what to do if a vehicle damages your property

Property Loss Claims: What to do if a vehicle damages your property

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 6 minutes

Property Loss Claims: What to do if a vehicle damages your property

If a vehicle damages your property, then you could be entitled to sue for significant damages as compensation. Many people don’t realize that accident lawsuits don’t have to involve physical injuries — it’s entirely possible for there to be an accident case where the central issue is that of property loss.

For example, if your car is parked at work, and a drunk driver smashes into it, then you might not be anywhere near the car (and therefore, you sustained no injuries whatsoever). That being said, you could sue for compensation to cover the property loss.

Read on to learn more!

How does a court determine the amount of damages to be awarded?

In any accident dispute, the claimable damages are based on loss. You could potentially sue for the following losses:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property loss
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • And more

Property loss is one component of a comprehensive damages claim, but — if you don’t have any other losses — it’s entirely reasonable for you to sue “only” for property damages and to be compensated for just that.

In some cases, punitive damages may be available. Courts have discretion to award punitive damages, though they are only awarded infrequently. Put simply, punitive damages are meant to “punish” the worst defendants and to “discourage” others in society from engaging in similarly problematic behavior.

So, for example, if someone gets extremely drunk and crashes into your living room with their car, the court may find that behavior objectionable enough (i.e., malicious, willful, and/or egregious) to qualify for punitive damages. Punitive damages are “bonus” damages, and act as a multiplier of baseline compensatory damages — they can be as much as seven times the baseline damages! That can raise your case value substantially, so it’s worth exploring if possible.

How to calculate the total dollar value of the property damage?

You can hire someone (use their attorney to navigate this process!) who will evaluate the car accident scene, and will provide an estimation of the various losses based on what they discover. Property loss isn’t just tied to direct damage. There is loss associated with the cost of repairing, there’s loss associated with finding a replacement home/vehicle until the damaged one is fixed, and more.

Documentation evidence is useful, of course (i.e., police report), but so is video and photo evidence.

A professional appraiser can then be brought in to evaluate the market value of the pre-accident property. This will provide you a baseline from which to secure compensation in your suit.

A physical injury is not necessary to claim property damage

It’s important to understand that physical injuries are not necessary to secure compensation if a vehicle damages your property. While yes, it can be “strategically helpful” to sue for an injury (in addition to the property loss), it is not fundamental. You are certainly entitled to sue for property damage alone — or to submit an insurance claim with your own insurer, if that’s the path you ultimately decide to go down.

Liability isn’t always obvious

Suppose that a vehicle damages your property (i.e., your home, your parked car, etc.). Liability seems straightforward, right? It’s not like your home “moved” into the path of the defendant’s vehicle.

Liability may attach to other parties, however — it’s not necessarily just the driver who can be held responsible for colliding with your property. This might be confusing, so let’s continue with our previous example for clarity.

Imagine that your attorney and the accident investigator discovers that the brakes failed when the driver was operating their vehicle. This led to the collision with your home.Under these circumstances, you could potentially sue the auto manufacturer for defective design/manufacture. Alternatively, imagine that the driver who hit your home was a delivery driver who was out delivering packages when they crashed. This would potentially open up their employer to liability.

Suing multiple defendants can be useful in motor vehicle accident disputes, especially if the driver has low insurance coverage (or is uninsured). So you’ll want to talk about these and other case strategies with your attorney.

Statute of limitations: don’t delay!

Whether your claim involves property loss or an injury, or both, there will be an applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations acts as a deadline — if you do not file your claims before the deadline passes, then you will have effectively relinquished your claims under the law. In other words, if you wait too long, you won’t be able to recover compensation!

Given the high stakes, it’s important to work with an attorney as soon as possible. They can help you navigate the legal processes in a timely manner, so that you don’t delay past the statute of limitations deadline.

In the event that you have waited “too long,” bear in mind that there are exceptions to the statute of limitations in some cases, which may apply — these can be complicated, however, so you’ll want to address the possibility with an attorney.

If you’ve been injured or if a vehicle damages your property, then you could be entitled to sue for damages under the law.

We understand that bringing a lawsuit can be rather stressful for those who have never been through the process — rest assured, a skilled attorney can help you navigate the dispute process effectively, efficiently, and in a way that minimizes the overall stress. And in fact, the vast majority of cases are resolved through a settlement negotiation, not through trial, so chances are that your case will not have to go through a lengthy trial.

Ready to get started? Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free legal consultation with one of the experienced property damage attorneys in our network. During the initial consultation, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your case and learn more about what options you have for moving forward. There’s no obligation to continue if you decide against it, so don’t delay. Call us today!

We look forward to assisting you!

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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