If I ran into a parked car with my bicycle and damaged it, what are my rights and responsibilities regarding the repair?

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If I ran into a parked car with my bicycle and damaged it, what are my rights and responsibilities regarding the repair?

I left a note on the car. The lady now tells me I did $1,500 damage and her insurance deductible is $1,000, and I’m to pay her deductible. She said the bumper had to be completely replaced. What paperwork am I entitled to review? I already paid her $500 and signed a paper that I would pay another $500 but she didn’t sign this nor did she say what the $500 was for. Can I ask her for her insurance paperwork showing her deductible is $1,000? Can I ask for 3 estimates?

Asked on February 3, 2015 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) Legally, you are liable for all her out-of-pocket losses (e.g. costs to repair) which you caused, because you were negligent, or unreasonably careless, in damaging her car. (It is unreasonably careless to run into a stationary car.)

2) As a general matter, you, however, do *not* have to take what the other person claims for damages at face value, and could insist on getting estimates, invoices, etc. before agreeing to pay anything. You could also offer to pay less than the full amount--or even refuse to pay. Her move, if you do not agree to pay what she feels you should, would then be to sue you: she could win in court whatever amount she can *prove* you caused in damage, but would have to be able to prove it. So if you feel that she is overstating the damage, you could refuse to pay and force her to sue you and prove it in court.

3) The paper you signed would, however, obligate you to pay that extra $500 (regardless of whether she signed it, too; the important thing is that you signed it) IF constitutes a binding contract. It would be a contract if you received something in exchange for your promise to pay, such as a promise in writing that if you pay, that will settle the whole claim and/or that she will not sue you. That way, in exchange for paying the $500, you would get protection from possibly having to pay more.

But if the writing doesn't give you anything, then it would not be a binding contract, since in a contract, each side must get something. If you are not getting anything, then the paper you signed would be a non-bindng promise.


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