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Legal-Kal
Legal-Kal, Attorney
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 554
Experience:  Attorney at Law Offices of Khaled Issa
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I have a question regarding claiming damages against someone

Customer Question

Hi. I have a question regarding claiming damages against someone who struck my car while it was parked here in NYC, New York.My car was hit by a flatbed tow truck while parked on the street. I was not present for the incident but it occurred in front of a school, and luckily the school's security guard observed the impact. He stopped the driver as he attempted to drive away, and got his first name and the phone number of the towing company, and guard kindly left a note for me on my car to visit him at the school so he could relay the info to me.By the time I met up with guard, Robert, and got the info from him two weeks had passed since the actual incident, as it occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday. I didn't call the police when I first found the car because I had zero info about what happened, and the police in NYC doing generally come out to do reports unless someone was injured, and because the damage was under $2000 I think (it is a small dent and some destroyed plastic parts). Additionally, I do not have comprehensive auto insurance.When I contacted the tow company they stalled me for many days, and eventually told me they wouldn't pay for the repair, but they did offer to do the repair themselves. I thought about it for a couple days, and finally agreed to allow them to fix it. Many more days went by with unreturned phone calls, etc., so that now it has been four weeks since the incident - and now the owner of the tow company is telling me I can't prove it was his truck so I can take a hike.They say they didn't hit my car, despite the fact that the security guard not only saw it but spoke with the driver about it - which they also deny even happened despite the fact that I know the name of the driver who they did confirm was in my neighborhood making a pickup that morning.So I went to the local police station. They told me it is too late to report a hit and run, which apparently must be reported "immediately," and they instructed me to fill out a New York State Report of Motor Vehicle Accident (Form MV-104) and to mail it to the state myself.My question now is this - can any good come from filing this form? I do not know the insurance information of the tow company, and even if the state provided it to me in response to the accident report, would I have grounds to collect compensation for the damages? I imagine the insurance company will also do everything in their power not to pay out on the claim. Am I correct in assuming that I would have to sue them and call the security guard as a witness in order to compel them to pay out? Additionally, if I file this accident report, and I correct to assume that the accident will get recorded in the vehicle's history and that it could affect my insurance rates?Thank you for your help. You might expect that I'm very frustrated that someone would hit my car in front of witnesses and then still get away with denying it ever happened. These guys are dirtbags.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Traffic Law
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
BTW, the security guard did get their license plate number, and the incident may have been recorded on the school's security cameras but I doubt that I would be given access to their security footage for a non-violent incident such as this.
Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 11 months ago.

Good morning:

My name is ***** ***** I would be happy to provide you general information regarding your property damage issue. I am sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can put your mind at ease.

Because of the length in time in reporting the accident, you would be correct in that you would have to file a small claims suit in order for any recovery to occur (unless you know the insurance company before filing a suit). There are two main reasons for this. First, the obvious, if they are saying they did not cause the accident and you have a witness stating they did, a court would not to decide, based upon all the testimony and evidence, whether or not the tow company is responsible.

Second, and more pragmatically, you do not know the tow truck's insurance carrier. I have a feeling if you simply ask them, they would not give it to you. So, in order to get their insurance company involved, the tow truck company needs to be sued. They would then tender the defense to their insurance carrier (who will more likely be willing to settle the claim short of trial if provided the statement from this independent witness).

If the state provides you the insurance information, however, you may be able to resolve this without the need of even filing a lawsuit. From the pictures, the property damage looks relatively minimal. You also have a witness statement and you have a good reason for not filing a claim until a month after the accident. Insurance companies, in order to fight a lawsuit, will need to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees. They also have to pay their expert to testify in court about the reasonable charges for repair of certain damages to a vehicle. This is very expensive for insurance companies to do. This is why they are usually more willing to settle without a trial for repairs to vehicles when the damage is minimal and there is supporting evidence that their insured was at fault for the accident (both of which apply here).

If, however, you do not or cannot resolve this pre-suit, and there is a trial, then you would indeed need to call the security guard as a witness. This is an absolute requirement. Without his testimony, it would be a "he said, she said" trial. Because the burden of proof would be on you to show that, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the tow truck struck your vehicle, you would need all the support out there to bolster your theory of the case. I do not see how, without the witness' testimony, you would be able to meet your burden.

Regarding your insurance rates, what you stated would not be accurate. Insurance premiums ONLY increase if, after you or anyone else makes a claim with your carrier, your insurance carrier PAYS OUT. Being in an accident is irrelevant because, as in this situation, not all accident's are the premium payer's fault. Furthermore, your insurance company does not and will not know about this accident. They have no reason to know about it because no claim has been filed with them. Also, since you are not filing a claim with your own company, you do not have to worry about any premium increase or dropping of coverage.

The purpose of the accident report is so the state of New York can collect information and data about accidents and, most importantly, keep track of insurance and insured vehicles. Random insurance checks and audits are conducted based from the reports and, if no insurance is found based on the accident report, New York will send notice to someone that they must provide proof of insurance within a certain time or their registration or DL may be suspended.

So, the accident report will have zero effect on you or your insurance premium.

I hope this has helped. Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. I would be more than happy to answer them.

If not, please remember to click ACCEPT and leave feedback so I may receive credit for assisting you. Thank you!

Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 11 months ago.

Good afternoon: I am checking in on whether or not you have any follow up questions based on what I have provided?

Please let me know if you do, I would love to continue the discussion. If not, please do not forget to ACCEPT my answer if I have been of assistance to you. I would greatly appreciate this!

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Hi. Thank you for your time and consideration. Is it your advice then that I should file the accident report with the state? I have no idea what the state would do with this. Might they respond with the insurance info of the tow company? Probably, not, right?Thanks again!
Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 11 months ago.

You are welcome. To be honest, the accident report will have no effect on your possible claim. The report is only used for insurance and accident data information (i.e., where accidents happen, who has insurance, the types of vehicles often involved in accidents, etc.). These reports are confidential and only used for these purposes.

The state will not respond to you with insurance information (again, because it is confidential and only used for statistical purposes).

However, if you file suit against the tow truck company and they fail to respond to the suit (either the company itself or their insurance company), then you will have what is called a default judgment. You can then send the default judgment to the state and they can take action against the tow truck company including, but not limited to, suspending their business license until the judgment is paid off.

Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 11 months ago.

Please remember to click ACCEPT if I have sufficiently answered your questions as that is the ONLY way I can be compensated for helping you.

Thank you. Happy Holidays.

Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 11 months ago.

Please click ACCEPT if you have no further questions.