What to do if my and I neighbor had a small collision in our parking garage andI know this is his fault but he thinks it’s mine and wants me to pay or he will sue?

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What to do if my and I neighbor had a small collision in our parking garage andI know this is his fault but he thinks it’s mine and wants me to pay or he will sue?

I was backing out of my spot by the ramp and he came flying down the ramp so fast that there wasn’t enough time to react and we hit. This is a very small garage and speed should be under 5 mph but he made it down the ramp and behind me completely so that my bumper hit his door before I could even react to hearing him come down the ramp and hitting the grate at the bottom. My girlfriend has been suffering a sore neck. I can upload the letters sent back and forth between us. It sounds like I’ll have to go to court for the first time.

Asked on February 1, 2012 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Legally, whomever was at fault will be liable, or have to pay for the property damage and injuries of the other. If both people are at fault, then their fault is compared and their claims adjusted by the court proportionately. (To oversimply: you sue for $5k, he sues for $6k; a court determines he is 60% at fault, you 40%; you can collect 60%, or your "not at fault percentage, of $5k, or $3k; he collects 40% of $6k, or $2.4k; when the awards are netted out, you collect $600.)

If you and your girlfriend feel he is at fault and have significant costs (e.g. medical care for  her neck) not covered by insurance, you could sue him; if he sues you, you would be well advised to counterclaim for any injuries or property damage of your own, since, as per the example above, you could use those as an offset (if you can prove the damage and his fault) to reduce what he might collect from you.

Note that sometimes, it may be  better to simply pay the other side, if you don't anticipate suing yourself, and the amount of money is modest--that saves you the time and cost of litigation. If you do elect to pay, make sure you get him to sign a "release" stating that in exchange for the payment, he gives up any and all claims against you.


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