Getting compensation from uninsured driver for causing a serious accident?
(San Francisco, CA)
I was hit while driving my motorcycle by an 18 year old driver. In the police report it states he didn't have insurance, he was at fault, and he was sited for making a reckless turn.
I was transported to the hospital with several broken bones, including every bone in my right arm and hand, a fractured pelvis, and several broken ribs. I underwent several surgeries to repair bones/nerves/tendons using permanent pins and metal. I was in a wheelchair for six months and attended physical therapy for several months 2 times a week.
At the time of my accident I had just been laid off of my job of ten years, so I no longer had health coverage. Medi-Cal did cover the surgeries but I now have several other hospital related bills that I'm being charged, totaling over $10,000. I talked to a lawyer regarding my case and was told since the other party had no insurance there was nothing that could be done.
It has now been 13 months since the accident and I'm done with the healing process, but because of the severity of the injuries I'm in pain daily. Unfortunately my Dr. says that my right hand most likely will never fully rotate again, and I no longer have any function in my right small finger. And the pelvic injury has caused me to have random knee failure.
Is there REALLY nothing that can be done if the 18 year old driver at fault had no insurance? I didn't have uninsured motorist coverage, only liability. Any insight regarding my accident and how to make the liable party take responsibility would be so very appreciated. Thank you for reading!
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ANSWER for "Getting compensation from uninsured driver for causing a serious accident?":
Sara (San Francisco, CA):
It appears absolutely clear the 18 year old driver was at fault. Moreover, there is no indication you contributed to the collision. While the driver had no car insurance, you still have a right to pursue him personally for your injuries and related expenses.
Most 18 year olds haven't amassed sufficient savings, nor do they usually have sufficient assets to cover the damages caused as a result of the negligent driving. This may be especially true of the 18 year old driver. It is a fair assumption if he had sufficient assets he would likely have purchased liability insurance. He obviously didn't.
However, if you file a lawsuit against him you can still take a judgment against him. While a judgment appears to be just a piece of paper, it is really much more than that.
If you sue the 18 year old he may or may not file an answer to the lawsuit. If he does, it is very likely he will have to retain an attorney on a hourly basis to represent him. If he can't afford an attorney, and it appears likely he won't be able to, he will either have to represent himself in court, or he may just fail to respond to the lawsuit.
When that happens, you will be able to ask the judge to award you a judgement against the driver in amount which will cover all your damages.
Here's the part you probably haven't thought about...
On its face a paper judgment may seem like nothing more than that - a paper judgement. However, once you have the judgement you can file it in the county records department in which you reside, and in the county records department in which the 18 year old resides.
The judgment will accrue interest at the lawful rate. That can be anywhere from about 8% to 10% depending upon the court. Once you file the judgement with the county you can have it "abstracted." To have the judgment abstracted means it will remain in the county records for a period of 10 years and while doing so continue to accrue interest.
You can see California's Abstract Of Judgement here.
Sometime in the future, whether it's a month, a year, two years, or even ten years, that same driver will want to purchase a home, or attempt to obtain financing for a large purchase. When he does, the judgment will pop up and be seen by the driver's creditors. Before making a loan, the creditor may ask the driver to pay the judgment.
In some cases, especially when it comes to home purchases, buyers can request an amount of mortgage money with thousands of dollars more to pay debts, buy furnishings, and otherwise use the money for personal purposes.
In your case, you can be confident there will come a time when you will receive a phone call from the driver, a mortgage company, bank, or other creditor asking for the full amount owed to you. Once that occurs you may very likely shortly thereafter receive a check in the mail for that amount.
Additionally, once you obtain a judgement in California, you can seek a Wage Garnishment from the 18 year old's employer. For information on how to proceed with a wage garnishment in California see this page.
Finally, because the judgement is a result of a motor vehicle accident, you can request the driver's license be suspended until he pays the amount of the judgment in full, or comes to an payment agreement with you.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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