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?
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
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?
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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.
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.
If a claim could potentially exceed the limits, it is always prudent to have independent counsel.