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This question could apply to any part of the United States, but particularly to California, which is unusually consumer friendly.

Suppose I am involved in minor car accident (basically a fender bender). It's small enough that some drivers would let it go, but under California law, at least, the other person has the right to insist on even minor repairs. So the person quotes me a price. I dispute it by saying "I can get this done for $200 less. Can you provide a receipt.

The other person can't provide a receipt. Do I have to pay the other person's quoted price? Do I have to the "$200 less" if I can document it?

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The person collecting damages does not have to provide a receipt. However he must establish that he suffered a loss. This is usually done via supplying a quote stating the cost of repair / replacement is $X. Note that the person need not to apply the repair, and whether he does is irrelevant from your point of view.

He must, obviously, also establish that you are at least partially responsible for the damages.

The focus of this question is what happens when there is a dispute in the amount. If the person simply tells you "it costs one million dollars to repair this item" without any evidence, it is a weak argument in court. A quote by a repair shop can strengthen the case.

You can choose to deny payment if you find the amount of damages to be excessive, whether the person supplies a quote or not. In that case, he may decide to sue you.

It gets more complicated when the damaged item has a subjective value and is irreplaceable, for example "my great grandfather's photo". The court will decide the appropriate amount, if any, you should pay.

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If the accident was your fault, the person harmed by the accident has a right to sue you for the amount of damages incurred, and will prevail if they can prove your fault and their damages in court.

You don't have to settle the case at all. You could simply wait for them to sue you, although doing so would result in a claim against your car insurance policy that could increase your insurance rates if they did, in fact, sue you.

Whether or not you find their representation concerning the amount of damage they suffered sufficient is up to you. They will only get paid if you decide to write them a check in the amount that they are asking to have paid.

Usually, you should also insist that a complete release of liability be signed by the party harmed in connection with any settlement payment.

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First, it would have to be legally established that you were at fault. Second, your liability is proportional to your percentage of responsibility (if you are 60% at fault, you are liable for 60% of the damages). Assume that this has been sorted out (let's say his car was parked and you unquestionably drove into it). Your insurance company will have some appraisal policy about getting estimates and so on; I assume that you are either uninsured (shame!) or don't want to involve the insurance company. The innocent guy reports that his shop (A1 Reputable Repairs) will charge $600 to repair the damage, and your shop (Sleezebroz Car and Deck Fixers) claims they would charge $400. He doesn't like your offer, so he says he got it fixed for $600, and he wants you to pay. You can offer $400 and he can accept or reject: if negotiations fail, he will have to sue you to get the money. He has to prove that he needs to be made whole by being awarded a dollar amount. Now there is a dispute regarding that amount. You provide a written estimate from Sleezebroz, and he provides... If he just says "I know that it would cost that amount", the preponderance of evidence would support your position and you would pay $400. He might also provide a written estimate saying that it would cost $600. His allegation would be that $400 would not make him whole. If he persuades the court, you pay $600; if he doesn't, you pay less.

There are insurance regulations which protect the injured party, so that the insurance company cannot require you to take the car to Sleezebroz, and the law requires the parts used to be identified on the invoice. Any non-OEM replacement parts must be warranted to be at least as good as the OEM part. By assumption, you aren't dealing with an insurance company in this scenario, and you are not subject to those regulations, instead you have good old fashioned liability law, where these matters are hammered out in court.

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  • Thanks for your "first" answer. Suppose there is a reason he doesn't have a receipt; the car was never fixed, and he says, "I really didn't want to fix the car, I'd rather have the money." What happens then? Put another way, does "made whole" only refer to the actual damage, or can he ask for "side" compensation. Would it be in our mutual interest to negotiate a settlemenf for say, $200; he gets cash, I get a discount from $400 or $600 of repairs. (I have insurance, but want to absorb a relatively small amount.) – Libra Oct 6 '18 at 15:50
  • IMO, negotiation is superior to litigation. You needn't care if he actually fixed the car, you only need to care that you have settled the claim (get that part in writing) and you are no longer liable. – user6726 Oct 6 '18 at 16:01

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