Very minor car damage with claim of major personal injury?

by Roberta
(San Diego, CA)

We had almost come to a complete stop at an intersection when the light turned green. The other driver proceeded through the intersection but stopped suddenly in the middle, for no apparent reason. I tapped him in the center rear end at under 5 mph. We both drove about 3 blocks to find a safe place to stop.

Damage to my car was a very slightly bent license plate. I saw no damage to his car. We exchanged information. My insurance company's adjuster rated his car's damages at lowest possible in CA, $750.00. He is now suing for personal injuries above my coverage and my insurance company says this guy might sue me personally.

I told my insurance company from the start that I got the feeling he stopped on purpose. The first words out of his mouth after he jumped out of his car were "I'm disabled, I'm disabled" as he waved some piece of paper in my face.

He had no special license plate or placard and began rushing about, chattering and taking pictures. I let him take a picture of my driver's license, at which time he started making exaggerated shaking motions with his right hand and said to me "see, I'm shaking" I got the spooky feeling he had done this before.

I am 61 years old, have been driving for over 45 years, and have never been in a car accident. He was probably in his 50's. What possible judgement could he get against me? It's very apparent that I barely tapped his car. This is stressing me out to no end. What will happen? Can I prove his claim is fake? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Very minor car damage with claim of major personal injury?":

Roberta (San Diego, CA):

You stated, "He is now suing for personal injuries above and beyond my coverage and my insurance company says this guy might sue me personally."

While you state he is suing you, according to your insurance company he hasn't sued you yet. We will presume you meant he is demanding money from you for his injuries and the amount he is demanding is above your policy limits.

In the State of California, the minimum legal requirements for car insurance are:

- $15,000 for injuries to one person arising out of one accident
- $30,000 for injuries to two or more persons arising out of one accident
- $5,000 for property damage arising out of one accident

For more information on California car insurance requirements go to:
California Department of Motor Vehicles

It appears your insurance company may have unintentionally mislead you, or that you didn't understand what they said. Anyone can sue anyone else at any time for just about anything...but that doesn't mean their lawsuit is legitimate or viable.

In your case, if you tapped the man’s bumper at 5 mph, it would be almost impossible for him to have sustained injuries requiring medical or chiropractic treatment, especially with related expenses in an amount above the minimum statutory insurance limit of $15,000.

Your insurance is legally obligated to pay the man’s medical bills and related expenses up to your policy limits. And that is only if your insurance company believes the man’s claim is legitimate. If they don't believe his claim is real, they can deny the claim, or make him an offer in an amount much less than he is demanding

In the event the your insurance company denies the claim or offers the man less than he is demanding, and the man sues you, your insurance company is legally obligated to provide an attorney at no cost to defend you in the lawsuit up to the maximum policy limits. That's the way it works for all insurance companies and their insured.

When people sue for injuries, they aren't supposed to sue the insurance company, but instead, the insured. Then the insurance company steps in to defend the insured. It's the same for you.

Don't worry. For the man to succeed in a lawsuit will require him to have expert medical proof of his injuries and that those injuries required medical and/or chiropractic treatment in excess of $15,000. From the facts you present, that is very unlikely. Let your insurance company handle the matter and stop worrying. You should be just fine.

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,

Judge Calisi

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