La Habra, CA asked in Civil Litigation and Car Accidents for California

Q: I rear ended someone on april 1, 2019. They are suing me and the damages are over my policy limits.

I was married on april 28th 2018. My wife has a house in her name, I am not on it. Should we file our taxes separate or joint for 2018? Can they come after her house? I want to protect my wife's assets.

6 Lawyer Answers

Dale S. Gribow

Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Palm Desert, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: more info needed.

usually, when the party at fault does not have insurance and assets the injured party will present an underinsured motorist claim against their ins policy.

you are asking a tax question in a criminal forum. My gut feeling is you would not have exposure but the question should be presented to a tax lawyer in your area.

William John Light

Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Her separate property assets are not subject to collection efforts for your pre-marital debts. You should demand that your insurer attempt to settle the claims against you within your policy limits. If it cannot do so, you should consult with bankruptcy counsel about getting any excess liability against you discharged.

William John Light

Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: PS, filing taxes should not affect the exposure of assets to judgment collection efforts. You have a pre-marital, separate property debt. Your pre-marital, separate property assets are exposed, if the plaintiff decides to pursue it. Your interest in community property assets (acquired after marriage) is also exposed. Do not commingle your income into a joint account. Do not make mortgage payments on her house, or on any other asset she holds in her name.

Vernon Charles Tucker

Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Simi Valley, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: There is two parts to an auto accident claim typically. Those two parts are Bodily Injury and Property Damage.

I would imagine you are being pursued for the property damage portion of the claim since typically if you do not have enough insurance for bodily injury damages a claim for underinsured motorist will be presented to the carrier for the plaintiff and this portion will be resolved.

This is a premarital obligation, so your wife's seperate property should be protected so long as she holds title as a "single woman". The insurance company should not be able to attach to the property if judgment is obtained.

My advice to you is to either prove to the insurance company you cannot contribute to the claim with an asset declaration or settle the matter for pennies on the dollar.

Keep in mind if you are sued your insurance company should defend you and will try to settle the matter within the confines of the policy limits. Make sure you are in constant contact with your carrier and if you are served with papers to immediately notify them so they can appoint defense.

Please feel free to reach out if I can be of further assistance.

Vernon C. Tucker, Esq.

Peter N. Munsing

PREMIUM
Answered
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Wyomissing, PA

A: A lot depends on how California treats jointly held property. If it's like Pennsylvania, it's actually protected here. If it's not then leave it in wife's name. A spouse isn't responsible for the other spouse's debts unless the spouse chooses to be responsible. However if there's insurance, your insurance will want a "release" which protects you . Talk to your insurance but in the meantime don't put wife's things in your name.

Louis George Fazzi

Answered
  • Jess Ranch, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I'm going to go out on a limb here and presume the accident was in 2018, not 2019. Your insurance company has an obligation to protect you by resolving the accident case within the policy limits. What a party asks for in damages before there has been a trial doesn't really mean a whole lot. What matters is what a jury says the other party's damages are. Your own insurance company has the obligation to protect your personal assets by trying to get the case settled within the policy limits you have.

However, if you had low policy limits, say $15,000, and the injuries to the other party are severe, you should discuss with the lawyers who are retained to defend you what strategies you can employ to protect yourself and your assets. I'm sure they can steer you in the right direction.

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