Who is at fault?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Who is at fault?

I live next door to a renter. One day he knocked on my front door and said that his car was on fire. He told me we needed to get out of the my house. Upon going outside I noticed his cart was on fire, next to my gas meter. By the time the fire department arrived his car was completely engulfed in flames and was totally destroy. The fire burned the wall of his rent house and my house. I was given his auto insurance and his claim number. I called his auto insurer and they began to ask me about the fire. I told them all I knew was that the neighbor, who knocked on my door said and told me his car was on fire and mentioned he was working on his car. The insurer told me that they would call me back but never has. What’s next for me? The owner of the house is repairing his rental property. My house, which I own, sits damaged.

Asked on September 29, 2017 under Insurance Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Your recourse is to sue the renter if you think he was at fault in causing the fire (you sue the renter, not the insurer; his insurer is *his* insurer and has no duty or obligation directly to you). If you can show that he was at fault in causing the fire, you can get a court judgment or order requiring him to pay your repair, etc. costs, at which time either he and/or his insurer should pay (the insurer's obligation is to, within the terms of the insurance he bought, pay for damage he causes when he is at fault). Note that if he was not at fault, he is NOT liable: responsibility for damage to another's property is dependent upon being at fault--no fault = no liability or responsibility. So if the fire was not caused by him in some way, he is not responsible--though if you find out that another person was at fault (e.g. a neighborhood teen who set the fire; a repair shop that caused an electrical shop when they worked on his car; etc.) you could sue that person.
Otherwise, your only option would be to submit a claim to your own homeowner's insurance, if you have coverage for fire damage.

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