Can you sue someone that crashes into a power line poll and causes power surges thatruin your electrical equipment?

UPDATED: Feb 19, 2012

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Can you sue someone that crashes into a power line poll and causes power surges thatruin your electrical equipment?

There was a wreck in our county and the person at fault tried to pass a moving truck, clipped them and rolled their vehicle into a power line poll, cutting it in two. Power at my house flickered off and on about 5 times. It killed my server that I use every week for work. Also, the church I attend has a computer that was damaged and a light projector that is now a nice paper weight. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had losses from this incident. I know for a fact that it was the accident that caused this because I was able to recover event logs from both PC’s for the exact time of accident.

Asked on February 19, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, North Carolina


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the at-fault party for negligence.  If the at-fault driver is someone other than the registered owner of the vehicle, you want to name both the registered owner of the vehicle and the at-fault driver as defendants in your lawsuit.

Prior to filing a lawsuit, it would be advisable to file a claim for your property damage with the at-fault party/registered owner's auto insurance company.  You can obtain the auto insurance information from the police report of the accident.  If your property damage claim is not settled with the auto insurance company, proceed with your lawsuit for negligence against the at-fault party/registered owner.

Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care in this case that a reasonable driver would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care resulting in the damage to your property), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.

Actual cause means but for the driver damaging the power pole, would your equipment have been damaged?  If the answer is no, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening acts which would relieve the driver of negligence?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  The driver might be able to argue that the damage to the power pole and subsequent damage to your equipment was unforeseeable.  Your counterargument is that it was foreseeable that damage to the power pole would cause power surges and damage the server and other electrical equipment.

Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs to the server (assuming that you own the server).  Your damages would also include wage loss based on lost income from the server being damaged.

If the case is settled with the at-fault party's (registered owner) auto insurance company, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled with the at-fault party's (registered owner) auto insurance company, you will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

You may be able to file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court.  In addition to the above damages, your damages should also include court costs such as the court filing fee and process server fee.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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