If my car was totaled and towed to a salvage yard, who is responsible for damages to the contents in the car that were destroyed by a fire at the yard?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If my car was totaled and towed to a salvage yard, who is responsible for damages to the contents in the car that were destroyed by a fire at the yard?

We were involved in a no-fault accident and our car was towed away to a salvage yard deemed a write-off. While in the salvage yard, a van self-combusted during the night completely destroying our car. Do I claim for the vehicle contents through the van insurance company or the salvage yard?

Asked on April 23, 2017 under Accident Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The easiest thing to do would be to claim  under your own insurance--your renters or homeowners, which should cover the contents of your vehicle. Your own insurer is the only party obligated to pay you without you having to sue them and prove fault or liability.
If you don't have applicable insurance, then you would sue the van owner (since his vehicle caught fire) *and* the salvage yard (since it was in their care)--either could potentially be at fault, depending on the exact cause of the fire, and suing everyone who could be at fault increases your odds of *someone* paying. You do NOT sue the van or yard insurer: those insurers do not have any duty or obligation directly to you, but rather only to their insureds (they pay on behalf of the insured, if the insured is found to have been at fault). You sue the parties who could be liable, and let them fight out over which one of them should pay. 

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