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Property damage due to car accident


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#1 saiga6360

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 05:36 PM

I live in NJ and over a month ago, a collision between two cars occurred in front of my house and one of the vehicles plowed into my chain-linked fence causing about $450 of damages. The police report does not state who was at fault, a typical 'he said, she said' but it did contain info about the involved parties including some vague insurance code information that I had to look up. The bad part right away is my home insurance won't cover the repairs because the cost is below deductible and I am pretty much on my own going after the other parties. After talking to a claims rep for the insurer of driver who hit my fence, they claim they are not at fault because the other driver hit their driver. I am puzzled by this because there is no rule of fault stated on the police report. To make matters worse, we are unable to find insurance information on the other driver, either he had an expired coverage or he lied to the cops.

I am not getting much help from anyone at this point. I really want to go after the insurance company of the driver who smashed into my fence but they refuse to accept my claim. I really do not want to hire a lawyer but after many weeks of agonizing and wasting time over this, it may be my only option. I do not know if I should go after both drivers as I am not familiar with insurance law in NJ. I have filed a complaint to the NJ State Insurance Dept. and I will need to call them back tomorrow to get some help.

#2 pg1067

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 06:48 AM

The police report does not state who was at fault. . . . After talking to a claims rep for the insurer of driver who hit my fence, they claim they are not at fault because the other driver hit their driver. I am puzzled by this because there is no rule of fault stated on the police report.


I'm uncertain why you seem to be preoccupied with the police report. The officer who wrote the report likely did not witness the accident. Accordingly, the officer is no more competent to assess "fault" than you or the insurance claim adjuster. Indeed, while police reports do sometimes contain statements of opinion regarding "fault," insurers and judges/juries are not bound by those opinions and are free to reach their own conclusions.


I really do not want to hire a lawyer but after many weeks of agonizing and wasting time over this, it may be my only option.


I certainly agree that hiring an attorney at a minimum of $150 per hour to pursue recovery of $450 would be downright foolish. But I'm not sure why you think hiring an attorney is your only option. File a small claims action and handle it yourself.


I do not know if I should go after both drivers as I am not familiar with insurance law in NJ.


It doesn't have anything to do with insurance law. Clearly one or the other or both of the drivers is at fault. You have no way of knowing which one it is, so yes, you sue both and let them point their fingers at each other. There's an old case that I read in law school in which two hunters shot at roughly the same time and a third hunter was injured. The medical evidence showed that only one bullet hit the victim, and it was in the days before sophisticated ballistics testing, so there was no way for the victim to prove which of the two shooters actually shot him. On that basis, the two shooters argued that the plaintiff could not meet his burden of proof against either of them. The court held that, as long as the plaintiff could prove that one of the two shooters shot him, the plaintiff did not have to prove which of them it was. Your situation, while slightly different because you know which car hit your fence, is analogous.


I have filed a complaint to the NJ State Insurance Dept. and I will need to call them back tomorrow to get some help.


The insurer didn't do anything wrong. The insurer is entitled to take the position that its insured was not at fault. If that is ultimately proven not to be the case, then the insurer will have a duty to its insured to pay the claim.

#3 saiga6360

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 08:19 AM

I appreciate the response and pointing me to the small claims court solution as I was not aware you can do so without a lawyer. I am definitely pursuing that solution after I submit demand letters again. I sent a letter to the driver of the vehicle who hit my fence a couple of weeks back but I do not think it was worded strongly enough and with enough legalese as I was eventually able to contact her insurer who put me through a couple of weeks of waiting until eventually rejecting my claim.

About the demand letter, since I have to deal with two parties, how and to whom should I address it? I don't expect either of them to budge but should I ask both of them for the same amount just in case? Of course, I intend to accept only one payment, whichever comes first. I wish to also include not just the repair cost but also all the cost for all the clerical and mailing work. I suppose that's fair.

#4 pg1067

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 10:55 AM

First of all, I would refrain from using "legalese." Most lawyers these days will refrain from using "legalese," and non-laywers who try and use it often get things wrong. Use plain English and be clear about what you want and what you intend to do if you don't get it.

If I were you, I would address the letter to both drivers and the one insurer you know about. Regardless of any dispute between them about which of them was at fault, there is no question that you were not at fault, and they need to work it out between them who's going to pay. You're only entitled to the repair cost and are not entitled to anything for "clerical and mailing work."

