If I backed into a car but it was later in an accident and had damage to the same spot, amI still liable to pay?

I backed into my friend’s car at low speed in a parking lot. We have a disagreement about what happened and I have a witness; the police were not called. The visible damage at the time was a corner of the bumper sticking out. I was stupid and did not take pictures. He contacted me later saying the light was cracked and the shop wanted to replace the bumper. However, before he took the car in, I stopped hearing from him for approximately 2 months. He contacted me about a week ago and told me he had been rear-ended and the damage to the back was bad. He still wants money for our wreck. What should I do?

Asked on November 27, 2011 under Accident Law, Texas

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding your automobile accident.  The answer to your question can be both a “yes” and a “no.”  In theory, if you have caused damage to someone else’s vehicle, then you would be held liable to pay the costs to repair their vehicle.  Whether you would have your automobile insurance pay or you would pay the costs out-of-pocket, if you were driving and caused an accident, then you are responsible for any damage arising from that accident.

However, as in all negligence cases, such as a car accident, the person whose property is damaged or harmed needs to prove that there is actual damage to the property.  Your “friend” would have been in a good position to prove this right after the accident.  Now, two months have passed, and he would need to show that the damage that is on his vehicle is from the accident when you were driving.  At this point with all of the damage to his vehicle, it would be difficult to discern what damage, if any, was from the accident when you were driving and the damage from his most recent accident. 

If this second accident alone was enough for his bumper to be replaced, then it is unclear what money he needs from you, because the bumper can no longer be repaired.  There could be a scenario where he would be entitled to money from the first accident, and that would be if an auto adjuster could prove that the damage from the first accident is what caused the damage in the second accident to be so bad that the bumper needs to be replaced.

If you do not believe you owe him the money at this point, you could wait until he sues you in small claims court, and he would need to prove to the judge exactly what damaged you caused to his vehicle at the time you were in the accident.

 


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