Visitor Question

What if the at fault driver’s insurance limits don’t cover all expenses?

Submitted By: Maria (Tacoma, WA USA)

I had a T-bone accident that was the other driver’s fault. He was driving his car without brakes and ran a stop sign. He admitted it to the police officer and the police report was made.

I’m wondering what happens if the at fault driver’s insurance limits aren’t enough to compensate me for all of the expenses? Is there anything else I can do?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Maria,

Your damages, including personal injury, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, will have to exceed $25,000 before you begin to take action against the at-fault driver personally.

In the State of Washington insurance policy limit minimums are 25/50/10. This means if you were the only victim in the collision the maximum amount of money available to be paid to you would be $25,000 dollars.

If there was more than one injured passenger in your vehicle at the time of the collision, the maximum amount available would be $50,000 dollars.

The maximum amount available for anyone’s damaged personal property is $10,000 dollars.

To answer your question more specifically, if the at-fault driver’s insurance limits are not sufficient to cover all of your damages you do have a legal right to sue him personally.

In so doing you may have limited access to his personal property. By that we mean certain personal and real property (real estate) is exempt from seizure.

That property is called “Homestead”.

Washington State Law, Section 6.13.030 lays out those specific Homestead exemptions. Here is exactly the way the Homestead protection is set out:

————–

A homestead may consist of lands, as described in Section 6.13.010, regardless of area, but the homestead exemption amount shall not exceed the lesser of

(1) the total net value of the lands, manufactured homes, mobile home, improvements, and other personal property, as described in Section 6.13.010,

Or,

(2) The sum of one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars in the case of lands, manufactured homes, mobile home, and improvements, or the sum of fifteen thousand dollars in the case of other personal property described in Section 6.13.010,

Except,

Where the homestead is subject to execution, attachment, or seizure by or under any legal process whatever to satisfy a judgment in favor of any state for failure to pay that state’s income tax on benefits received while a resident of the state of Washington from a pension or other retirement plan, in which event there shall be no dollar limit on the value of the exemption.

————–

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: September 4, 2011

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