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Torsten Michael Bassell

Torsten Bassell’s Answers

5 total

  • Family member unauthorized driver on a rental car,but the agency listed the wrong car on the contract and he had a accident?

    Family member hit another person who slammed the brakes and entered his lane.Rental agency gave a car that needed a oil change to me and didnt list the right car on the contract.I am insured thru my insurance and he is listed with the insurance co...

    Torsten’s Answer

    Part of your question depends on what you mean by "unauthorized" driver on a rental car. For example, if the driver took the rental car without asking, then the driver may not necessarily have been "unauthorized" under the policy. However, if the rental car policy somehow "specifically excluded" other drivers, then you most likely wouldn't have coverage under the rental policy.

    With that said, you most likely would be insured under one of the other policies that you mentioned. For example, the family member is listed as an "authorized" driver under your other vehicle. As such, the liability insurance provisions of that policy should cover any damage caused by the "unauthorized" driver to the other driver's vehicle. It would also most likely cover any personal injury damages claimed by the other driver. With that said, the coverage limits for liability on the primary car would be the total limit of damages that the insurance company would cover for any claimed loss by the other driver. Therefore, although extremely unlikely, if you have low coverage limits, then a person could theoretically pursue you for damages beyond the policy limit (I say "theoretically" because attorneys/claimants most often settle with the insurer for whatever the policy limits are rather than pursue someone beyond that amount).

    As for the damage to the rental vehicle, you'd have to check whether you have "collision" or "comprehensive" coverage under the policy of your primary vehicle. If you do, then most likely that coverage will cover the damages to the rental car (in the event the rental car insurance denies covering it). Consequently, I would contact your own insurance company to set up a claim in case you end up needing to go that route, rather than through the rental insurance.

    Finally, if the "unauthorized" driver has any other car that he is insured on, then that vehicle's insurance policy may also cover the loss. It would be a good idea to submit a claim to that insurer as well. The more insurers notified of the loss, the more likely that it will be covered by one of them.

    As for negligent entrustment, it isn't really a defense but rather a cause of action that could be asserted against you. With the facts that you provided, I cannot see what would establish a claim of negligent entrustment against you for permitting the other driver to use the vehicle. However, if there are additional facts that you were aware of at the time the family member drove the vehicle that would have led you to believe he might drive negligently, then you might be in a worse position for a claim of negligent entrustment. But negligent entrustment doens't exist simply because someone lets another drive a car and that person negligently gets into a wreck. There has to be a basis for you to predict that the person would drive your vehicle negligently (this is a simplification of the elements of the claim).

    On a final note, what would happen if the other driver came after you for negligent entrustment or some other claim? You would submit the matter to your insurer (all of the ones I mentioned earlier) if you get served with a lawsuit. Thereafter, your insurer would hire defense counsel to defend the action on your behalf and ultimately the insurer would most likely settle the case before trial. Some cases go all the way to trial, but those are definitely the minority of cases. The most probable result is that you don't hear anything more about the whole matter after you have submitted it to all the different insurers.

    Obviously, there are a whole host of different scenarios that could play out, but I wouldn't get too worried at this stage and I would just submit the claim to all the different insurers discussed above.

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  • What CA rule permits a letter to small claims judge while matter is still open if opposing party is copied?

    In San Bernardino County, the small claim's clerk advised there was a recently added rule that permitted me to send a letter to the judge following the hearing, but before judgment was rendered, if I attached proof that the opposing party had been...

    Torsten’s Answer

    Based on the facts provided in your question, the answer could vary depending on the nature of the proceeding that you had in San Bernardino and the nature of the letter.

    As a preliminary matter, the law prohibits a party to a proceeding (i.e. small claims suit) from communicating with the court without notice and opportunity for all parties to participate in the communication. This prohibition is generally referred to as an "ex parte" communication.

    To my knowledge, there is no special local rule in San Bernardino or otherwise that permits a party to engage in ex parte communications with the court. However, your situation in San Bernardino may have differed for a host of reasons. For example, if at a hearing with all parties present, the Court directed you to send the subject letter to it and serve the opposing party with the letter as well, then the letter would not technically constitute an ex parte communication. Everyone would have been included in the correspondence, and, consequently, it is not ex parte communication. Also, given the more informal and expedient nature of small claims cases, the judge in your case may have permitted your letter on a special basis.

    Alternatively, your communication in the San Bernardino case may have been permitted pursuant to California Rules of Court rule 3.1207, which provides:

    (a) Request before trial If a party files a written request for a court order before the hearing on the claim, the requesting party must mail or personally deliver a copy to all other parties in the case. The other parties must be given an opportunity to answer or respond to the request before or at the hearing. This subdivision does not apply to a request to postpone the hearing date if the plaintiff's claim has not been served.

