What are ou rights if our leased car was totaled and we’ve been left with no transportation?

Our leased car was totaled; it was not our fault. We are now unable to get another car right now. We had GAP insurance and the insurer is covering the market value of the car. We have been left with no vehicle and are not in the position to get another one. Can we pursue personal damages, at least to get money for a down payment? Also, we need to extend the rental they gave us; they told us only 5 days.

Asked on September 5, 2017 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

From the context of your question, it appears you are asking about suing the at-fault driver. If so, you cannot get more for a car than the then-current-value of the car which was totalled, and if that amount was paid by an insurer--even if went to the leasing company/dealership, to pay off the lease or "buyout" amount, etc.--that is all you are entitled to in terms of car compensation. When property is destroyed, the law gives you its value, but no more than that. (Which is fair: if something worth $20k is destroyed, if $20k is paid in compensation, it is 100% compensated.) The law does not take cognizance of--that is, does not take into consideration--your financial position and whether you need more more, such as for a down payment; all you can get for the destroyed vehicle is what it was then worth. The rule for compensation are built around the average reasonable person and, do not give those lacking resources more money (or those who are rich and don't "need" the compensation less).
You can sue for additional rental coverage, but only for a "reasonable" time: the amount of time the average or typical person--NOT you specifically--would take to lease or buy a new car. 
If you missed work for a small number of days owing to the lack of a car, you can sue for missed wages, but again, after a few days, since the average person would find some other way to work (ride sharing, mass transit, etc.), you can only get a few days of this.
If you suffered medical costs (out of pocket costs; not paid by health or other insurance), you can sue for those. If you suffered injuries causing long-term disability or life impairment, you can sue for "pain and suffering," but such a lawsuit requires hiring medical doctors as experts to prove the extent and effect of the injuries and their prognosis, which can be very expensive.


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