Am I responsible for buying the other party a new car after a minor collision?

by Luis
(Green Bay, Wisconsin)

I rear ended a car in a school parking lot at very low speed, which caused a minor dent. The other party immediately called the police for this small dent. I do not have insurance and was given a ticket for not having it and given a ticket for inattentive driving.

The insurance company is telling me the other party has a type of insurance where if they get in an accident they get another car that is newer in age. They are telling me I have to pay for a whole new vehicle. I can not afford this and was wondering if this is a legit thing. I offered to get the dent fixed, but they denied this offer.

Am I really responsible for buying the other party a new car? What can I do about this? Thank you for any information you can provide.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Am I responsible for buying the other party a new car after a minor collision?":

Luis (Green Bay, Wisconsin):

From the facts you present, there is no legitimate reason the other driver has a right to a new car under her insurance policy. Something just isn't right. If there was only a minor dent you should be required to pay for the repair, and not the replacement of the driver’s car. That borders on the absurd.

Wait until you receive a written letter from the driver or the driver’s insurance company. If the other driver sends you a letter demanding you pay for her new car, you should consider ignoring it. Alternatively, if you receive a letter from the driver’s insurance company, you can be confident you will not be asked to pay for their insured's new car. That just doesn't make any sense, whether practical or legal.

Ask the driver for three (3) estimates for the repair of his or her car. Once received, offer to pay for the repair of the dent and no more. No matter what you believe, it is extremely unlikely you will be sued. Lawsuits over a minor dent will not survive the court's scrutiny.

You may want to consider not agreeing to plead guilty to the traffic citation.

Instead, ask the prosecutor to offer you a probationary sentence in which once you prove you have the required car insurance, you would pay a nominal fine. Ask for time to pay it out and a relatively short period of probation, where at the end of that probationary period your case would be dismissed, keeping it off your driving record.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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