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Real Life Question-and-Answer Series: Driver Learns His Car Is Covered But He Is Not

REAL QUESTION FROM A REAL PERSON:

I was in a car accident where the other driver was at fault. he cut in front of me and totaled my car.at the time i thought i was covered and later found that the car was covered but i wasn’t, was considered an excluded driver but never remembered signing anything saying i was. his insurance company payed 60% of the damage after he said i had my turn signal on even though i didn’t and i settled because i was out of a car… he fought his ticket for driving into on coming traffic and won, but now he’s coming after me for damages to his truck because he’s saying i was uninsured.what should i do and what are my options.

ANSWER FROM Purchase, George & MURPHEY:

There are some components of this question that have me confused. For example, I’ve never heard of the titled owner of a car being an excluded driver on the policy applicable to that car. I’d be surprised and concerned about an insurance company that was willing to write such a policy because it seems virtually certain that they are inviting you to drive without insurance. So, I’m guessing that you’re not the title owner; but if that’s wrong, please let me know as that fact might cause me to want to know more.

However, assuming that you are not the title owner of the vehicle and are not a named insured on the policy, then it is not necessary that you sign anything to be considered an excluded driver on the policy. The only signature(s) required would be that of the named insured.

As for the other driver’s lawsuit, you should notify the insurance company for the car you were operating. They will probably deny you defense/coverage, but it is nevertheless necessary to give them notice and an opportunity to investigate/defend in order to protect any claims you may have against the insurance carrier for the car you were operating.

If you have any other insurance that may apply to you, even if it’s on another car or is issued to a resident relative, you should notify that carrier, too.

Assuming that you have no coverage, then you need to make some hard decisions. Your options include: (1) retain counsel to defend you (which will not be inexpensive); (2) defend yourself; or (3) reach a settlement agreement with the other driver. Other options include some hybrid of these options.

There are other issues to consider. For example, did the other driver have collision coverage, and was he paid, in whole or in part, for the damage? In what Court was the other driver’s suit filed? If in Magistrate Court, then defending yourself might be a more viable option. If in the Court of Common Pleas, then you probably will not be able to defend yourself effectively. Was your exclusion adequately documented? These are the sorts of things a lawyer could track down for you if it were economically warranted.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have coverage, many of these questions (and your approach to resolving them) may be determined by economics. For example, it may be that you have valid defenses to the other driver’s suit against you. But if the other driver’s suit could be settled for $5,000 and it would cost you $10,000 to defend yourself, then it may not be worthwhile to defend yourself.

I’d recommend you contact the Crawford County Bar Association and ask for a referral to a lawyer who practices in the personal injury area. Your case doesn’t present any apparent personal injury questions, but it does involve legal questions with which a P.I. lawyer would be familiar. You should not expect a free consult, however. While many P.I. lawyers offer free consults for P.I. cases, I’d be surprised if an experienced P.I. attorney would meet with you without a fee in a case like this one.

Good luck, Meadville.

P.S. The outcome of the other driver’s charges really doesn’t have any bearing on the suit against you. Nor does your settlement agreement, except that your agreement probably prevents you from asserting a counterclaim (assuming you signed a release). Also, you didn’t mention whether you were injured and therefore I’ve assumed that you were not injured.

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Mr. George and his entire office staff were very kind and helping me through my first ever experience with the law. He was able to get me exactly what he said he would in the outcome of my trial. The entire staff was very informative and kept me up to date on everything. Very pleased with my experience and would most definately recommend him to others.

Allison, July 8, 2017