In a rare amount of cases, where the other driver admits liability at the scene, if cited by the police officer, or the insurance company admits liability early on, you may have the choice of either having your vehicle repaired by the other party's insurance company or your own insurance company. The difference is that if you have your vehicle repaired by the other party's insurance company, you may not have to pay your deductible, but you will be required to pay property damage release, thereby releasing the insurance company and the driver at fault for any property damage that may occur in the near future.
In our motorcycle cases, we found that this is not a good way to go as sometimes the motorcycles may have substantial frame, faring, or mechanical damage which is not repaired or discovered during the repair process. As such, our motorcyclist will be precluded from going back to the insurance company as they have signed a settlement release.
In the alternative, if you have property damage coverage, we recommend that you have your motorcycle repaired through your own insurance company. They will provide prompt, fair, and equitable settlement for your property damage claim and usually provide a "guarantee" of the work done. Furthermore, you will not be required to sign a "property damage release" and you may return the motorcycle back to the repair location for repairs if any exist in the near future.
As such, it is important that you contact your insurance company immediately after the accident and prepare a detailed written or recorded claim. Some insurance companies have requirements that a claim be reported within ten (10) days of an accident. You may be precluded from getting your prompt damage repairs or from coverage if you do not timely file a claim.
Important questions to ask your insurance company or your insurance company representatives is if you have rental car reimbursement coverage, collision coverage, medical payment coverage, or other coverage that will reimburse you for towing and storage charges.
Most of our motorcycle clients do not have adequate coverage. Unfortunately, they do not find out until after they have had an accident. So, while the other driver?s insurance company is taking time to evaluate the accident and investigate liability, it could turn out to be costly bag of costs, towing, storage, and other expenses that could easily have been handled through their own insurance company had they initially obtained adequate coverage in the first place.
As such, whenever you purchase a new motorcycle or used motorcycle, you must get new liability coverage for the motorcycle to protect you and others in case of an accident. In rare occasions, the driver at fault does not have any insurance. We will have to go directly against the driver at fault for reimbursement of the towing and storage charges. This may mean we may be required to go to court against the negligent driver to obtain reimbursement for your property damage, or you may be required to file a small claims lawsuit against the negligent driver seeking reimbursement or repayment for the money paid out-of-pocket by you.
In California, the limited jurisdiction for small claims court is $5,000.00. The filing fee is usually anywhere from $20.00 to $30.00, and you can have a marshal or sheriff serve the complaint on the defendant or driver at fault for an additional $20.00 or $30.00. Normally, you will get a trial within three to four weeks. At that time, you will be before judge or judge pro tem, similar to the job that I formerly had in Orange County. A judge will hear the facts of the case and he will be able to use a Traffic Collision Report without additional foundation to establish liability. You may then obtain a judgment for your out-of-pocket expenses, which may include your property damage, towing, storage, and other motorcycle-related expenses.
The difficulty is enforcement of judgment after the judgment has been rendered. If the person did not have insurance, he may not have assets to pay for your judgment or satisfy your judgment. As such, you need the consultation of a good attorney to do a limited assets search to determine if the driver at fault has any assets, real property, or other income that may satisfy your judgment.
Furthermore, you may determine whether your small claims court would preclude you from filing a bodily injury claim for an amount more than $5,000.00. Proper consultation from a qualified motorcycle lawyer is necessary to determine what steps should be taken to seek reimbursement or obtain justice.
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