Who bears liability if I took my car to a car wash and the attendant drove my car into the building totaling it?

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Who bears liability if I took my car to a car wash and the attendant drove my car into the building totaling it?

My car insurance company has declared the car a loss. My vehicle was 7 years old but was paid off with under 50K miles. They want to give me what they are valuing the car at which is $16K. I feel that is still not enough with all the money and care I have put into the car. I want to know if I am able to sue to car wash itself?

Asked on July 8, 2014 under Accident Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The insurer only has to give you the then-current value of the car (e.g. the $16k). You could sue the car wash and also the attendent (though the attendent most likely does not have money), since they caused the damage; you could sue them for any amounts *up to* the full value of your car and other costs/expenses (e.g. towing; your deductible) you did not get from the insurer. (A person at fault in damaging your property, and/or his employer, if the damage was done in the course of employement, is liaible for the damage caused.)  If you put thousands  of dollars into the car, you may or may not be able to recover it: investments that increase its value over the standard "blue book" value for a car of that make/model/year/etc. may be recoverable, IF you can prove the increase in value (e.g. if you made aftermarket improvements that would have made the car sell for more--you can also try to get this from your insurer, if you can prove it well enough); however amounts you paid in terms of repairs, maintenence, or just keeping it running are most likely not recoverable, since the law does not compensate for day-to-day or regular operating costs in a case like this.


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