neighbors tree’s fell on my vehicle my insurance has total’ed my vehicle

how do i recoup my value

Asked on March 8, 2018 under Accident Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

1) First, bear in mind that all you are entitled to when your vehicle is totaled is its then-current fair market or "blue book" value--that is, what it was worth at the moment it was destroyed, given its make, model, age, options, mileage, conditions. If you receive that from your insurer--assuming, as seems to the case, that you had the appropriate insurance--then in the law's eyes you were full compensated and can't get anything else.
2) If you had the appropriate insurance and your insurer does not pay you the full value to which you are entitled, you could sue the insurer for "breach of contract," to get them to pay the full blue book value. You would need to prove in court with "expert" testimony--such as by an experienced insurance adjuster, auto appraiser, veteran car salesman, etc.--what the car was then worth.
Of course, when we say that you are entitled to the full then-current value of the car, that does not include your deductible, if any: your insurer does not have to pay you the amount of your deductible, but rather you absorb that amount yourself, out of pocket.
3) If you did not have the relevant insurance or had a large deductible which you'd like to recover, you could try suing the neighbor. BUT the neighbor is *not* liable simply because it was their tree; to be liable, the neighbor would have had to have been at fault in some way. In a case like this, that typically means that they knew or logically should have known that the tree posed a greater-than-normal risk of falling (e.g. it was obviously sick, dead, had bad roots and was leaning, etc.) but, despite knowing of that risk, did not take steps (like having it trimmed or even removed entirely) to reduce the risk. If there was no reason to know of an enhanced risk, then your neighbor would not have been expected to have done anything, would not be at fault, and would not be liable.

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