If a restaurant sign fell onto my vehicle, how to receive compensation from restaurant?

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If a restaurant sign fell onto my vehicle, how to receive compensation from restaurant?

I parked in a restaurant lot and then went inside to eat. I then heard something tumbling down roof of the restaurant followed by a loud crash. I went outside and discovered that a large section of the restaurant’s metal sign fell onto my vehicle. This has caused significant damage and my insurance is pretty confident that my vehicle will be totalled. I have my own insurance coverage on the vehicle. What will the restaurant be responsible for? The owner has claimed his insurance company will call me. There was a police report filed. My car is an older vehicle so the total loss amount will be no where enough to purchase another used car. Shouldn’t the restaurant be responsible for compensation beyond the price of the total loss evaluation? I by no means have the funds to go out and just purchase a car. It wasn’t something I planned on. This vehicle has been well taken care of,

significant money put into its up keep so it would last several more years. Does not seem right that the restaurant doesn’t owe me some kind of compensation. Is the only way for me to try to receive damages is to sue the restaurant owner?

Asked on December 4, 2017 under Accident Law, Nebraska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) You are only entitled to the then-current fair market value of your car, regardless of who pays it (e.g. your insurer, restaurant's insurer, restaurant itself): all the law gives you when property is damaged or destroyed is the lesser of the cost to repair or its then-current ("blue book") value. It doesn't matter if you can't afford to buy a new car for that amount: that is NOT anyone's concern but your own (i.e. no one else is responsible for the state of your savings or finances).
2) The restaurant would only be liable IF it was at fault in some way: for example, you can show that the restaurant had its staff install the sign and did so in an unsafe or inadequate manner. They are not liable if not at fault, so if a big gust of wind happened to knock it down. You have to prove fault to hold someone liable for damage: they are not responsible for damage done on or by their property unless at fault.
3) If the restaurant is not at fault, their insurer does not have to pay, either.
4) Even if the restaurant is at fault, if they or their insurer will not voluntarily pay you, the only way to get money is by suing (you sue the restaurant, not the insurer)--but since all you can get is the value of your car, if your insurer is already paying that to you, you can't sue the restaurant for any more money. (Exception: you could sue for reasonable, short-term direct costs not covered by your insurance and 100% caused by the incident, like the cost to have your car towed, the cost to rent a car for a few days--though after a few days, you'd be expected to have bought or leased a replacement vehicle--and any deductible you had to pay on your car.)


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