Do I have to pay him the owner of a motorcycle if it was damaged in an accident and I didn’t have insurance?

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Do I have to pay him the owner of a motorcycle if it was damaged in an accident and I didn’t have insurance?

I was involved in an accident with a motorcyclist at an intersection that has had many accidents previously. I have insurance now but the accident happened the day before my policy became effective, which I’m aware means my damages are not be covered. After the police report was filed, my insurance agent told me that neither party was at fault, however the motorcyclist demands that I pay for his bike damages out-of-pocket. As for the accident, there was a huge truck in front of me with its left blinker on and the street I was on had no stop sign. So I drove around him on his right side but I didn’t know that he and the other cars had stopped for 2 bikers that were crossing on the adjacent street which did have a stop sign. The one biker slammed into my car and but suffered no major injuries, just a bruise on his knee at most. The other biker is the owner of the bike that was in the accident and that suffered minor damages and the one demanding that I pay for his bike’s damages, which he claims came out to $1038. That’s a lot of money for me considering I’m also paying for my own car’s damages and have to keep up with my bills while working part-time and going to school. I was afraid he would sue me for not having insurance but it was an honest mistake and according to the insurer, no one’s fault. So I’m now wondering if I have to pay him at all or does each part pay for their own damages now?

Asked on May 27, 2017 under Accident Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In driving around a stopped truck on the right when you did not have a clear sight line, you were most likely negligent, or careless, and therefore would be liable for the damage resulting from that act. Based on what you write, if the biker were to sue you, he would likely win and get a court judgment requiring you to pay, since you were, as stated, most likely at fault. You may wish therefore to settle with him, as opposed to waiting until you are sued (though you could choose to wait and see if he does sue you; if he never sues, he cannot force you to pay, since only a court judgment or order in his favor compels payment); the advantage of settling is that you may be able to get him to accept more favorable terms. You may wish to ask him to send you the repair estimate for the bike and photographs of the damage so you can evaluate the situation (he'd need these if he were to sue you, so he should have them). If he doesn't, then he is probably asking for more than he is entitled to--you might then wait and force him to sue, since if he sues, he can only get compensation in an amount he can *prove*. If he does send to you, do some research online, take them to a repair shop for an opinion, etc. to see if the cost is reasonable. If it is reasonable, then you probably want to offer to pay the amount over time (e.g. $20/week) or a small amount (maybe $700) all at once. While it is voluntary for him to accept these offers, he has an incentive to, to avoid the cost and effort and time of a lawsuit. And if he does accept, you'll either save money or have extra time to pay.
As to the insurer's opinion: that's all it is--an opinion. It has no legally binding effect. But whenever you drive into an intersection without a sight line, you could hit something, which is why there is a likelihood you'd be found liable.


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