Can I sue for remainder of my car payments if a person hit and totaled my parked car?

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Can I sue for remainder of my car payments if a person hit and totaled my parked car?

My parked car was totaled and they are found at fault. The guilty party’s insurance is paying off my car loan but the value is less then debt on car leaving me to owe $1500 and now without a car or means to get a car. I drive my disabled aunt and work and need a car. Can I sue for what is not paid by insurance?

Asked on February 16, 2019 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, you can't. The law does not use the cost you paid or the amount you still owe on a car as the measure of what you are entitled to: it uses the value of the car. If you received an amount at least equal to the then-current fair market value of car (it's "blue book" value) as of when it was totalled, that is all you are entitled to; you cannot sue anyone for more money. (If you didn't get this full value, however, you should be able to sue for the shortfall.)
You can see why the law uses value, not cost or amount owed, by considering the following: say that a parent buys a car for his/her child, or  a spouse gets a car in a divorce, where the other spouse had paid for the vehicle. In these cases, the car's owner has not paid anything for the car. If the law used cost or amount owed as the benchmark for compensation, the child or ex-spouse would get nothing if their car were totalled, since they paid nothing for it and owe nothing on it. Clearly, that is not a result society or the law wants. 
Cost or amount owed varies so much--did you strike a good deal or a bad one? Did you pay cash up front or finance? Did you have a trade-in? Did you buy during a President's Day sale or year-end clearance? Was the car a gift? Etc.--that it can't be used as the measure: it is too variable, too inconsistent, and too subject to being manipulated. So value, not cost or amount owed, is used.


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