How do I get someone to take responsibility for an accident?

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How do I get someone to take responsibility for an accident?

I live in a condo complex where my garage faces my neighbor’s. Last night I returned home and saw my neighbor in her open garage. In order to pull into my garage, I had to back up towards hers. That’s when she closed her garage and it ended up hitting the top of my trunk, leaving a dent and scratches. She apologized, saying she was distracted by her mother and “forgot” I was there. She also said she would pay for the damages. I typed up a document for her to sign stating she was going to pay for the damages, however when I brought it to her to sign an hour later she had changed her mind. She said that the incident wasn’t her fault and I was too close to her garage. Who is at fault?

Asked on August 1, 2013 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Your neighbor is liable for the accident.  You could file a property damage claim with her homeowner's insurance carrier for the cost of repairs to your car.

If she doesn't provide you the name of her homeowner's insurance carrier, another alternative would be to sue your neighbor in Small Claims Court for negligence.  Your damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking in Small Claims Court) would be the cost of repairs to your car plus court costs (court costs would include the process server fee and court filing fee).  If you need a rental car while your car is being repaired, that should also be included in your damages.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by selecting a rental car with a reasonable rate.  You will also need to mitigate damages by selecting an auto body repair shop whose charges are comparable to other auto body shops in the area.  If you were to select the most expensive auto body shop you could find and/or the most expensive rental car you could find, you would have failed to mitigate damages and your damages would be reduced accordingly.


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