court or after court. I am very confident that when I go to court, court will do very little for me and I may have to pay them either way. Maybe not, I am not sure. I will definitely go to a lawyer, but I am afraid of the cost since I can barely live with the money I have. Bankruptcy is %99.9 my only option as to where I stand right now, but how long is the lawsuit against me going to be on hold for?

David Lee Fiol

David Lee Fiol

Posted

Once you file the bankruptcy petition the case will be "stayed" for as long as the bankruptcy proceeding is pending, and assuming your liability is discharged in bankruptcy, I believe it would have to be dismissed entirely. You might be able to economize by getting help from a local legal aid clinic. Good luck, and please, if you have not done so already - get insurance. You don't want to go through this again I'm sure.

Asker

Posted

But I had insurance! The thing is that I did have insurance and and back then (a year ago and a half ago), the insurance said they had covered it. It was less than 1,500 in damages and my insurance covered it and I did not pay a thing. Here are they now charging me all this money and that is not counting what their insurance is charging me which is another $20,000. My insurance did "handled it" but now I see that they did not. Obviously they lied or the other family got away with something else. I was completely confident at this until I started receiving bills and court dates from them.

David Lee Fiol

David Lee Fiol

Posted

I'm sorry - if you had insurance you most definitely have to call your insurance company and let them know what is going on. The $1,5000 may have been for damage to their car, but the claim for personal injury is handled separately. If you have contacted your insurer about this already and they are not defending you for some reason, you should consult with a local insurance lawyer to see what can be done about that. You might have a claim against your own insurance company for breach of the insurance contract. Something is not right here.

Asker

Posted

See that is where I have my doubts. I did have insurance and what bothers me is that I know for a fact that there is something wrong here. My prior insurance, back then, told me everything was fine and that the car damage was not at all bad. They assured me of that! And here I am with all this. I know personal claim is separate, but either way, where is the $20,000 coming from if the case was settled more than a year ago?

David Lee Fiol

David Lee Fiol

Posted

Your insurance company has a duty to defend you against all claims, and if it settled the case it should have obtained a signed release that protects you from further claims. You need to sort this out with the insurer and make sure it living up to its obligations to you. This is where the attorney comes in.

Asker

Posted

Gotcha! Thank you! You were so much help!

Posted

I am assuming that you didn't have any auto coverage yourself, because if you did you would already have let your insurer handle this for you. In regard to your bankruptcy question, you should contact a bankruptcy attorney. There are many in California listed on this web site. You may have no choice but to pay an attorney to help you if you did not have insurance or it was inadequate.

Merry Fountain is licensed to practice law in Indiana. She can be contacted at 1-888-242-HURT. This is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship. It is legal education intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. If the question does not include important timeframes and facts the answer could change. Merry Fountain strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state.

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Asker

Posted

The thing is that I did have insurance and and back then (a year ago and a half ago), the insurance said they had covered it. It was less than 1,500 in damages and my insurance covered it and I did not pay a thing. Here are they now charging me all this money and that is not counting what their insurance is charging me which is another $20,000. My insurance did "handled it" but now I see that they did not. Obviously they lied or the other family got away with something else. I was completely confident at this until I started receiving bills and court dates from them.

Merry Melinda Fountain

Merry Melinda Fountain

Posted

Call your insurance company immediately - either hand deliver the papers to your agent and make copies and obtain a receipt, or send them certified to the adjuster. They should hire an attorney to defend you, who will explain what is going on.

Asker

Posted

THEY hire an attorney to defend me? What if they are no longer my insurance?

Posted

Consult a local B/K attorney ASAP & try to retain a local personal injury defense attorney - too difficult to handle yourself

This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.

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Posted

It is best to consult a San Diego lawyer to assist you further with this. Most avvo lawyers offer free consultation. Good luck

877-603-8473 - Peter S. Cameron, Esq. 2445 Fifth Ave. #350, San Diego, CA 92101 - Call 24/7 for a FREE CONSULTATION!

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Posted

If you have car insurance, your insurance company should handle the claim and provide an attorney for your case. If not, you should speak to a local attorney about your options. Most of them will offer free consultations.

I am licensed to practice law in VA, not your state. As such, I may be unaware of certain state laws; therefore, my response may be wrong or irrelevant. Please use my response for informational purposes only and contact a local attorney for legal advice.

Good luck.

Be sure to mark the "Best Answer" or Helpful" to your questions. Attorneys on AVVO donate their time and your feedback is appreciated.

Ben Titter
Garrett Law Group, PLC
http://vabeachpersonalinjurylawyer.com
(757) 422-4646 - Available 24 hours

Responses on AVVO do not establish an attorney-client relationship. All responses to questions should be used for informational purposes only. Always consult personally with an attorney prior to initiating or responding to any legal action.

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Posted

Did you have auto insurance? If you have insurance your carrier will provide you with a defense and will pay the damages up to your limit. If you have low limits the carrier should try to settle the claim for you within the limits so that you are not "exposed" to a judgment higher than those limits.
I do not practice in California so I do not know how your motor vehicle financial responsibility laws work. But here in Pennsylvania, if I learned that the defendant had little or no insurance, I typically would advise my clients that there is no practical sense to pursuing a claim beyond the insurance limits if the person did not have assets to pay any excess judgment. If my clients had underinsurance coverage on their own policy, I would make a claim there.
If you do not have insurance, you should seek the advice of an attorney from your state who can explain your rights. This should not be that expensive and at least you will know where you stand. You have a lot of uncertainty and even if you have few options at least you will know what they are and you can better make decisions on what to do next. Good Luck.

