A car crash can change your entire life in a matter of seconds. It can leave you with stacks of medical bills, missing paycheck, and severe pain and suffering. You need money to repair your vehicle, cover your bills, and support your family. This raises an important question: Can you sue another driver’s insurance company after an accident?
Technically the answer is ‘no’ — but you can sue the at-fault driver and their insurance company has a legal obligation to indemnify per the terms of their policy. Here, our East Bay personal injury attorney explains the key things to know about holding another driver (and their insurance company) liable for an accident in California.
California is a Fault-Based Auto Accident State
California is an ‘at-fault’ car accident state. If you are involved in a crash with another motorist in the East Bay, you have a right to hold that driver (and their insurance company) accountable for your damages. For this reason, every serious car crash requires a comprehensive investigation by an experienced California auto accident lawyer. While fault is clear in some multi-vehicle collisions, it is disputed in many others
Know the Law: Comparative Negligence
Not all car accidents are the fault of a single party. California operates under a ‘comparative negligence’ legal standard. As explained in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 406), these claims are resolved by the court deciding how much liability each party has by “assigning percentages of responsibility.” Each party to a traffic collision will be held liable for their proportional share of the blame.
For example, imagine that you were injured in a two-car collision in Alameda County. In total, you sustained $15,000 in medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the other driver is found liable for 100 percent of the accident, you can recover 100 percent of your damages ($15,000) from the at-fault party. However, if you are found liable for 20 percent of the fault for the accident, you would be held responsible for 20 percent ($3,000) of your own damages. This means you would be able to recover 80 percent of your damages, or $12,000, from the other driver. This same analysis of comparative fault applies whether your damages are $15,000 or $15,000,000. In accidents where liability is disputed, you sue for 100 percent of your damages and a jury decides whether the defendant is 100 percent liable or whether there is comparative fault and percentages should be assigned.
You Do Not Sue the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company Directly
If another driver was at-fault for your accident, you have the right to hold them responsible for your damages. A lawsuit filed in relation to your crash will generally be filed against the at-fault party. In other words, you do not sue the other driver’s insurance company. That being said, the at-fault driver’s insurance company has a legal duty to indemnify and defend them in accordance with the terms of the insurance policy.
The reason that you typically cannot sue the other driver’s insurance company directly is that the insurer has no legal obligation to you. Instead, the insurer’s obligation is to their policyholder (the at-fault party). Of course, you are still going to be dealing with representatives from the opposing insurance company that is responsible for handling the claim. You should always work with big insurance providers through an experienced California car accident attorney.
Most Car Accident Claims are Not Resolved by a Lawsuit
Bringing a claim against another driver does not necessarily mean you have to file a lawsuit. In fact, only a small percentage of auto accident claims are resolved in court. Most auto accident claims are settled. With extensive experience representing injured victims, our East Bay car accident lawyers can help you initiate the claims process so that you can seek the full and fair financial support that you rightfully deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer in East Bay
At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our East Bay car accident attorneys are skilled, results-focused advocates for injured victims and their loved ones. We know how to hold big insurance carriers accountable for paying claims. Give us a call now or contact us directly online for a free, no obligation review of your case. We represent auto accident victims throughout the East Bay, including in Oakland. Alameda, San Leandro, Hayward, Piedmont, Berkeley, Richmond, and Union City.