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Judgment Proof: When Even The Strongest Car Accident Case Can Recover No Compensation For The Victims

A disturbing surveillance video caught a driver running into and injuring a small handful of teenagers standing on the sidewalk. The driver of the car then backed away and fled the scene of the car crash.

The accident happened on the evening of Sunday, October 13, in Stoneham, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. In the video, four teenagers are standing on the sidewalk, several of them with their bikes beside them. Near them are a parked car and a telephone pole. They seem to be standing at the edge of a curb cut.

Suddenly, a car shaped like a station wagon careens into view, turns sharply right at the teens, and slams into them, throwing several of them into the bushes. Three of the teens can be seen getting up and running out of the video’s frame.

The driver of the car then backs away, hitting the parked vehicle in the process, and flees the scene.

Even if the incident were not caught on camera, holding the driver liable for injuries suffered by the teens in the crash would not be too difficult. Most of the work in a personal injury lawsuit revolves around proving three things:

  1. The defendant had a duty to not put the victim in harm’s way,
  2. They violated that duty, and
  3. That violation caused the victim’s injuries.

Steps one and two would show that the defendant was negligent. Step three would show that the defendant’s negligence caused the injuries.

One of the easiest ways to satisfy steps one and two is to prove that the defendant was per se negligent. People are presumed to be acting negligently if they violate a law or established regulation. In car accident cases, this is most often a traffic code or other rule of the road. Those road regulations are basically codified legal duties that drivers have to uphold.

In this case, that traffic regulation would be the one that forbids people to drive on the sidewalk. By going up on the sidewalk, the driver violated their legal duty to not put other people in harm’s way. It also caused the teenagers’ injuries.

Unfortunately, finding the driver negligent and liable is only one part of a personal injury lawsuit. Proving that the defendant in a case was responsible can all be for nothing if the defendant does not have the financial means to pay the compensation that a victim deserves.

A huge part of a defendant’s ability to pay for the costs of a car accident is whether they have auto insurance.

If they do not have car insurance, victims can have to hold the driver personally liable, meaning the driver would have to pay the victim compensation out of their own pocket. Because most car accidents end with tens of thousands of dollars in damages – especially when, as here, there were four victims – most uninsured drivers will be unable to pay for all the damages they created. They simply do not have the money to cover everything.

These drivers are said to be “judgment proof” because a court judgment against them will not get a victim very far.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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