We're being sued for more than our insurance policy limits...

by Henry
(Alexandria, LA)

My 17-year-old was in an automobile accident and was at fault. Her mother and I are divorced and are both remarried. I am the domicile parent and I bought my daughter a car and put only my name on the title.

Our insurance just informed us that the other party had retained a lawyer because they are going to want more than the policy limits. My current wife has our house only in her name because she built it before we were married.

A few questions:

1. Can my current wife's income or home equity or other assets in any way be at risk?

2. If they get a judgment in excess of the policy limits, how will it be collected? Will they come after my daughter, ex-wife, and myself?

3. How will they determine who pays what?

Thanks for any insight you can give.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "We're being sued for more than our insurance policy limits...":

Henry (Alexandria, LA):

The Louisiana Civil Code Article 2318 states in part:

"The father and the mother are responsible for the damage occasioned by their minor child, who resides with them or who has been placed by them under the care of other persons, reserving to them recourse against those persons. However, the father and mother are not responsible for the damage occasioned by their minor child who has been emancipated by marriage, by judgment of full emancipation, or by judgment of limited emancipation that expressly relieves the parents of liability for damages occasioned by their minor child."

Under Louisiana law, you and your former wife are the biological parents of the minor. As a result, under Louisiana law you both may be liable. This means your assets, and those of your wife, excluding any homestead exemption your wife may have, may be attached in an amount necessary to pay any excess judgement.

In most cases, excess payments will be jointly and severally owed by biological parents when divorced. How you both agree to pay the excess judgment will be between you and your ex-wife. If you cannot come to an amicable decision regarding apportioning of the amount, a court hearing may be necessary to make the decision.

Read more about Parental Liability in the State of Louisiana:
Louisiana Law Review - Joint Custody and Parents' Liability Under Civil Code Article 2318

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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