Visitor Question

Car dented by man throwing a wooden board…

Submitted By: Rachel (Squaw Valley, CA)

My fairly new car was parked on private property and was dented and scratched when a man threw a wooden board, hitting my car. When I approached him he acknowledged he caused the damage but became angry and hostile when I inquired about compensation for repairs. He even told me to make a false insurance claim using my insurance, saying it happened in a public parking lot and I didn’t know who was at fault.

I refused and since he was hostile I called the police to make a report to start the process to get reimbursed. The man put on a show for the officers by acting cooperative and agreeable until they left. The officers made a ‘judgement call’ that it wasn’t vandalism based on ‘the evidence’ (aka: the show he was putting on for them) which meant not writing any kind of report or statement or even obtaining any information about him, like his name and address.

I do have the name and number of one of the officers though. So after they left I recorded the man responsible while I asked him again if he was going to pay for the damage he caused. He refused to give me a verbal confirmation that he would pay for the repair. He told me to get 3 estimates and “we’ll see” (if he’ll pay) IF he thought it wasn’t too much and IF it was in his budget.

Since I was trying to get a verbal (recorded) promise of payment, I added to the end of that “and you’re going to pay for the repair?” He became angry again and said not to put words in his mouth. So I said, “ok, to be clear, you want me to get 3 estimates and if YOU think it’s not too much, AND it’s in YOUR budget, then you’ll pay for it, is that right?”

He started insulting me and yelling and trying to change the subject, so I walked away. He lives across the street so I have his address and I also know his full name, so I plan on seeking compensation.

Since I barely drive I currently have liability only, so not sure how my insurance co. handles these things, not that I would want them involved anyhow.

Am I eligible to request payment for attorney fees and court costs as well as for the damage? (I live in California.) Also, am I correct in that I DO NOT have to shop around requesting estimates to appease this man? I am allowed to simply take it to any reasonable repair shop and provide him the invoice for payment, is that correct?

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

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.

Answer

Dear Rachel,

Let’s break down your questions:

“Also, am I correct in that I DO NOT have to shop around requesting estimates to appease this man?”

While California law does not require you to obtain three estimates for the repairs, it would be advisable to do so. Doing so adds credibility to your request when asking the driver to pay for the repairs to your car.

Send a certified letter to the driver. Ask the driver to pay for the repairs to your car. To show you are acting in good faith, you might consider asking the driver to pay the amount of the lowest estimate. That’s up to you. The letter should include copies of the three estimates. Presuming the police report is in your favor, include a copy of the report as well.

Give the driver a week to ten days to pay you for the repairs. If he refuses, you can consider filing a Small Claims lawsuit. California Small Claims Courts have jurisdiction (authority) to hear cases up to $5,000.

“Am I eligible to request payment for attorney fees and court costs as well as for the damage?”

If you retain an attorney and prevail in court, you have a right to ask the court to order the man to pay attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult to find an attorney who will accept your case. The $5,000 jurisdictional limit is just not substantial enough for an attorney’s time and effort.

If you prevail, it is likely the court will order the driver to pay for the repairs to your car, and the reasonable costs you have expended in pursuit of justice. Reasonable costs might include the lawsuit filing fee, and possibly your lost wages, if you had to take off time to be in court, or to obtain estimates for the repair of your car.

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: October 19, 2017

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