A vehicle approaching from the driver's side impacted my son's vehicle and impacted the driver's side passenger door. I'm told by my insurance carrier that my son is at fault, even though the driver was apparently going fast judging from the impact. The door is destroyed and the left post of the vehicle is bent inwards. There is no damage from the other vehicle. My insurance will pay the driver's vehicle damage (which there are none) and medical expenses up to $30,000 (that's all I have on my policy).
QUESTION: After all this is finalized, can or will the driver pursue legal action to sue me personally? What are my options? THANK YOU!
The question was can the other driver sue you personally, so I will focus on just you, and not answer as to your son. (and I will ignore the flip answer that anyone can sue anyone for anything)
In general, the only person who is responsible for paying damages to someone is the person who is at fault – which in this case, if anyone, would be your son. Therefore, you have no liability for his actions – regardless of the fact that he is your son, and regardless of the fact that he was driving your car.
There are some exceptions – if your son was driving that day on an errand for you, or doing anything for your benefit – then arguably he was driving as your “agent” to accomplish your needs – and you are potentially responsible under the law for the negligent acts of your agent. However, the overwhelming majority of times this doesn’t apply because rarely is the son actually driving for your benefit. More often he simply had your permission to drive your car. There is no liability to you solely because you gave that permission.
However that leads to the second exception – which is the possibility that you negligently gave permission for your son to drive the car – this is extremely rare but would cover those situations in which you knew or should have known that your son’s driving ability was impaired such that it was likely that he could cause an accident. This is extremely rare and unlikely to be in this case.
Now that doesn’t mean that your insurance won’t pay – your insurance will cover this accident because the driver at fault (your son) was in your car, and your insurance policy would cover it.
And this also doesn’t mean that he won’t sue you at some point down the line as the “owner of the vehicle”, but if he does, you simply turn it into your insurance company, who will assign a lawyer to defend you, and once he can show that your son was not acting as your agent on that day, and there was no negligent permission granted – he will get the case dismissed, and it will be pursued solely against your son.
Finally, the person does have the right to sue your son personally, but that didn’t appear to be your question.
Lastly – as a side note and going forward – you should strongly consider increasing your limits of coverage – 30,000 is a small amount, and the cost to increase it to higher limits is often times is surprisingly low. Take 15 minutes and get some quotes.
If the other driver is injured and your other son was at fault, he may file suit against the driver of the car and the owner of the car. You have liability insurance to cover his injuries. In the event there are damages in excess of the policy limits then your son could in theory be held personally liable. If you are worried about your policy limits, it likely means you are underinsured. I would suggest reviewing your coverage with an insurance agent.
I agree with the first answer. I would only add that at this point you can only sit back and wait because your coverage is based on the policy coverages at the time of the accident. Generally speaking attorneys go after the insurance policy limits. However, it does not mean that your son is not exposed to liability greater than the personal injury coverage. It depends on the situation.
I hope no one is seriously injured.
Your policy of insurance covers a legal defense, so if there is a lawsuit, your insurance company will assign a defense attorney to you. The other party has two years to sue.
If your son gets a ticket, he should make sure that he doesn't just plead guilty or pay the ticket on line- he should hire a lawyer or go to court and ask the judge for "civil reservations" because otherwise, if there is a trial, his guilty plea could be used as evidence against him on the liability issue and there seems to be some comparative fault on the other driver.
On the matter of your limited PIP coverage, insurance companies have been making claims that you can reduce your insurance bill dramatically if you accept less that the standard 250K in PIP coverage, BUT you only save a percentage off your PIP coverage premium - it's a very small amount of savings for you (but a big savings for them).
Call your insurance company to increase your PIP coverage to 250K - you can make such changes at any time, unfortunately it won't help with your son's coverage if he had injuries. If the other person was injured, he or she would make a claim for medical coverage with their own insurance carrier, not yours.
I suggest your son take a defensive driving course to reduce his insurance premium, it's usually about 10% for 3 years, there's a list of schools at the NJ DMV website, it's always a good idea for anyone who drives in NJ but especially for young people.
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