The church steeple fell on my vehicle during a storm while i was in church. It totaled my van. Who is at fault?

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The church steeple fell on my vehicle during a storm while i was in church. It totaled my van. Who is at fault?

Both insurances are saying the other
one needs to pay. The church paid for a
rental for a week, towed my van to my
house, and told me good luck.

Asked on March 6, 2017 under Accident Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The church is only at fault IF they were aware of a structural damage to or issues with the steeple (or logically must have been aware: i.e. anyone in their position would reasonably have seen signs of such damage or issues) creating a greater-than-normal risk that it would fall and, despite knowing of such risk, they failed to do anything. In that case, their failure to act in the face of a known risk would likely be negligent, or unreasonably careless, and that could make them liable, or responsible to pay for the damage.
But if there was no reason to fear that the steeple might fall and it was just blown over by a storm without prior warning, they are not liable: a property owner or renter is not liable just because damage occured on their property or from their property. Rather, there must be fault; without fault, they are not liable and they (and their insurer) would not have to pay anything. In this case, unless you have the relevant insurance (e.g. collision or comprehensive) on your car, there would be no one to pay for the damage but you.


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