Driver shears utility pole. Pole damages my vehicle. Who is liable for my vehicle repairs.

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Driver shears utility pole. Pole damages my vehicle. Who is liable for my vehicle repairs.

A teenage driver sheared a telephone pole. The pole fell on my property and
damaged my vehicle. I have obtained a rental car, contacted the at-fault-party’s
insurance company, and was informed it could take 3-4 months for my car repair
based on the need to wait for the utility company’s claim submission.

What other recourse do I have? I cannot afford to rent a car for several months,
nor can I afford to repair my vehicle. I only have liability insurance, so my
insurance company does not want to get involved.

Asked on February 2, 2018 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The at-fault driver (i.e. the teen) and/or the driver's legal guardians (if he was a minor) and/or the owner of the car (if someone other than the driver) are liable for the cost to repair your car so long as the driver was in fact at fault (that is, driving negligently or carelessly). 
However, the problem is, while they are liable, and so their insurer should pay for them, assuming that this is covered under the terms of their insurance (as it most likely is), there is no way to compel them to pay faster without filing a lawsuit: except when you bring and either settle or win a lawsuit, payments, even by someone who should be liable or their insurer, are voluntary. Only getting a court judgment in your favor or entering into a settlement creates an enforceable obligation to pay. So while the teen and/or his parents (and therefore likely their insurer) should pay, if they don't, or if they will but simply delay, the only way to force them to pay is by a lawsuit, which itself takes time. You may have to pay for the repairs yourself, even if by charging them (so you can pay over time) or by borrowing money, then look to get reimbursed later.


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