Am I responsible for repairs if about 2 months ago I went for a ride on a friend’s moped and during the ride I crashed?

The friend didn’t report the accident at first scared because they didn’t want their insurance rates to go up but it became apparent that the moped needed repairs. They asked me outright to pay the quoted damages $1500 and I said to contact their insurance and that maybe I can help with the deductable. Well, 2 months went by, and today I got a letter from an attorney stating that I have 10 days to reimburse her for her loss. It states the moped was totaled and that the friend was given $1500 from the insurance company towards the balance due on the moped. It says that they financed the moped for $2337.40 and they they are seeking the difference from me of $837.40. I’m questioning if this is correct. I realize that’s what it was financed for but I don’t see why it would be my responsibility for the difference. Vehicles lose value the second they are off the lot. It says I have 10 days to contact them. What will happen if I don’t? Small Claims court? And, if so, I need advice on what to do at this point.

Asked on September 6, 2016 under Accident Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) You are only liable IF you were at fault in causing the damage--e.g. you crashed because you were going too fast or riding carelessly or didn't have experience riding a moped (but took it out anyway) or were showing off, etc. If you were not at fault--e.g. a person or animal or car cut you off, causing you to crash; the steering was faulty or a tire blew out; etc.--you are not liable.
2) You are right about depreciation. IF you were at fault, then you have to pay any portion of the then-current (depreciated) value not paid by insurance. So if the moped was then worth, say, $1,800 and the insurer paid $1,500, you'd owe the extra $300. It doesn't matter what they paid (e.g. if someone gave them the moped for free, they could still collect an amount equal to the value) or financed--all that matters is what it was then worth.


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