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An uninsured student cyclist collides with a company van, damaging it. The company owner is minded to allow his insurer to seek damages from the student, but agrees with the student that the student could come for assessment/pay for repair at a bodywork shop of the student's choice early the next working day (as long as it is before a scheduled assessment by the owner's insurance company later that day) since this will not cause a delay getting the van back on the road. The company owner would rather go through with insurance's assessment than delay to accommodate legal advice for the student. This would be cheaper than allowing the insurance company to have parts fully replaced. In a follow-up call, a police constable advises the student not to feel under pressure to pay the company for damages before obtaining free legal counsel, since (while the van driver is unlikely to be liable in this case) the student has not yet fully established his own liability for the damage. The officer advises that the car-owner's insurance may take on the cost, since the student is uninsured and has very little disposable income.

Once the bodywork is assessed by the student's chosen company, are there any legal provisions which allow the student to delay work on the car by either/both of his own chosen company or the company chosen by insurance, in order to buy time to access free legal counsel?

Related question: Uninsured student cyclist under pressure to pay damages upfront before having the opportunity to seek free legal counsel

The linked question was closed as off-topic, but one of the most recent comments beneath it advises that it may now be on-topic as modified.

Edit 1: clarification the student is a university student (=adult). Edit 2: clarification that the company owner would prefer to go through with his insurance company's procedure rather than delay to accommodate legal advice for the student.

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  • You may have seen the linked question already (closed as off-topic), and there are similarities between it and this one above. However both are hopefully now suitable for legal stack exchange as advised in the comments for the other question by @DavidSiegel . Keen for feedback regardless.
    – novice
    Oct 24, 2021 at 18:48
  • Is the student an adult?
    – user35069
    Oct 24, 2021 at 18:56
  • Yes he is an adult
    – novice
    Oct 24, 2021 at 19:14
  • So maybe the legal question is as follows: is the student actually bound by the apparent agreement to pay up tomorrow? And if so, what would be the consequences of breaking that agreement by waiting to speak to counsel? Oct 24, 2021 at 20:16
  • In this case the company owner has already made it clear that any assessment at a body shop of the student's choosing would have to be before the already scheduled assessment by the insurer. The company owner wants to get his van back on the road as soon as possible of course. If the student breaks the agreement the company owner will let the assessment arranged by insurance go ahead, and once all parts even slightly damaged are completely replaced there will be nothing left for the student's chosen workshop to assess unfortunately.
    – novice
    Oct 24, 2021 at 21:23

1 Answer 1

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are there any legal provisions which allow the student to delay work on the car by either/both of his own chosen company or the company chosen by insurance, in order to buy time to access free legal counsel?

No. Your description purports a tentative settlement by which the owner would decline to pursue the matter with his insurer. You are essentially asking for some law that supersedes the terms of the tentative settlement. Such law is very unlikely to exist, since its infringement of the freedom of contract is unwarranted or disproportionate to the situation you describe.

You willfully accepted the terms of the tentative settlement despite your awareness that the owner's intent is to resume his use of the van no later than the insurer's response time (by response I mean the fixing or replacement --even if temporary-- of the van). Your willful, informed decision makes it vastly more complicated to prevail on the basis that obtaining counsel (be it free or paid) would lead to a materially better outcome.

Since your true, undisclosed intent is to delay the work on the car, persuading the owner to rely on your promise actually can backfire. That is because you would be liable for any additional losses the owner incurs as a result of your delay, more so if he proves that your delay was premeditated. The insurer would not cover those additional losses, but the owner would have standing to sue you insofar as his reliance on you was reasonable and worsened his losses.

Lastly, the constable's practical advice is useful. Insurers are unlikely to engage in litigation of relatively small losses and/or where the circumstances indicate that recovery from the promisor is unrealistic.

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