As the at-fault driver, can I keep the other party’s car if it was deemed a total loss?

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As the at-fault driver, can I keep the other party’s car if it was deemed a total loss?

About 3 months ago when I was a parking, I hit a car from the side. I didn’t have insurance but I stayed until the owner came back, actually it was the owner’s niece. No one was involved and no one got hurt; the car was just parked. I waited until her niece came back and exchanged information. Days after, the owners told me to just pay them the deductible and that was it. We did a written agreement with their signatures stating that I was only responsible for the deductible. Now their insurer is seeking payment of $3,500. They took it to subrogation so I can pay their total loss. I heard when there’s a total loss you can get to keep the car if your paying for the loss. Is that true?

Asked on April 25, 2018 under Accident Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, paying for another party's loss or damage does not automatically give you ownership of the damaged or destroyed asset, particularly when there is someone else with a claim on it. In subrogation cases, the car goes to the insurer, who pays the car owner for his loss. That the insurer is suing you for reimbursement of their costs does not give you the right to the car.


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