How does car insurance in CA work?
June 28, 2005 6:34 PM   Subscribe

CaliforniaCarInsuranceFilter: My friend (I swear) backed out of a spot at her bank and into the side of an idling car. There's a mess of details I'd like help with...

Here's the details:
(1) The person she backed into was parked illegally in a spot that was striped off; a bank employee who heard of the accident allegedly said "she was parked in that spot? People are not supposed to park there because it is dangerous...";
(2) She was driving her father's car at the time, and she is not covered under his insurance (she is a 25+ year old temporarily living with her folks);
(3) She does not believe she is covered under her own insurance (though that's an open issue);
(4) The victim's insurance has called and informed her that she is not to contact the victim and that the victim is fixing her car (to the tune of $2,000) and the insurance company will be submitting a bill for payment;
(5) the cops came but issued no tickets because the accident occured on private property;
(6) the victim's insurance company (but not agent) is the same as my friend's;
and (7) nobody was hurt and the damage to my friend's car was cosmetic but would be expense to fully fix.

Here are the issues:

(1) if my friend is not insured, she can not afford the $2000 to fix the victim's car. I explained the theory of contributory negligence (namely, that the victim was illegally parked and so it was partially her own stupid fault), but my friend is scared that she'll get busted for being an uninsured driver if she raises that issue and thus she has not pushed the victim's insurance company back. I want to help her get out of this mess, but I don't know how California uninsured motorist stuff works. I have to believe that anyone carrying insurance would be covered under any car for at least the minimum required insurance, right?
I think my advice would be "call the insurer back and explain that you have gotten quotes of your own, that they are [$alot], and that you will be submitting a claim to her insurance for that amount. Then negotiate it from there. If they don't go away, threaten a suit." What do you think? How would you answer this world's-longest-question?
posted by AgentRocket to Law & Government (10 answers total)
"I have to believe that anyone carrying insurance would be covered under any car for at least the minimum required insurance, right?"

No. You can purchase such insurance, but it's usually much more expensive than the basic policy which covers a driver only in a particular vehicle.

On the other hand, your friend can't expect to be busted for being an uninsured driver since she wasn't driving on the roads. Additionally, insurance companies don't bust people, so I'm not sure where that irrational fear comes from.

If your friend won't negotiate on her own behalf, she needs a lawyer to do so. It'll probably wind up being slightly cheaper than the two grand, but possibly not by a lot.
posted by majick at 6:42 PM on June 28, 2005

If she had permision from her father to use the car, she is most likely covered by his insurance. She doesn't have to be listed to be covered. Almost anyone is covered if they have permission to drive the car. The dad should talk to his agent.
posted by lee at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2005

I don't think you'll get very far with the contributory negligence angle of attack. Your friend's negligence in not looking behind her before backing up is a bit more glaring than someone idling where they shouldn't have been. She's lucky it was a car she hit and not [insert animate object here].

What is her father's insurance company? As lee mentioned, most will cover permissioned non-owners -- especially family members.
posted by pmbuko at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2005

Ditto. Insurance goes with the car not the driver. I'm not in California but I've never heard of any place (in the US or Canada) where this is not the case.

If she was not listed on the insurance policy and the insurance company thinks she should have been, then they might have an issue with her Dad (e.g. perhaps he should have been paying slightly higher premiums for the time she's been living there) but she's still covered.
posted by winston at 7:42 PM on June 28, 2005

California also has manditory uninsured motorist coverage, but I'm willing to bet that your friend is covered. The only tricky thing is that in many cases, if you share the same address as the person who has the car insurance, you have to be specifically added to the policy and you're not necessarily covered by their general driver insurance. I discovered that when I moved in with my boyfriend. The only way he was covered to drive my car after we shared the same address was if we were married or if they charged me extra. Immediate family may not have that issue.
posted by Kimberly at 8:11 PM on June 28, 2005

Well, apart from the money issue, you weren't driving it on public property, as the police officer said. Unless you have some really screwed up laws, insurance laws should not apply to cars that aren't driven on the road.

I think the fair way for this to go is to each pay half the damages. You're both at fault. Nobody should hit another car if they're driving properly, and nobody should park somewhere they aren't allowed to.

I'll warn you that if you manage to get this $2,000 from your insurance company, you will pay at least $5,000 in raised premiums over the next few years. Car insurance companies aren't into cutting breaks. At best you'll get this one as a freebie and end up like I was, with $7.5k per year insurance on a 2001 Corolla. Of course, if you already told the insurance company, you may as well claim. You're totally boned in that case. Trust me, I know from experience.
posted by shepd at 10:02 PM on June 28, 2005

Dad needs to talk to his insurance agent and explain what happened. The insurance companies will settle between themselves. No fuss, no muss. Dad's premium will most likely go up. Dad gives "should be more careful next time" speech to daughter and daughter chalks it up to a life lesson.
posted by cyniczny at 10:39 PM on June 28, 2005

AgentRocket, a very similar thing happened to me in a parking lot on private property. However, I was backing up very cautiously and a woman just didn't stop coming towards me. She hit my truck from behind, left a tiny dent in the corner of my bumper and rocked the whole side of her car.

A cop came, said it was on private property, and that he wouldn't file a report or something (this was about 4 years ago, I don't remember exactly, but I think it was basically what happened in your situation). The lady was driving a rental car. The rental car company started sending me letters saying I was responsible for the damage to her vehicle. I responded saying that it was her fault. They responded with more threatening language. I responded with a letter (after consulting with my lawyer stepfather) that simply stated that any further letters from them would be interpreted as harassment and that I would take appropriate action.

They never wrote me again. End of story.

Maybe you've said too much already in this case? Maybe you can still pull off what I did? I don't think so. Regardless, it's a private matter. I don't believe you are required to do anything. Consider the numbers shepd talks about in his answer. Don't pay for anything! The person who had their car smashed into is really hoping you'll pay, but you don't have to!
posted by redteam at 11:51 PM on June 28, 2005

Woops ... I meant:

Maybe you've said too much already in this case? I don't think so. Maybe you can still pull off what I did? Probably. Regardless, it's a private matter. ...........

posted by redteam at 7:49 AM on June 29, 2005

As said above she's probably covered.

It's likely that the insurance companies will sort everything out but in case not, you'll be happy to have your notes in case things get sticky.

If it were me I'd sit down and write everything that I know about the accident. Where was I going, what was I doing, how did it happen, what was the time, names, addresses, license numbers, police badge numbers, phone numbers, witnesses, everything. Date this and file it somewhere safe.

If the police filed a report request a copy of it and add it to your file.

If you took pictures of the damage add them to your file (get a disposable camera with a flash for your car).

I ended up being sued for an accident several years after the fact. It was nice to have some simple notes and a copy of the police report. 3 years after the accident I was found 20% at fault. A key was info that I was able to point out was in the police report.
posted by deanj at 2:49 PM on June 29, 2005

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