Asked in Car Accidents, Municipal Law and Small Claims for Indiana

Q: A light pole fall on top of my car in the middle of a rain storm. What type of laywer do I need?

My car is mexican and insurance only covers third party accidents. The sheriff said I needed to go to the city so that they would make the electric company pay for the damages. Inspection determined that the pole fell due to the wood being rotten. The car suffered great damages and is unusable now. I work 6 days a week and depend on my car to work since I do door to door sales.

1 Lawyer Answer
Charles Candiano
Charles Candiano
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Indiana

A: Hopefully, you took several pictures of the car with the downed light pole so that you can prove that the damage to the vehicle was caused by the downed pole. You said that the sheriff was there so the sheriff should have prepared a report, memorializing the downed utility pole and the damage to your vehicle. Get a copy of that report. Make sure that you get a copy of whatever inspection revealed that the pole snapped because the wood was rotten. Then, you need to find out who owns the streetlight. If it is owned by the local utility, there will probably be a metal plaque the name of the company and a unique serial number to identify that specific light pole.

Call the utility, explain what happened, and offer to provide them with a copy of the police report. The utility's insurance company will open a claim to compensate you for the damage to your car. Given that you only had liability coverage, it is probably an older vehicle. If that is the case, the damage from the utility pole could well be more than the car is worth. If the car is worth $5000 but it will cost $5100 to repair, the utility's insurance company will only give you $5000. In that example, your car is totally demolished. Even if you are able to repair the car less expensively (on your own or through friends), you would never be able to get anything but a salvage title. A salvage title significantly reduces the value of any car because it alerts the purchaser to the fact that the car was once totally demolished.

Moreover, in American law, you have a "duty to mitigate your damages." This means that even though the other party is entirely at fault, you are responsible for keeping your claim as low as possible. In your case, that would require you to rent a car, buy a car, or use a rideshare service. For example, if you earn $250 per day and work six days per week, that means you earn $900 per week. If it costs you $300 per week to rent a car so that you can work, you need to spend $300 per week (or whatever the actual cost may be) to rent the car. If you do not rent a car, buy a car, or find some other way to get back and forth to work, you would have failed to mitigate your damages and the utility company will not be responsible to reimburse you for lost wages. On your facts, the utility company will be responsible to pay you for the actual cost you incur to rent a vehicle (or the fair market value of a rental vehicle in your area if you choose to purchase a car), during the pendency of your claim. Under no circumstances will the utility be responsible for any lost wages. They would only be responsible for lost wages if you had been in the vehicle at the time the pole fell and you were physically injured and unable to work.

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