If you feel this is the "best" answer or is "helpful," please indicate. Since I am limited to the information you provide, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the answer. You should seek the advise of an attorney who can explore all aspects of your question. This communication does not form an attorney client relationship.

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Posted

If you have insurance they should handle this claim for you. You insurance should hire a defense atty for you. Hiring your own defense attorney will cost a lot of money.

However if you do not have insurance or money, you should file bankruptcy. Contact a local bankruptcy attorney for advice.

I was told by my bankruptcy attorney friend that when defendant filing bankruptcy, it would affect the case. It would create an automatic stay and plaintiff (Plf.) can't do move forward with the case against defendant. But that's just the general answer. What chapter are you filing? 7? 13? If the judgement before the defendant filing bk, it is worse for plf. because it arises from a debt prior to the BK so it would be dischargeable. Plf. can always sue in bk on a non discharge-ability debts. Plf. should always file proof of claim for the judgment. This is a general answer, you should contact a bankruptcy attorney for better advice!!! Good-luck!!!

*Disclaimer: This response does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I. I am not your lawyer and I am not representing you in the underlying issue stated in your question. The response I have offered is not intended to be relied upon, you should seek out an attorney to assist in this matter. You may contact me directly at (415) 362-6765 ext.120; website: www.wc-advocateforjustice.com. (Attorney for Law Offices of William E. Weiss)

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Wendy Ha Chau

Wendy Ha Chau

Posted

Correction: If you have insurance, your insurance should defend you and hire you a defense attorney. If you do not have insurance, please next time get insurance for your car, it is the law. AND having high insurance protection does protect you from situation like this...

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your answer, but I did not understand anything you said. What is plaintiff? Who is the defendant? What does it mean when it is "stay"? What is BK?

Wendy Ha Chau

Wendy Ha Chau

Posted

Oh I am sorry. BK is short for bankruptcy/bankruptcy court. When I say Plaintiff, I am talking about a person who is suing (in this case, the person suing in civil court against you). Defendant, in the situation of civil litigation/the tortfeaser, is the person being sue. Here you are the defendant (being sued) and the person who is suing you is the plaintiff. The family want to sue you for $150K however you do not have the money. You as defendant might have to file bankruptcy. Filing in BK (Bankruptcy) court. If you file bankruptcy you will cause an automatic stay. In United States bankruptcy law, an automatic stay is an automatic injunction that halts actions by creditors, with certain exceptions, to collect debts from a debtor who has declared bankruptcy. Under section 362 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, the stay begins at the moment the bankruptcy petition is filed. Secured creditors may, however, petition the bankruptcy court for relief from the automatic stay upon a showing of cause. If it turns out you owe money to the plaintiff, you are a debtor. Many of the debtors filing these cases seek to stop collection efforts against them, including the continuation of pending civil litigation. The filing of a bankruptcy petition “automatically stays” (that is, automatically stops) most actions against the debtor or the debtor’s property, including a civil lawsuit. In the short term, the impact of the automatic stay is immediate. In the long term, what will happen depends on the type of bankruptcy case being filed, whether the debtor is a plaintiff or a defendant in the pending action, the nature of the pending litigation as well as the claims asserted in the action, and whether the debtor is indispensible to it. This pdf link should explain it for you: http://www.gallaghersharp.com/useful_tools/Bankruptcy%20on%20Litigation.pdf ; http://www.lacba.org/Files/LAL/Vol32No6/2625.pdf or http://www.abiworld.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NewsRoom/BankruptcyResearchCenter/BankruptcyReportsResearchandTestimony/General/bkstayreport.pdf

Wendy Ha Chau

Wendy Ha Chau

Posted

typo: the family wants to sue you for $150K. They might not win that. You should hire an attorney to help you fight that or hire a bankruptcy attorney to help you file for bankruptcy. Let's say the plaintiff filed a suit against you and win and maybe get an award for $150 (if they can prove that...) then that becomes your debt. This is prior debt since it occurred before you file bankruptcy, therefore the plaintiff probably won't get the money from you. You by filing bankruptcy will probably stop the lawsuit collection against you. I suggest speaking to a bankruptcy attorney...

Wendy Ha Chau

Wendy Ha Chau

Posted

Attorney David Lee Fiol already said that your insurance supposed to defend you and if the family accepts an offer by your insurance, your insurance must make them sign a release of all claims which protects you from a law suit. It sounds like the family /plaintiff doesn't want what was offered by your insurance, so they probably reject the offer to settle. How much was the family's car damage? Was the collision huge? Unless their damages were high, I doubt the family can get $150K. The family has to prove that they should get that amount. I think that's pretty high. They have not won yet right? Speak to a bankruptcy attorney for some options just in case.

Wendy Ha Chau

Wendy Ha Chau

Posted

Correction: The family probably rejected your insurance's offer to settle (I don't know what your insurance offered them), whatever it was, the family don't seem happy about the offer so they take you to court.

Posted

Contact one of the above lawyers in your state to investigate

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Posted

As an injury trial attorney myself, I would not spend the $15-20K in trial costs to get a judgment against someone who does not have the ability to pay it. Thus, one option would be to wait and see if the plaintiff drops the case against you. However, if you had car insurance or if you were working at the time of the accident, the plaintiff may be filing the lawsuit in hopes of getting recovery from your insurance or your employer. In any case you should immediately, talk with a bankruptcy attorney who can plan your bankruptcy strategy to see if you can file now or wait. Good Luck!!

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