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Subject: Vehicle damaged by common property
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GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3132


05/05/2019 3:24 PM  
A couple of weeks ago we had a passing rain squall that had locally strong wind gusts. One of those gusts blew off the top decorative lantern enclosure of a street lamp (gated community, HOA owns the street lights and the roads). After being blown off it fell and struck an owner's car that was parked in her driveway (HOA also owns the driveways) causing dents and paint damage.

The owner claims that the top of the street light was held in place by only 1 screw instead of the 3 or 4 present on most of the other (identical) street lamps, and that failing to maintain the street lights properly constitutes "negligence" of some sort and whe wants the HOA to pay the bill for the damage to her vehicle. The association does maintain liability and property insurance.

Even if all of that is true, shouldn't she still file a claim through her automobile insurance? Everyone here is confused. There's a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors on Tuesday to discuss the issue of whether or not the HOA should just agree to pay. Admitting negligence doesn't seem prudent to me, even if it's true. I'd want to see pictures and hear firsthand from whoever is claiming there was only one screw where there should have been 4.

I think she should go through her car insurance and if they have any reason to go after the HOA's insurance carrier they will do so.

Thoughts?
JohnS111
(New York)

Posts:165


05/05/2019 3:52 PM  
From the vehicle owner's perspective: why should the owner file a claim on her own insurance policy and get dinged with her insurer, when she knows the cause and who's responsible? The HOA is likely liable but wouldn't have to admit negligence as part of a settlement.
JohnS111
(New York)

Posts:165


05/05/2019 3:57 PM  
To add: even if all screws were in place the owner likely could still find the HOA at fault since it was the HOA's property that caused the damage.

I'm pulling for the owner in this one.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8556


05/05/2019 4:47 PM  
This is a never ending question. Yes the proper procedure would be for the auto owner to file a claim with her insurance company then her insurance company would go after the associations insurance company for reimbursement. That said, the auto owner is liable to suffer an insurance premium increase due to a filed claim so who can blame her for going directly after the association?

If I could keep my insurance company out of the loop, I would try that avenue.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:479


05/05/2019 5:27 PM  
Auto owners are not required to have collision (or comprehensive) insurance, so it can't be a required step for being considered for reimburesent. Without collision insurance, she can't even make a claim. For that matter, a car owner does need to have insurance at all.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8408


05/05/2019 5:46 PM  
The person should make a claim on their car insurance policy. They then would follow up with the HOA's insurance. Just like any accident/wreck. However, there could be a compromise here. The HOA may need to pay for that person's deductible IF the damages equal the amount of their deductible. It may be only like $250 in damage and their deductible $500. So make sure they present quotes for the damages repair costs to evaluate. The HOA insurance deductible is sure to be much higher. So paying the owner's deductible on their insurance may be a good option to evaluate.

Former HOA President
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:479


05/05/2019 6:57 PM  
Posted By JohnS111 on 05/05/2019 3:57 PM
To add: even if all screws were in place the owner likely could still find the HOA at fault since it was the HOA's property that caused the damage.

I'm pulling for the owner in this one.



My understanding is that "strict liability" usually does not apply, meaning that the car owner can't get damages just because it came from HOA property. She would need to show that the HOA breached a duty of care by not maintaining the light (which they may have breached) to establish regular liability. Am I missing something?

I find it interesting that the car owner came up with the negligence argument. Maybe she knows how this works.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:371


05/05/2019 7:24 PM  
I have a totally different view than almost everyone here. The board should very quickly agree to pay for the damages to the vehicle. Nothing more nothing less. It is not worth getting either insurance companies involved. Insurance companies do not lose here. They will loan you money and get it back many times over with rate increases. The HOA is clearly at fault because it owns the light poles. Their Electrician probably has some fault here because we had a very similar situation with our HOA poles in Ca. The electricians would only use half of the screws (2) to hold the Globes in place. We discovered this after many globes fell off when we had heavy winds. We hired a different company to clean and paint all of the Poles and they verified that the screws were commonly left not tightened.

Pay the damages, apologize and move on. It is definitely the cheapest way to go IMO.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:738


05/05/2019 8:50 PM  
Geno, Mark is right. Ya gotta look at how much is your deductible vs how much in damages to the OP's car. It is not worth the whizzing match.
Contact your council on how to proceed, but just settle and walk away. You don't want to take the insurance hit for a measly amount of money.
JohnS111
(New York)

Posts:165


05/06/2019 2:34 AM  
Jeff2, the owner of the car could find negligence in a variety of ways. Perhaps the lightposts themselves were too weak for high winds. Or perhaps they hadn’t been checked recently. Etc.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8408


05/06/2019 4:22 AM  
I agree. Find out the cost of the repairs prior to proceeding. Take your own pictures of the damage. It may not need to be an insurance claim but a pay out of damages. However, if it's significant enough to meet the deductible, then the cost of the deductible needs to be factored into the expense.

It doesn't sound like a light hitting a car is enough to meet a deductible. The HOA needs to also consider it's own loss of the light fixture. Is that going to be need to be covered by the HOA?

Former HOA President
TimM11


Posts:287


05/06/2019 8:46 AM  
Posted By JeffT2 on 05/05/2019 5:27 PM
For that matter, a car owner does need to have insurance at all.




Depends on the state. In MN, for example, it's required (due to being a no-fault state) and proof must be in the vehicle at all times. Some states may also require types of coverage that others don't.
JaredC
(Texas)

Posts:214


05/06/2019 10:19 AM  
This is an "act of God". Did this person run around taking pictures of all the street lamps and the number of screws before the storm? Certainly they brought up the issue at a meeting or at least an email to the PM? C'mon.

