Question: What is liability insurance? If my neighbor hits me and he only has liability, will it still cover my injuries and damages to my car? I’m in California.
Answer: Your neighbor’s liability coverages are made exactly for situations such as this, where he is found legally liable for causing damages to others with his vehicle.
Most states require that both bodily injury liability and property damage liability, up to certain limits, are carried on any car registered and driven on the roadway, so that drivers have a way in which to compensate the people they may harm. Without having such liability coverages, car owners would be personally responsible to pay for the damages they cause.
You neighbor only having liability coverage on his car insurance policy doesn’t affect you, since it’s all you need in order to make your claims, but it does mean he doesn’t have collision coverage that he would need to cover his damaged car.
California car insurance has quite low liability limits in comparison to other states. California state law requires minimum bodily injury liability limits of $15,000 per injured person up to a total of $30,000 per accident, and property damage liability coverage with a minimum limit of $5,000.
If your neighbor has only the state minimum mandated coverages, and your accident was severe, it’s possible that his limits will be exceeded. If that happens, then you’d have to pursue him personally to pay for the portion of your medical expenses and/or vehicle’s repairs that were not covered by his auto insurance policy.
If you are worried that your car’s damages won’t be covered fully by your neighbor’s insurance, and don’t want to be in the uncomfortable position of going after him personally for the excess, then you can make a collision claim through your own car insurance policy, if you carry this coverage.
If you have collision coverage, then instead of making a property damage liability claim against your neighbor, you would make a claim through your own collision coverage, which would pay for the full cost of your repairs or the actual cash value of your vehicle if it’s found to be a total loss. The downside is that you would have to pay the deductible, though you may want to encourage your neighbor to reimburse you that amount.
If your neighbor has hit your car and you have already obtained his car insurance information, then the next step is to call his insurance company's claims department and file your claims with them.