Tuesday, February 14, 2012
In this case, Vic was struck by a vehicle owned by Carmella and driven by Dan. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that it was not Vic’s fault in any way. So who does Vic make a diminution of value claim against? Dan was driving, but he was driving Carmella’s car. Let’s look at the possibilities. If Dan had the permission of Carmella then her insurance might cover Dan while he was driving her car. That presents a source of recovery for the auto property damage. But, what if he didn’t have her permission or if he wasn’t covered under her policy? You could sue him and there would be no insurance coverage, and to collect you’d have to find some of his assets. You’d have to pay for an investigation of his assets, pay the sheriff to find, seize and sell his assets, and hope they were worth something. On the other hand, Dan was doing the driving, but we don’t know if he had a car, or if he did, if he has insurance. If we make a claim against Dan, and he has a car with insurance, his company might claim that they are not primarily liable because there’s another insurance policy on a vehicle that was actually involved in the accident. The same is true if you make a claim against Carmella. Her insurer could say that she wasn’t involved in any way with the accident or that he policy didn’t cover Dan. Either way, there’s no clear path for this PA auto damage claim. This is not an unusual outcome in cases like this. Sometimes there are multiple policies, and sometimes multiple vehicles. So, you can sue all the vehicles and all the owners and drivers. That has repercussions, too, and this case is a perfect illustration. If you have multiple parties, you are not only fighting them, but they are fighting each other. Reaching an agreement among them is nearly impossible because everyone is pointing a finger at everyone else. We found Dan’s car and insurance, Carmella’s car and insurance and sued them both for a diminished value claim in Pennsylvania. Carmella’s insurer refused to pay anything towards the settlement and tried to put it all on Dan. Dan’s insurer refused to pay a reasonable amount for a full settlement of the diminution of value, offering only part of the damage as his share, and wanted Carmella’s insurer to contribute something, which they refused to do. So we were forced to get a court date. At the hearing, Carmella showed up, with her attorney, and presented a policy exclusion that excluded Dan from coverage under her policy. Dan didn’t show up, but his insurance company attorney did, and refused to settle “on the court house steps.” We had a hearing and won the full amount that we demanded, plus court costs. But Dan’s insurer appealed, because they didn’t want to pay the full damages by themselves.
- Alfred Abel, Esq
- Before entering the practice of law, the founder, Alfred M. Abel, ran a family business in Northeastern Pennsylvania. After the business was sold, he went to law school and entered the practice of law. As a result of that business experience, he brings a unique perspective to representing clients. Often, a practical, common sense solution is quicker and more beneficial than a protracted, legal battle. After working for a firm in Philadelphia, he started his own law practice in 1982. The focus of this practice has been representing individuals, families and businesses in the areas of Real Estate, Business, Personal, and Corporate Bankruptcy, Debt Collection, Import and Export cases, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Professional Negligence, Consumer Protection, Wills, Estates, Trusts, and Entertainment. He has been married for 20 years and has one daughter. Bar Admissions: Pennsylvania, 1981 U.S. Federal Court, 1981 Federal Courts - Third Circuit Bar Associations: Pennsylvania Bar Association Montgomery County Bar Association Philadelphia Bar Association