This person is a jerk. Tell them to go pound sand and file a claim with their insurance company.
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:93


05/06/2019 11:21 AM  
Posted By JaredC on 05/06/2019 10:19 AM
This is an "act of God". Did this person run around taking pictures of all the street lamps and the number of screws before the storm? Certainly they brought up the issue at a meeting or at least an email to the PM? C'mon.

This person is a jerk. Tell them to go pound sand and file a claim with their insurance company.




I agree with Jared that the HOA should not take any responsibility for the damages.

If the issue with the street lamp had been brought to the attention of the MC and/or Board prior to the storm and it wasn't repaired timely, then that would be a different story.

Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
FredS7
(Arizona)

Posts:912


05/06/2019 11:39 AM  
I would be inclined to outsource the determination of responsibility by calling in the HOA insurance company.

Fixing dents and repainting could be small change or it could run up to a thousand or so if taken to a dealership that ends up replacing panels.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8556


05/06/2019 1:11 PM  
I would be thankful that the owner of the damaged car is giving the association a chance to make it right before getting insurance companies involved.
JohnS111
(New York)

Posts:165


05/06/2019 1:29 PM  
Let’s look at this in reverse:

If a person’s lamp broke off and damaged HOA property, does anyone think that the HOA would just fuel a claim on its own insurance?

Of course the HOA wouldn’t. It would go after the person for the full damage.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3132


05/06/2019 2:36 PM  
Thanks for the replies. It should be an interesting meeting tomorrow. Two new pieces of information have surfaced. An electrical contractor with a bucket truck has been working to replace bulbs in the street lamps over the last few months. What if they failed to re-attach the piece properly after servicing the bulb? And the vehicle owner got a repair estimate (not sure if she got more than one) for $1,200. The blue book value of the car is $1,000. I just watched one of those judge shows where the judges refused to award a guy more than what his vehicle was worth regardless of other considerations (work van, tools and supplies inside damaged, etc.)

I'm not against making the woman whole, but I thinnk I draw the line at paying her more than what the car is worth. I also hope she has pictures and more than 1 estimate. No one on her street can ever recall her car parked outside of her garage. It's ALWAYS in the garage. So how did it come to be parked outside on the day the light fell and damaged it? This all gets into the realm of investigating her claim and that makes me uneasy, too. Isn't that what insurance policies are for? I know the woman and she's not the type to lie, but the questions should be asked anyway, no?
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:371


05/06/2019 2:58 PM  
Geno,
This message is regarding your last post. The insurance carrier is not going to send out a team of investigators for a $1200 claim. They will charge you the deductible (Probably $1000) and pay her a couple of hundred dollars and raise your rates the next chance they can. Totally not worth it I can promise you. Regarding her parking in the garage I would definitely have her come to the next board meeting and ask her to bring her pictures so the board can review and make a decision how to proceed. If her vehicle is only worth $1000 dollars she will probably settle for that. I do not see her going out and getting it repaired and painted. If she wants to go that route make her provide 3 bids.

Still I would advise settling this without either insurance company being involved. That means you need to play nice and be willing to write a check if the board agrees. If you go the insurance route and you get another claim in the next year you can bet they will drop your coverage and then you have real problems.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3132


05/06/2019 3:41 PM  
I know you're right, Mark. I was thinking if she put in a claim with her own auto insurance that they would discover there's a master policy here and the HOA might be liable for the damage. Perhaps there was negligence involved in the association's maintenance responsibilities. And sure, that rates might go up next year, but that's a cost of doing business and we are, after all, an incorporated business. I'd be against setting a bad precedent where people get the idea that "the HOA will pay for everything" everytime something untoward happens and whatever story you make up won't be challenged.

I see the practical implications re. increased premiums. In any case, I foresee a 2-hour meeting where all sorts of irrelevant factors will be on the table for discussion by non-experts. If it was up to me, and it's not, I'd just go through insurance, increased premiums be damned. Obtaining the various insurance coverages we need every year is an ordeal already.

Having said that, if the board decides to pay her off then I'm not going to complain.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8408


05/06/2019 3:47 PM  
Now that you added that additional information. My next guess is she's going to spout out lawsuit threats. (If not already). Your right about the value of the car vs the repairs. Insurance most likely wouldn't cover it. Sounds like they are trying to get a new paint job. It's not going to raise the value of their car if they do.

They most likely can't go to their own insurance company because deductible is just as high as the claim. Plus sounds like they are trying to get their whole car painted. They are entitled to the repair of the dent/paint NOT the whole car being painted. I'd get my own quotes and pictures.

Worst case, offer to pay their deductible. That's all this is worth. If they don't want to file a claim, then you know they are up to something else...

Former HOA President
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:479


05/06/2019 7:53 PM  
Posted By GenoS on 05/06/2019 2:36 PM
... And the vehicle owner got a repair estimate (not sure if she got more than one) for $1,200. The blue book value of the car is $1,000. I just watched one of those judge shows where the judges refused to award a guy more than what his vehicle was worth regardless of other considerations (work van, tools and supplies inside damaged, etc.)

I'm not against making the woman whole, but I think I draw the line at paying her more than what the car is worth.



I think the way it works is that if the insurance company pays the value of the car, then the insurance company takes the car, getting title to and buying the car. She doesn't get to keep the car and the $1,000 payment. Something to keep mind for negotiations if the HOA decides to pay her directly.
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