Is a sign company responsible damage done by the equipment they rent out?

Is the company who supplies construction pylons responsible for the equipment they may rent out? I was driving down the interstate and I pulled into the passing lane and slammed into a stray construction pylon that was in that lane. There was no construction going on anywhere near that stretch of highway, so there was no reason for the pylon to be on the road. It did about $1500 worth of damage to my vehicle. I contacted the company. They were initially very understanding of the whole thing. However, once I submitted the repair estimate to them, they called me and said they would not pay it, their insurance would not pay it, and they were not responsible for that piece of equipment that very clearly had their name written on it. I’m frustrated and need my vehicle fixed. Are they not responsible for their equipment, whether that pylon fell off of one of their trucks or was one that they rented out to some other company. It’s still their equipment, right?

Asked on April 24, 2017 under Accident Law, North Dakota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, they are not responsible just because it is their equipment, any more than you would be responsible if, while you were raking leaves, a neighbor grabbed your rake and hit another person with it: owning something does not, by itself, make you liable for damage or injuries caused by that thing. They would be responsible only if *they* were at fault: e.g. they placed it in that lane in a dangerous location; it fell off their truck and landed there while they were transporting it because they had not secured it properly; etc. But if somone else was at fault (e.g. the company they leased/rented it to misplaced it), then that person or company is whom you'd have to sue; and if no one was at fault (e.g. it shifted over due to weather or ground/pavement subsidience) then no one is liable. You have to show fault to hold someone liable, so you can only successfully sue (which is what you have to do if no one will voluntarily pay) and recover money if you can identify an at-fault party and show how they were at fault.


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