After a car accident, you may have several types of losses. These losses usually arise from two sources: bodily injuries and property damage.
Bodily injuries include the physical and mental injuries you suffer from, for example, a car accident. Injuries can cause economic losses, like medical expenses and lost wages, and non-economic losses, like pain and suffering.
Property damage includes the effects of the crash on your vehicle and other personal property. These losses are exclusively financial, even if you have some sentimental attachment to them.
What Is Property Damage?
Property damage covers almost everything aside from your physical or mental injuries. If you were involved in a car collision, property damage might include damage to your vehicle and the loss of your personal effects.
For bicycle accidents, property damage might also include the loss of your helmet and other protective gear.
Property damage includes damage to fixtures and real property as well. When someone crashes a vehicle into a building, the structure’s damage qualifies as property damage. Likewise, hitting a mailbox is considered property damage.
Calculating Property Damage
The property damage you suffer depends on what happened to the property. The property damage you suffered is the property’s replacement value if it was lost or destroyed completely. Therefore, a driver who crashes into your brand-new vehicle will bear liability for more property damage than if they hit a 20-year-old car.
This same rule applies to your personal effects. Suppose that you were involved in a car crash that destroyed your cell phone. The replacement value of an expensive phone will be higher than the replacement value of an old phone.
Property damage can also cover partial damage to your vehicle or personal effects. In these situations, you can calculate your losses in a few ways:
- Cost of repairs
- Diminishment in value
- Value of your lost ability to use the property
The easiest way to see the differences in these measures is to apply them to your vehicle. If someone hits your car and destroys the radiator, your losses might include:
- The cost of repairing the radiator
- The diminishment in value of the car due to having been in a car crash
- Your time and cost from not having your car while it was in the repair shop
You should receive compensation to put you back into the same financial position you were in before the accident. As a result, you can seek property damage compensation to cover any losses caused by the situation.
Lawyers often use the “but for” test to determine causation. In this test, you can generally seek compensation for all losses that would not have happened but for the accident.
For example, but for the accident:
- You would not have had to repair your radiator
- Your car would have been worth $2,000 more
- You would not have been deprived of your car for two weeks
This test provides a way to link your losses to the property damage caused by the crash.
Proving Property Damage
To get compensation for property damage, you must prove that the other party was negligent. In the context of a car accident, this may mean that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care in terms of operating their vehicle safely.
For example, you may be able to prove negligence by showing the driver was ticketed for breaking a traffic law when they caused the crash.
But you can also prove negligence even if the other driver was not cited. For example, suppose the accident happened when the other driver was legally eating while driving. You can still receive compensation if the driver knew or should have known that eating would distract them from driving carefully.
As long as you can prove causation by linking the crash to your losses, you’ll be on your way to recovering the fair market value of your losses. You can prove the value using:
- Repair quotes or bills
- Receipts for personal effects
- Appraisals or estimates for a total loss
You can also seek compensation for consequential losses, like the cost of renting a vehicle while your car was in the shop.
You receive compensation based on your property’s fair market value. This does not include sentimental value. As a result, you may not receive what you would consider fair compensation for photos, clothing, or jewelry, where a large part of the value comes from your feelings about them.
Getting Compensation for Property Damage
All drivers in Georgia must buy at least $25,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance coverage. This insurance pays for the repair or replacement cost for damage to someone else’s property.
Your PDL coverage will not cover your losses. Instead, you must pursue a claim against the at-fault driver to pursue PDL compensation. If you have collision and comprehensive coverage in your policy, your insurer might cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
You can combine a property damage and injury claim when pursuing compensation from an at-fault driver. To learn about the property damage and injury compensation you can seek after your car accident, contact us at The King Firm for a free consultation.