What to do if I live in a gated community with a gate that requires a transponder for access and the arm of the gate came down on my car and now they’re requiring I pay for its replacement?

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What to do if I live in a gated community with a gate that requires a transponder for access and the arm of the gate came down on my car and now they’re requiring I pay for its replacement?

The property management company is saying it was determined that my vehicle proceeded through the gate without allowing the gate arm to complete a cycle. Based on the video footage, the light was green as I was going through but turned red as my vehicle was about half way through causing the arm to strike the top of my vehicle and snap off. I have paint scratches on the top of my vehicle but no other damage was done. The property management company does not have a handbook or any kind of documentation stating I must repay.

Asked on December 17, 2012 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The issue is fault, or in a case like this, negligence (unreasonable carelessness): if you were careless in when you tried to drive through (e.g. you mistimed the cycle), then you would be liable for the damage to the arm. On the other hand, if you were not negligent but there was some fault with the arm, then they  could be liable for the damage to your car.

Note that if you were at fault, it does not matter if the handbook or other document requires you to pay--they could hold you liable under tort law.

From what you write, the key issues would be 1) was the cycle long enough for a car to get through; and 2) did you do anything wrong--such as drive too slowly, not start driving in time, etc. Bear in mind that if they sue you for the money, you'd either have to take your own time to defend yourself--and probably not defend yourself well, unless you are a lawyer or have some other relevant experience--or hire an attorney which will cost money; and since the outcomes of lawsuits are never certain, you could spend your time and money and still lose. If there is any reason to think you may have been at fault, you may wish to pay, or at least to see if you can't settle for some mutually agreeable amount.


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