If I received a check from the at-fault driver’s insurer for damage to my car, am I legally obligated to make the repairs?

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If I received a check from the at-fault driver’s insurer for damage to my car, am I legally obligated to make the repairs?

I was involved in an accident. The other driver’s insurer sent me a check for the damages to my car. Before repairs, the car was traded in, under the assumption that I would pay for the repairs (although nothing is in writing). The dealership took the car in (so I have no agreement with the body shop either).

Asked on September 18, 2011 under Accident Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are two different questions here.

First is the one you asked--are you obligated to make the repairs? The answer is no. The insurer can either wait for repairs to be done, you to submit invoices, and then reimburse those costs; or it can do what it evidently did hear, and proactively send you a check for the value of the damage or likely cost of the repair. When you do that, what you later do with the money is up to you.

Second, though--if you have either orally argreed, as part of the trade in agreement, to pay for repairs, or represented to the dealership prior to them accepting the trade in that you would make repairs, then you may be obligated to carry through with the repairs; if you don't, you may be in breach of contract and/or have committed fraud. You should therefore hold the money to see if you do in fact need to pay for repairs; only once it's clear that the dealership will not come after you for the money, should you consider it yours. Note that oral or verbal agreements, or important representations made to get someone to agree to transact with you, are enforceable; the fact that there is nothing in writing does not necessarily mean you're off the hook for the cost of repairs.


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