I have handled these types of cases for other people in your situation. This bill is just the tip of the iceberg. The insurance company usually settles the property damage with their insured right away. But the person driving that car may still be undergoing medical treatment. They have up to a year to use the PIP benefits from their policy to get medical treatment. It can go up to $15,000.00.
If you start paying the property damage, you can get hit later with the medical bills from the same insurance company. I have seen this happen to several people. It might even be a deliberate strategy that the insurance company is using to see if they can get some money out of you before you realize the bill is bigger and panic and file a bankruptcy. Only you don't get the money back that you already sent them.
On the flip side, they can't sue you for the property damage until they are ready to add in the medical (PIP) because they have to join all the related claims in one suit. Until they sue you, they don't really have any power to collect from you. You need to know what the total bill will be, including medical, to analyze the situation.
If you can't pay the bill and they sue and get a judgment, your license will be suspended until you pay the bill, which will then include court costs and will carry a 9% statutory interest rate. A bankruptcy at any point in the process will cut them off and make it possible for you to get your license again after the first year of suspension for driving without insurance has ended.
I would need more information to advise you as to whether a bankruptcy option is possible for you but from you statement that you can't afford $5,400.00, and that you couldn't afford insurance, I am guessing that you can probably do a bankruptcy without losing any of your personal property. My website link is below and on the page of articles and links you will see links on where you can read more about bankruptcy for free on the Oregon State Bar's website.
The comments by this author to questions posted on Avvo are designed to foster a general understanding of what might be the law governing the area of the legal problem stated and suggest what might be the approach to finding a legal solution. Under no circumstances is this author acting as the attorney for the party who posted the question or as the attorney for subsequent readers to the question or response and no attorney client relationship is being formed. This attorney's comments are not intended to be a substitute for getting legal advice from a licensed attorney. A reader of this author's comments should never act on the information provided in these comments as though these comments were legal advice and should always seek legal advice in a personal consultation with an attorney in their jurisdiction before taking action. The information provided here is not intended to cover every situation with similar facts. Please remember that the law varies between states and other countries and is always changing through actions of the courts and the Legislature.
Bad news: if you got a bill, that means the other driver's insurance company probably already paid.
Worse news: the final repair invoice is almost always higher than the initial estimate, so if that is just an estimate it probably wont get any better for you.
Worst news: if the accident really is your fault, you'll need to contact the insurance company and set up a payment plan.
There are ways to get out of debt. You can contact a bankruptcy attorney. But even bankruptcy can't always eliminate the other problems you encounter when you don't comply with the mandatory insurance laws.
Are you sure the accident was your fault?
Are you sure that the accident was your fault? A ticket isn't dispositive, and if you got a ticket, retain a traffic court lawyer to fight it. You may be able to put a claim in with the other driver's insurance company with a car accident lawyer in your state.
Licensed in Pennsylvania & New Jersey & Serving the Nation. Only 29% Fee Deducted. 1-877-258-3083. www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com