I was involved in a fender bender in a remote area upstate. Neither of the roads at the accident intersection had a traffic control. Do I have a claim against the other driver for my property damage?
The best answer is let your insurance company handle the problem. If you have a collision endorsement on your car insurance policy, you should report the claim to your insurance company. Your insurance carrier will pay your property damage claim. You will have to pay your deductible to the repair shop. (So if you have a $500 deductible, you are responsible for the first $500 in damage and your insurance company will pay for the rest of the repair bill.) Your insurance company then has a “right of subrogation.” This means that the insurance company has the right to stand in your shoes and bring a lawsuit for property damage against the other driver in this accident. Your insurance company has their own legal staff to make such claims. You do not need to hire your own lawyer to bring a lawsuit for property damage. Furthermore, if the case goes well against the other driver, you will get back your entire deductible.
But if you do not have a collision endorsement on your car insurance policy, then you will have to bring your own lawsuit. Most attorneys do not handle such claims. You can bring your claim in small claims court. Small Claims Court now has jurisdiction to handle claims up to $10,000. On Staten Island, Small Claims are handled through the Civil Court building located on Castleton Avenue. There is some assistance offered to help you fill out paperwork to start the lawsuit against the other driver.
The applicable law for this case is found in Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1140. When two vehicles enter a traffic with no traffic control, the vehicle on the left must yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right. Beyond that, it is up to both drivers to be aware that there are no traffic controls at the intersection. Furthermore, both drivers are charged with using “reasonable” care entering the intersection. Each of the drivers would tell their story to the judge or arbitrator in Small Claims Court. And then, the judge or arbitrator would make an award, based upon a finding of fault.