Visitor Question

Paying for previous car damage?

Submitted By: Connie (Salinas, CA)

I was making a right turn on one street off another. I looked to the left and saw a semi truck coming down faster than it should and was really close to the parked cars. So, I put my vehicle in reverse and let it roll back….but, it started to and I found I backed into someone.

I had looked and saw no one so apparently he was closer to me than he should have been. I got out and saw I had no damage whatsoever on my vehicle, yet he shows me this chip and rubber rub mark on his left driver side, under the light. You could tell the damage was not recent. Also, the chip looked like someone had already attempted to fix it, and it was not in line to where I would have hit him.

Long story short, regardless of what the pics showed and what I stated in my statement (he was too close, damage already there, etc.), I had to pay. This was wrong. Even the inspector and those at the collision business who checked my vehicle and the pics of the other said I did not do it. What can I do about this? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Connie,

Thirteen states recognize the Pure Comparative Fault rule, which allows a to recover even if he or she is 99 percent at fault, although the recovery is reduced by the damaged party’s degree of fault. California is one of the states which follow the Pure Comparative Fault doctrine.

In your case, it appears both drivers may have been at fault. Under California law, a driver may not follow another driver too closely.

Under Section 21703 of the California Code…

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”

It appears the collision was minor, and it may be true the damage to the other driver’s car was from a previous collision. Unfortunately, once you or your insurance company paid for the damage, the only recourse you may have is to sue the driver in small claims court.

California small claims courts have a jurisdictional limit of $10,000. This means you have the right to sue the driver for up to that amount. For more information about how to file a small claims lawsuit see California Courts Judicial Branch.

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

Best of luck,

Published: June 12, 2017

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