Someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions could cost you thousands of dollars in property damage. Whether you’ve suffered damage to your personal property or your company’s business property, you can file a civil lawsuit to recover your losses.
Property damage claims often go hand-in-hand with personal injury lawsuits. If you suffer a car accident, you may need medical treatment for your injuries and repairs to your car. You may have to pay for alternative transportation while you wait to replace your vehicle. You may even have lost valuable property that was in your car at the time of the crash.
If you’re a trucking company hauling countless tons of materials across California, losing one of your rigs to repairs could cost your business a significant amount of work. In a trucking accident, you may even suffer damage to your cargo, with major losses.
Property damage claims can also happen on their own. You may have an antique piece of art that you give to a vendor to repair only to get it back damaged or destroyed. You may ship business assets through a company that fails to package them properly so they get damaged in transit. A home appliance may explode, destroying your kitchen.
Fortunately, a lawsuit helps you hold the responsible party accountable for their actions by putting the cost of your property damage where it belongs.
After all, if someone else caused the damage, they should pay for it. “You break it – you buy it.”
So many law firms focus on the personal injury side of cases – medical bills and pain and suffering. While this is important, property damage shouldn’t be overlooked. Some law firms only handle personal injury claims and leave you to deal with the property damage on your own. This can be a huge hassle to try to recover your losses in small claims court.
That’s why it’s important to find a lawyer who will handle the entirety of your case. You deserve to be compensated in full for your losses, with an attorney who will fight for it all.
How to Get Property Damage Covered in a Lawsuit Settlement
Unfortunately, insurance companies are not actually on your side. You may think your insurance covers you for a certain amount of property damage – but your insurance company may try to minimize or outright deny your claims, or try to undervalue your losses.
When you first make a claim, your insurance company may offer you a low settlement offer, hoping you’ll accept because it would be convenient. You should always talk to a lawyer before signing a settlement offer, otherwise you could be leaving a lot on the table.
How Do You Calculate Property Damage?
Property damage falls under compensatory damages or economic damages. These are monetary losses that can be calculated based on the cost to repair or replace the property.
Your lawyer may use the following ways to calculate the total value of your lost property:
- The market value or cost of replacing the item
- The cost of repairing the item if it cannot be replaced
- How much the item would have sold for before it got damaged
- The difference in value before and after the item got damaged
For one-of-a-kind property that truly cannot be replaced, courts may try their best to put a number on the “sentimental value” of the item based on how important it was to you.
But damages are not just limited to the value of your property. You can also recover compensation for other costs and expenses related to the property damage, such as:
- Renting a car while you wait for your car to be repaired
- Staying at a hotel or another residence if your home is uninhabitable
- The cost of any attempt you made to repair or replace the property
- The loss of business profits if your regular operations were interrupted
An experienced property damage lawyer will know the right experts to call to appraise your property accurately. You definitely want to get the opinion of an independent appraiser instead of trusting your insurance company’s valuation, which is bound to be low.
Evidence is the most important part of a property damage case. The stronger your evidence, the more likely you are to get a settlement that actually reflects your true losses.
Your lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need to succeed, such as:
- Multiple expert appraisals establishing the value of your property
- Photos or videos of the property before it was damaged or destroyed
- Your personal testimony about the importance of the items to you
- The price of similar or comparable items currently on the market
Damaged or destroyed property can represent a huge economic and even emotional loss. You deserve to recover the full value of your property from the person who damaged it.
What’s the Statute of Limitations for Property Damage in California?
When it comes to recovering property damage, the sooner you file your claim, the better.
California’s statute of limitations for property damage lawsuits is 3 years. That means you only have 3 years from the date your property got damaged or the date you should have noticed that your property was damaged. If you miss this deadline, you could miss your chance forever.
But the statute of limitations is not the only reason you should get started early. Evidence is always the freshest and the most convincing when events are still recent. After a while, witness memories fade. The condition of the property may change again. You could end up losing access to certain pieces of evidence that you need to prove your case.
You may choose to file a property damage claim as part of another claim, like a personal injury lawsuit. Or you may choose to file a claim separately. The only way to know the best strategy for you moving forward is to talk to an experienced property damage attorney about your case.
Click here now for a free consultation with the lawyers at Sepulveda Sanchez Law.