After a car accident, most personal injury lawyers focus on getting you compensation for the effects of the crash on your health and ability to work. Of course, these are both extremely important types of damages, as medical treatment and lost job hours could seriously cost you. But your damaged property is also essential and should not be overlooked.
A car that needs repairs or gets totaled could cost you thousands of dollars. Electronics or other valuables that get broken or lost in an accident could significantly add to that loss. If you’re a trucking company, any cargo that gets lost or damaged in a crash could send you into the red.
A property damage claim after a car or trucking accident could get you compensation for:
- Laptops and other costly personal electronics
- Trucking cargo that gets damaged, destroyed, or lost
- The value of your car or trucking rig itself, if it’s totaled
- The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle
- The cost of renting a car while your vehicle is being repaired
Some personal injury attorneys don’t handle property damage claims, leaving you to deal with them instead. But the last thing you want to do is wrangle with your insurance company over these claims, especially while you’re recovering from any injuries from your accident.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we take care of every aspect of your car accident case, including the personal injury claims and any property damage you’ve suffered. In a best-case scenario, you could get your property damages covered under your car accident settlement or judgment.
Covering Your Property Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit
Whoever is responsible or at fault in the accident is also legally responsible for any losses that result from their actions. This includes lost wages or economic losses, like hospital bills. Legally, that also covers any property value you’ve lost in the crash.
Under the law, whoever is at fault must “make you whole” – in other words, set you up as if the accident had never happened. That means if someone else is 100% at fault in the accident, they must pay for 100% of your losses, or “damages.”
California is an at-fault state with a pure comparative negligence law.
How does comparative negligence work in California car accident cases? Each person involved in an accident is legally responsible based on how much they’re at fault. So if a court decides you’re 25% at fault based on the evidence, you can only recover 75% of your total damages from the other drivers involved in the crash. On the flip side, if you’re 60% responsible for the crash, you can still recover 40% of your damages.
Who ultimately pays for property damages after a car accident?
- The insurance company of another at-fault driver
- The comprehensive or collision coverage under your car insurance policy
- Your own auto insurance if the accident is with an uninsured motorist
- A successful lawsuit that ends in a settlement or court judgment in your favor
Unfortunately, no matter what the commercials may say, insurance companies are not actually interested in your best interests. (Click here to read about common tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying out what you really deserve.) Your insurance representative is not going to make sure you know your full rights because their priority is their shareholders. They may downplay your property damages or even try to claim that they’re not covered. But an experienced attorney knows all these tricks and knows how to get around them, too.
It might be easy to dismiss personal property as just “things.” But our personal property often has emotional value that adds to the loss. A good lawyer can help you determine the best way forward so that you can get the most compensation possible for your damages.
How to File a Property Damage Claim for a Car Accident
Like most legal claims, you should get started and take action early for the greatest chance of success. That means talking to an attorney about your options shortly after your accident.
In California, the statute of limitations for a property damage claim is 3 years from the date you noticed or should have noticed the damages. This is usually the date of your accident. If you miss this legal deadline, you could lose the chance to file a claim forever.
Depending on your circumstances, you could choose to file a property damage claim on its own or as a part of a larger personal injury claim or lawsuit.
The most important part of a property damage claim is calculating the value of what you lost in the car accident. Calculating your damages could involve:
- Researching the market value of similar items
- Getting a quote for how much it would cost to replace the item
- Determining what the sales price would’ve been before the item got damaged
- Getting an expert to assess or appraise the value of the item
The above applies to the actual cost of your vehicle as well as any cargo you were carrying in the case of a trucking accident. If a trucking accident interrupts your business operations, you could hold the person responsible for the accident liable for those economic losses, too.
Evidence is your best friend when it comes to proving your claims. It’s also another reason why you should file your claims early – evidence is most convincing when it’s fresh.
Consider a case where you get into a car accident and your brand new laptop got damaged in the crash, but you didn’t take photos of the damage or file a claim until a month after the incident. Your insurance company could argue that the damage could have happened anytime in the last month and not necessarily in the crash. This would weaken your case, as opposed to getting evidence and filing your claim right away.
There’s no reason you should just let property damages go uncollected. These are real losses that you suffer that should be compensated. After a car accident, talk to your attorney about getting property damages covered as well as personal injury damages. Click here to talk to the experienced California injury attorneys at Sepulveda Sanchez Law today.