If school insurance won’t pay repair to my wife’s car, what rights do we have?

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If school insurance won’t pay repair to my wife’s car, what rights do we have?

My wife is a teacher and the school premises have automatic gates. These gates are operated by a school employee. When she was leaving school after a long working day the automatic gates closed on her vehicle and caused $500 worth of damage. The school’s insurance company stated they weren’t liable so won’t be paying. They claim that there is no evidence that the sensors were faulty. I’m sure the evidence for this is the damage to our car? The head teacher and the governors also voted against paying for the damage as they couldn’t prove the gates were faulty. Now there is evidence that they were faulty at that instance because they closed on my wife’s car, witnessed by the operator. This has also happened 3 times before over the last 4 years. In short the car was damaged on school property, by school property whilst being controlled by an employee of the school. So my family has been forced to repair the car and fight the school and its insurance company to get our money back causing a lot of stress for us and tension for my wife at work. They are refusing to reimburse us although this isn’t our fault. How can we take this further and what are our rights?

Asked on November 25, 2017 under Accident Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You take it further by suing the school--you sue the school, not the insurer. To win, you'd have to prove in court, such as with the operator testimony you mention (e.g the operator would have to testify in court that he/she saw your wife do nothing wrong, but rather that the gate closed on her through no fault of hers; your wife would also testify as to her actions and what she saw), that the school was at fault due to human error or improper maintenance of the gates, or failure to correct a known problem with the gate (e.g. that it has happened three times in the past four years), etc. You have to show that the school was at fault in some way, not your wife. (Note: the car damage by itself does not prove anything about fault, since your wife could have improperly attempted to drive through while the gate was in the process of closing). For the amount of money at stake ($500), suing in small claims court, with your wife acting as her own atttorney ("pro se"), is the only cost-effective way to proceed.


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