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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 32369
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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Issue: Is an insured/carrier liable for my property's damage

Customer Question

Issue: Is an insured/carrier liable for my property's damage if a hit and run caused the insured to damage my property?
Location: Los Angeles CA.
Hello! Thanks in advance for reading! A car hit my real property, damaging a retaining wall, walkway, and staircase. I've gotten 2 written bids from licensed contractors, each are about $10,000. I contacted the car's insurance carrier, they say their investigation isn't complete as yet, but that their driver says he was sideswiped (hit and run) causing him to hit my property, and purportedly there is a scrape along the left rear of the vehicle to back their contention of contact from another vehicle, so they are telling me that their position will be that they are not responsible for my damage. When I pressed for a code citation or case to justify their position, they said CA Civil Code 1714, their argument being that their insured did not willfully damage my property. What is your opinion, please? Is an insured/carrier liable for my property's damage if a hit and run caused the insured to damage my property? What code citation or case would you point to?
Of course, I contend that I don't care how or why the insured damaged my property, I want to be made whole. I could file a claim with my property's carrier, but I would then have to eat a $5000 deductible, and for certain my rate will go up. My carrier could subrogate against the car's carrier but it will take time (a year?), and my carrier would need to prevail for me to get my deductible back. Not sure, but I doubt, that my higher premium comes back down.
Thank you for your time and courtesy in responding!
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Traffic Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 months ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you!
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 months ago.

They would not be responsible if their driver was not negligent. The language of the insurance policy only provides coverage in the event damages are caused by their insured's negligence.

I'm not sure why they are saying it is a willful violation, since a willful violation (i.e. an intentional violation) voids their coverage as well.

You could, potentially, still sue them and then the burden would be on them to prove it was a hit and run driver but you will definitely want to use an attorney if you decide you want to sue since this case is going to be difficult and require some legal maneuvering.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thanks for your quick answer! What code citation or case would you point to? I'm surprised at the answer. I figured the insured would be responsible. Changing the facts for a moment, if Car 1 hits Car 2 and thereby pushed Car 2 into Car 3, and Car 1 then runs, I would have expected Car 2 to be liable to Car 3. Car 2 could claim against Car 1 (if he can find him), but must otherwise pay Car 3. Am I wrong?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 2 months ago.

It's from the general principles of negligence, not statutes, as well as the language of the insurance policies themselves. I've read several hundred insurance policies and am familiar with their language.

There is no specific code that applies since it is based on "common law".

Under your example the only way Car #2 would be responsible is if they did something wrong. Otherwise Car #1 would be responsible and it would be up to Car #3 to find Car #1 and sue them or else to make a claim under their uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

That is the way the law works unless it is no fault insurance, which you don't indicate it is.

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