    (b) Request after trial If a party files a written request for a court order after notice of entry of judgment, the clerk must mail a copy of the request to all other parties in the action. A party has 10 calendar days from the date on which the clerk mailed the request to file a response before the court makes an order. The court may schedule a hearing on the request, except that if the request is to vacate the judgment for lack of appearance by the plaintiff, the court must hold a hearing. The court may give notice of any scheduled hearing with notice of the request, but the hearing must be scheduled at least 11 calendar days after the clerk has mailed the request.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, there is no special, new rule that I am aware of that would permit ex parte communications with the court in Santa Barbara. Moreover, having practiced in Santa Barbara, I can tell you that they are very strict about procedures and how parties communicate with the court. Theoretically, you could send a letter to the court that is also served on all other parties, but the letter most likely will be rejected or will not be considered in the manner you would like it to be considered.

    To conclude, it is most probable that you have a different factual scenario in your Santa Barbara case than you had in your San Bernardino case. As a result, you should really seek the advice of an attorney if you want a more in-depth, case-specific analysis of your issues in the Santa Barbara case. Ex parte communications are extremely troublesome and I would avoid making any communications with the court that could be construed as an ex parte communication. If you believe it is justified communication, I would suggest that you retain an attorney for a more in depth, case-specific analysis.

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  • My car was hit while parked and unoccupied on private property. Person who hit me has liability insurance.

    The accident occured on a Saturday morning in the parking lot of my apartment complex in Las Vegas,NV so the police did not come out "private property". I did obtain the driver's insurance info. but I am having trouble contacting his insurance com...

    Torsten’s Answer

    Typically, you will have to cover the cost up-front whether or not the driver had insurance. If his insurance coverage is valid, the insurer may still not refrain from paying those costs up front. Rather, it will most likely reimburse you on the back end when it is also paying you for the cost of fixing the car. Practices vary from insurer to insurer, but I wouldn't waste time waiting for them to foot the bill.

    Moreover, the insurer cannot demand that you take it to a particular body shop to get it fixed, so I would take it immediately to your favorite body shop. However, be wary and don't get it actually fixed until the insurer has an opportunity to send a inspector out to do his own estimate. If you are having trouble contacting the insurer, then send a request in writing to them. Alternatively, contact info for various claims departments of all the major insurance companies are readily available online. There shouldn't be a problem establishing a claim with the company, whether or not they actually accept liability.

    Finally, be aware that although a driver may present what seems to be valid insurance, the insurance card/coverage could be void or invalid. There are a million different ways that a seemingly valid policy can exclude coverage for a particular loss. Therefore, be careful in fixing the car too soon without confirmation from the insurer that they will be covering the loss.

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  • My parked vehicle was struck by a hit and run driver and my insurance denied my claim under "uninsured motorist"?

    My insurance company claims that due to me not having any information on the vehicle or driver that hit my parked vehicle, I am not covered under "uninsured motorist". I have read the California state laws and they require these three conditions t...

    Torsten’s Answer

    The problem is most likely that you are seeking coverage under the UM provisions of your policy. The UM provisions apply to cases in which you were seeking damages for bodily injury resulting from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured vehicle. However, since your car was parked and you did not presumably occupy it, the coverage applicable would most likely be described in your insurance policy as "comprehensive" coverage. If you have this coverage, then you might try writing to your insurance company demanding that they cover the loss under that portion of your policy.

    Notwithstanding, for your general knowledge, if an insurance company denies a UM claim after you have complied with all the policy requirements, the next step is typically filing a Petition to Compel Arbitration in civil court to make your insurer comply with the UM provisions of your policy. Things vary depending on the policy language, but this is generally the case for most policies providing for UM coverage.

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  • The Pros and Cons of purchasing rental car insurance

    I have full coverage (comp and collision) on my car. My insurance company assures me that when I rent a car, my policy fully extends to the rental car. However, I usually purchase rental car insurance, as an added layer of coverage. What are th...

    Torsten’s Answer

    Dear Knoxville,

    Your insurance company is most likely correct. However, it is always a good idea to get your insurer to put such statements in writing. It has been my experience that oftentimes insurers say one thing on the phone, and then deny it later on in the case of a loss.

    As for the pros and cons, I was once a big believer that paying the rental car companies for additional insurance coverage was a ripoff. However, with the increase of uninsured drivers on the road and bigger damages awards, it seems prudent to start paying for this extra coverage. First of all, the insurance offered usually provides $1,000,000 in coverage in the case of an injury accident. Consequently, there will be ample insurance covering any loss in the event that you have a terrible crash.

    The downside about these insurance policies is that they are typically "burning limits" policies. In other words, the cost of defending a lawsuit (attorneys' fees, etc.) will come out of the $1,000,000.00 coverage. This is atypical for automobile policies and arguably could create a conflict of interest between the retained attorney and the insured in the event of a loss. Nevertheless, the likelihood of a conflict developing or the limits being exhausted is relatively remote.

    Other than that, the real cons for such a policy are minimal other than the added cost when you are renting the vehicle. However, since your insurer is most likely correct about covering loss when you drive a rental car, I personally would recommend that you spend the extra money on increasing your personal automobile policy limits to at least $500,000 for Liability and Uninsured Motorist coverage.

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