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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 6

  1. If you can get a release of all claims for policy limits provide the asset declaration. It is the safest way to protect your assets. Your attorney provided by the insurance company can explain it to you. You might want to pay an attorney to review the proposed settlement agreement.

    This response does not create a lawyer client relationship. Each case is determined on its specific facts and this reply is intended for a general audience and facts particular to your case may affect the answer. Consult with an attorney in person for specific answers to your questions.

  2. Assuming liability is against you and significant injuries were involved, you should fill out the form and be grateful that the motorcyclist is willing to accept the $50,000.00 and release you from any further liability.
    If you are sued and a judgment is granted in excess of your policy limits, you will be personally liable for all amounts over the first $50,000.00 and those amounts could be substantial; you will eventually be subpoenaed to court and forced to divulge your assets under oath. If a jury returns a large verdict, you might even be forced into bankruptcy.
    Put your pride aside and end this case with no out of pocket loss. Provide the financial statement.

  3. Demanding an asset declaration is very common - my firm does it all the time. If you were a plaintiff and you were asked to settle for a fraction of the value of your case because the defendant has inadequate insurance, wouldn't you first want to know if the defendant was wealthy and could afford to pay you more?

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

  5. 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, were not negligent in anyway, in California your personal liability is limited. See California Vehicle Code section 17709, which states in pertinent parts: “(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.”

    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.

  6. Unless you negligetly entrusted the vehicle to your 16 yo son, (eg He had no license) or were negligent in some other way (eg let him use car that you knew had brake problem which caused the crash), then pltf is ltd to 15k against you and your policy is paying 50k.
    you may want to consult w/independent atty now and have a list of your assets and obligations to bring in. it is common to request such a declaration before accepting a settlement below the value of the case. Th pltf atty owes his client a duty of due diligence, and refusing to provide the declaration would be construed as though you had something to hide, and could result in a lawsuit going forward. There may be a middle ground depending upon what info the pltf atty is specifically requesting.

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