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Author Topic: How much does this police officer owe my dad?  (Read 1064 times)

agntpn0y07

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How much does this police officer owe my dad?
« on: July 26, 2006, 10:32:47 AM »
Two weeks ago, this off-duty police officer in a massive Dodge Ram backed up into me in my mom's car, it was entirely his fault.  We were are at a 4-way stop sign in a downtown area and he couldn't make his left turn, due to the massiveness of his truck, and had to back up to make it.  Well, he backed right into me.  We exchanged info and agreed to keep insurance companies out of it.  Come to find out he is a police officer.  Not only is it funny that this man is a police officer, this event happened w/ two police officers standing on the corner, witnessing everthing.  Pretty embarassing.  My dad went and got two estimates.  Both estimate's say $1,500.  Here's the thing, my mom's car, which is in my dad's name, is an '86 and worth far less than the amount to fix it.  My dad is going to use the money from the accident for a down payment on another car.  However, my dad spoke to the guy that backed up into me and emailed him both estimates, but is questioning what he owes.  He's going to pay up one way or another, not worried about that.  I'm wondering:  is he liable up to the market value of the car or the amount to fix the damage?  Any input would be extremely appreciated.     

Jumboshrimps

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Re: How much does this police officer owe my dad?
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2006, 02:37:26 PM »
This is actually somewhat interesting (and I'm in hard-core procrastination mode over two papers due in three weeks). If you take the insurance company out of the picture, as you have, you're left with a negligence claim against the cop if he doesn't pay. Your question is really, what would a court award your dad if a lawsuit became necessary? The actual damages would likely be only the market value of the car, since this would be an action at law, and money damages are to compensate for actual loss. Contrast this with a suit in equity, where the remedy is typically more specific to the property in question. In an equity suit, the remedy would likely be the cost of fixing the car, since emphasis would theoretically be on this particular car, rather that on the loss. There may be an equitable cause of action for tresspass to chattel here, but I suspect that would be laughed at by a judge.

If your dad wants $1500, he should tell the cop that the car is precious to him and carries a lot of sentimental value.

Another possibility is an action on the promise made by the cop to pay for the damage. The problem here is that there is likely no consideration for the promise (and therefore no enforcable contract). Perhaps your dad has relied in some way on the promise which, if not fulfilled, would cause detriment to your dad (like if your dad had already made the $1500 down payment on a new car). In this case, your dad might be entitled to reliance damages of $1500.

Of course, if you want legal advice, you should ask a lawyer. (I regret the necessity of this disclaimer, as I believe the bar has a monoploy on the law, which really belongs to all of us.)

John Galt

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Re: How much does this police officer owe my dad?
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2006, 03:52:16 PM »
I am not a lawyer, but...

If you go to court you'll have to tell your insurance company. All Insurance companies require you to notify them if you are in an accident. Most people don't for minor accidents, but if you decide to go to Court you'll then have to explain to your insurance company why you didn't tell them right away.

Take the market value of the, thatís all probably all you'll get from an insurance agency assuming there were no injuries. If cost of repair is greater then value, the car is totaled. Sentiment aside, unfortunately, that is really all your dad would deserve, since buying the same car would make him whole again.

Trespass to chattel is a tort. Since damages would be sufficient here, equitable relief is unnecessary. 

Jumboshrimps

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Re: How much does this police officer owe my dad?
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2006, 04:15:06 PM »
I am not a lawyer, but...

If you go to court you'll have to tell your insurance company. All Insurance companies require you to notify them if you are in an accident. Most people don't for minor accidents, but if you decide to go to Court you'll then have to explain to your insurance company why you didn't tell them right away.

Take the market value of the, thatís all probably all you'll get from an insurance agency assuming there were no injuries. If cost of repair is greater then value, the car is totaled. Sentiment aside, unfortunately, that is really all your dad would deserve, since buying the same car would make him whole again.


Trespass to chattel is a tort. Since damages would be sufficient here, equitable relief is unnecessary. 


I agree with all of this. However, as unnecessary as equitable relief might be, it's possible to possess a vehicle that has intrinsic value beyond that of its make, model, and year. What if the car had belonged to Elvis? Legal relief wouldn't do the trick.