#5 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:34 AM

To learn more about small claims court, you may visit the New Jersey Courts: Civil Division and read Small Claims FAQ.

#6 saiga6360

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 01:27 PM

First of all, I would refrain from using "legalese." Most lawyers these days will refrain from using "legalese," and non-laywers who try and use it often get things wrong. Use plain English and be clear about what you want and what you intend to do if you don't get it.

If I were you, I would address the letter to both drivers and the one insurer you know about. Regardless of any dispute between them about which of them was at fault, there is no question that you were not at fault, and they need to work it out between them who's going to pay. You're only entitled to the repair cost and are not entitled to anything for "clerical and mailing work."


Thanks and understood. I mean to make the letter as clear and plain as possible with the addition of stating a deadline prior to legal action. Thank you for the idea of including the insurer since I have been with email contact with her, that should make things easier and cheaper. I will not be including any other cost to the demand letter.

FindLaw_AHK, thanks for the links. I've been actually reading up on them already but I am hoping I won't need them.

#7 saiga6360

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 10:14 AM

It looks like I will have to proceed with small claims as my demand letters have been largely ignored. To sum it up:

My fence was damaged as a result of a collision between two vehicles. I was told by my insurance that the cost to repair is below my deductible so I had to pursue the other party on my own. I was able to contact the insurer of the vehicle that hit my fence and after weeks of back and forth for status of the claim via email, their adjuster finally stated that they believe the other driver is at fault and is solely responsible for all damages including the one done to my fence. I sent demand letters to all parties, including the claims adjuster and the only response I got was from the adjuster in a written statement reiterating their position.

I am now preparing the paperwork for the small claims complaint. Should I include the insurer as a defendant in this case? Almost all of my communication regarding this issue has been with them but I am not sure if it is necessary include them to move the case forward.

Thank you all again for your responses.

#8 saiga6360

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 06:54 AM

Well, my case is done. Anybody care to guess what the outcome was?

#9 pg1067

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 07:42 AM

Anybody care to guess what the outcome was?


Ummm...no (which isn't to say I'm not curious; I just don't care to guess).

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 07:51 AM

What was the outcome?

#11 adjusterjack

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 08:02 PM

I appreciate the response and pointing me to the small claims court solution as I was not aware you can do so without a lawyer. I am definitely pursuing that solution after I submit demand letters again. I sent a letter to the driver of the vehicle who hit my fence a couple of weeks back but I do not think it was worded strongly enough and with enough legalese as I was eventually able to contact her insurer who put me through a couple of weeks of waiting until eventually rejecting my claim.

About the demand letter, since I have to deal with two parties, how and to whom should I address it? I don't expect either of them to budge but should I ask both of them for the same amount just in case? Of course, I intend to accept only one payment, whichever comes first. I wish to also include not just the repair cost but also all the cost for all the clerical and mailing work. I suppose that's fair.


I don't know why you are wasting your time with more demand letters. Should be obvious that they won't get you anywhere.

Here's a link to NJ small claims info.

http://www.judiciary...ivil/civ-02.htm

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#12 saiga6360

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 08:36 AM

Well I already went to small claims and I lost. The judge dismissed the case because for some reason, I had to provide proof of someone's fault for the accident! When the case was heard, one of the defendants did not show up and he was the one the other defendant is blaming for the accident. The judge ruled the police report as hearsay, and because it did not assign any fault to either defendant then my case was entirely lost.

We even went to mediation prior to the case going before the judge. I was willing to accept half of amount I was suing for, but she would not budge so I had no choice but to go forward.

Now I am not sure what to do. I could appeal but the cost is higher than what I am asking for.

#13 adjusterjack

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 02:12 PM

Well I already went to small claims and I lost. The judge dismissed the case because for some reason, I had to provide proof of someone's fault for the accident! When the case was heard, one of the defendants did not show up and he was the one the other defendant is blaming for the accident. The judge ruled the police report as hearsay, and because it did not assign any fault to either defendant then my case was entirely lost.

We even went to mediation prior to the case going before the judge. I was willing to accept half of amount I was suing for, but she would not budge so I had no choice but to go forward.

Now I am not sure what to do. I could appeal but the cost is higher than what I am asking for.


Should have mentioned that you already went to small claims court and lost. Would have saved us all a lot of time.

If you aren't willing to file an appeal, it's over.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.





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