What do I do if I was injured in an accident caused by a family member or a friend? Do I have to sue them?
Many people are reluctant to pursue a claim when the cause of their injury is a fellow family member or close friend. I once had a client absolutely refuse to pursue a claim because he indicated his father would be extremely upset if he pursued a claim against him even though the accident and his injuries were his dad’s fault.
What is the effect of pursuing a claim against a family member or a friend?
First of all, in Pennsylvania, if suit needs to be filed, you are rarely able to sue an insurance company directly. Suit has to be filed against the negligent person. In fact, insurance companies count on the fact that this will discourage many claims—and it does. Yet, in most cases, pursuit of a claim will have no effect upon the family member. For instance, suppose you are a passenger in a vehicle driven by a family member and that person loses control of the vehicle, causing damage to the vehicle and injuries to you. Will it matter if you decide to pursue a claim against the person’s insurance company? Not if the property damage was over $1,550. Pennsylvania regulations permit an insurer to assess a “fault accident” if the damages exceed $1,550 (this amount, set in 2014 is adjusted every 3 years). Hence, if the person submitted a claim to repair the vehicle and the carrier paid more than $1,550, the accident is a “fault accident” whether a claim is pursued for injury damages or not. Pursuing such a claim for your injuries does not make it worse. This is just one example and there are myriad other situations which will be the focus of other articles.
If you find yourself in such a situation, the most important thing is to seek the advice of a lawyer immediately. Most claims can be resolved fairly quickly, which will eliminate the need to file suit against the family member or friend. The claim can be resolved against the insurance company before suit will need to be filed and with no additional ramifications. In fact, resolving the claim against that insurer may be a prerequisite to the pursuit of a claim against other insurers and coverages that may apply to your claim.
If you have such a situation, please consider calling for a free appointment earlier rather than later. You will help to eliminate, or at least minimize, what could be a difficult situation. If you want to learn more, read about how we can help you after a motor vehicle collision.