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

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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