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Should I provide an asset declaration page to the claimant in an at fault accident my 16 year old son was involved in.

Stockton, CA |

My 16 year old son hit a motorcyclist. My insurance company is willing to pay the 50,000 policy limits. The other parties insurance company is willing to take the 50,000 assuming there are no significant assets, but wants me to fill out this asset declaration form, which I don't feel comfortable doing. The only real assets we have is a little savings saving account and our retirement plans. House has negative equity and we have loans on all of our vehicles. I feel that if the other party wants to sue, they should sue no matter what my assets are, why should I do their work for them. Also, at what point should I retain my own legal counsel?

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

An asset declaration is a routine requirement before a plaintiff lawyer can recommend to his client whether to settle the case for the policy limits or not. In California, if the injuries exceed the policy limits and the lawyer does not foreclose the possibility that the at-fault defendant has any personal assets to contribute to the settlement, then the lawyer may face a malpractice claim. Accordingly, the plaintiff lawyer is doing is due diligence before recommending a settlement. If you, as the parent, was not negligent in anyway, in California your personal liability is limited. I forget the exact figure right now, but it is certainly below $50K. I want to say it is either $15K or $30K. So you really have nothing to lose by providing an asset declaration. Just make sure the plaintiff and/or his attorney to agree to keep it confidential.

I hope that helps, but why are you posting this question on the internet and not getting an answer from the lawyer provided by the insurance company?

This is a legal disclaimer that my advice here are for general purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Further, my advice is based upon the limited information and facts that have been provided. Additional facts and/or circumstances may materially change or affect the advice that I would provide. Finally, I have not agreed to represent you and anyone else who may read my response. (Sorry for this legal disclaimer, but it is important for your protection and mine. You do not want to think that I am representing you when I have not agreed to do so. In order for me to act as your attorney, we would need to execute a retainer agreement setting for the terms of the relationship.) Thank you for your understanding.

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1 comment

Kevin Samuel Sullivan

Kevin Samuel Sullivan

Posted

This is a due diligence step by the plaintiff's attorney in order to evaluate a settlement for the policy limits.

Posted

I agree with attorney Nguyen except on the issue of your liability: I do not believe it is capped in any way. California Vehicle Code 17708 states: "Any civil liability of a minor, whether licensed or not under this code, arising out of his driving a motor vehicle upon a highway with the express or implied permission of the parents or the person or guardian having custody of the minor is hereby imposed upon the parents, person, or guardian and the parents, person, or guardian shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages proximately resulting from the negligent or wrongful act or omission of the minor in driving a motor vehicle."

That explains why they are asking you for an asset declaration, and not (just) your son.

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2 comments

Minh Tri Nguyen

Minh Tri Nguyen

Posted

Mr. Fiol: Thank you for your e-mail. Your comments made me hit the "books" again to look for the answer. According to California Vehicle Code section 17709, a parents liability is limited to $15,000 per injury to or death of one person and $30,000 for injury to or death of all persons as a result of any one accident. Here is CA Vehicle, section 17709 in full: West's Annotated California Codes Currentness Vehicle Code (Refs & Annos) Division 9. Civil Liability Chapter 2. Civil Liability of Persons Signing License Applications of Minors (Refs & Annos) § 17709. Limit of liability (a) No person, or group of persons collectively, shall incur liability for a minor's negligent or wrongful act or omission under Sections 17707 and 17708 in any amount exceeding fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for injury to or death of one person as a result of any one accident or, subject to the limit as to one person, exceeding thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for injury to or death of all persons as a result of any one accident or exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others as a result of any one accident. (b) No person is liable under Section 17707 or 17708 for damages imposed for the sake of example and by way of punishing the minor. Nothing in this subdivision makes any person immune from liability for damages imposed for the sake of example and by way of punishing him for his own wrongful conduct.

David Lee Fiol

David Lee Fiol

Posted

Thank you for digging deeper - you clearly are right.

Posted

I agree with the comments of Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Fiol. I would also suggest that you call and talk to your insurance adjuster. See if the adjuster has any information which will help your decision making process. For example, the adjuster may know that the lawyer representing the motorcycle driver is making sure to do a thorough job so he will not be a target of a legal malpractice suit later in time. Finally, you may consider meeting with an asset protection lawyer to see whether or not your retirement accounts/plans are already protected.

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Posted

If a claim could potentially exceed the limits, it is always prudent to have independent counsel.

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Posted

I would advise giving the asset declaration. Whatever it takes to settle within policy limits and avoid personal excess exposure. You should retain your own legal counsel if they decline the policy limits offer.

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