Visitor Question

My car was damaged by building rubble, who can I collect from?

Submitted By: Ryan (New York, NY)

My vehicle was recently damaged by rubble falling off the side of an old university building in Washington Heights (Uptown New York). The right rear body panel was badly dented and the right rear window shattered. A few hours after the incident I took photos and filed a police report that considered it to be vandalism.

I filed an insurance claim and had my agent assess the damage, the result of that being that the the vehicle is considered a total loss.

Since the vehicle was considered a total loss, the insurance company was willing to give me money toward the total estimated value of my car. All of this happened in the first week after the incident, the entire time I was unable to contact anyone at the university as they were closed for a long two week holiday. Since I was unable to contact them I collected on the insurance in a desperate attempt to get my vehicle safe to drive again.

After I had collected the money from my insurance company, I finally got in touch with the appropriate party at the university and they were also willing to settle by giving me a check to cover my vehicle. The university drew up special papers with one small point that I would agree to not collect insurance.

My question is, can I collect the settlement AND keep the insurance money I collected too? If I can’t then is a claim I already collected on reversible? Thank you 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 Ryan,

Without seeing the entire document you signed with the university it’s difficult to say what the university meant when they had you agree  “to not collect insurance…” The phrase is out of context.

  • The first question is, did the university mean you could not file a 1st party insurance claim with your own insurance company?
  • If so, the second question is what penalty the document contains if you do file a 1st party claim?
  • And the third question is whether or not such a penalty would be enforceable?

It is possible the agreement you signed with the university had a clause within it wherein if you choose to file a 1st party claim and collect insurance money, the university maysubrogate against you. To subrogate means to pursue you for monies the university already paid to you. In effect, they are trying to prohibit you from “double dipping.” Why they should care about this is unclear.

Take the time to thoroughly read the university document. If there is language within it indicating the university will pursue you for a return of the monies paid to you, you may have reason to pause and see if it will be worth the trouble to place yourself in a position where you might be the subject of a lawsuit, or the target of a collection agency.

Finally, it is likely you signed a release when you accepted the insurance money.  If so, it’s fair to say you cannot reverse the insurance settlement agreement.

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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