My car was rear ended by a driver who is under-insured. Is there anything I can do to make him pay the balance of my car, after the insurance pay out?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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My car was rear ended by a driver who is under-insured. Is there anything I can do to make him pay the balance of my car, after the insurance pay out?

I was in the middle of a three car accident. The car behind me hit me while I was
stopped waiting for the car in front to turn left. He pushed my car into the car
in front. My car was totaled. I only have liability insurance which is the
minimum required in California. His insurance is now telling me that paying for
my car and the damage to the car in front of mine is over his insurance premium
limits. So, now I’m left with no car and a loan balance of 13,000. Is there
anything I can do?

Asked on June 8, 2017 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

His insurer is only liable or responsible up to the policy limits: that's all the coverage he purchased or paid for, and all they agreed to provide. But that does not limit the at-fault driver's personal liability: it just means that he doesn't have insurance to help him pay any extra amounts. You could sue him for any other money he owes you. However, bear in mind that you *cannot* recover your outstanding loan balance. The law does not care about what someone paid for or owes on their car, since this amount can vary so much: some people pay cash, others finance and owe more due to that; some people negotiate a good deal or have valuable trade-in or rewards/incentives of some kind to reduce the price, others accept a bad deal or have no trade-in or anything else to help pay; some people buy cars at a discount from family or are even given cars; etc. What people pay for cars has nothing to do with what the cars are worth and is all over the place; therefore, the law does not pay attention to what you paid but instead, when your car is totalled, gives you the then-current fair market (or "blue book") value of the car. So if you have already received the blue book value, that's all you are entitled to (even if it immediately went to the lender to be applied to the outstanding balance); if you did not receive the blue book value (or the full value), you could sue for any part of the fair market value you have not yet received.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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