If you suffer losses from a car accident caused by another person’s misconduct, you can file a lawsuit to recover your losses. You can demand compensation for any personal injury you suffer, of course. Even if you are not hurt, however, you can still demand compensation for any damage to your vehicle.
Although property damage claims are not the same as personal injury claims, they work much the same way in practice.
Real Property Damage
The term “real property” means land, buildings, and fixtures. You don’t see such claims accompanying car accident claims unless the accident manages to damage real estate, which is unusual. Most real property damages arise from severe weather.
Personal Property Damage
“Personal property” means any property that is not real property, even including intellectual property such as copyrighted material. In a car accident, personal property typically refers to the damaged or totaled motor vehicle.
How To Calculate Damages for a Property Damage Claim
There are two main ways to assign a value to damaged or destroyed property:
- The loss of value of the property arising from the accident; and
- The cost to replace the property with property of equivalent value.
Insurance companies consider a vehicle “totaled” if the cost to repair it is equal to or greater than the cost to replace it.
Types of Property Damage Claims
California law recognizes different types of property damage claims, including the following:
The four legal elements of a negligence claim for property damage are the same as the ones for a personal injury claim:
- Duty of care: Every driver is duty-bound to obey traffic laws and to observe common-sense safety precautions. Even an activity that is technically legal – such as driving the speed limit during an ice storm – can be negligent under the wrong circumstances. Courts hold certain professionals, such as truckers, to a higher standard of care.
- Breach of duty: The defendant breaches their duty when they fail to do what a duty demands. You can breach your duty in two ways: (1) by doing something wrong and (2) by failing to perform an act that you should have done.
- Damages: The defendant must have suffered damage to their property. Otherwise, there is nothing to sue for. You must prove every penny of these damages. Duty plus breach equal negligence, and negligence plus damages and causation equal liability.
- Causation: The defendant’s negligence must have caused your damages in two senses. First, it must be true that your damages would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence. Second, your damages must have been a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence.
In a negligence per se claim, a safety rule or statute provides the exact content of the standard of care, such that violation of the rule or statute automatically constitutes negligence.
Trespass to Chattels
Trespass to chattels occurs if someone intentionally damages your property. It is an independent claim, meaning that it doesn’t arise from a personal injury claim. A chattel is movable personal property rather than real property. It does not include fixtures such as property that is attached to real estate.
To win a claim for trespass to chattels, you must prove that the defendant:
- Acted intentionally;
- Physically interfered with your right to exclusive use of the property;
- Exercised possession of your property without your permission; and
- Caused you harm.
Stealing your car for a “joy ride” would probably constitute trespass to chattels, for example. Trespass to chattels can include diverse offenses such as temporary theft and vandalism.
The offense known as “conversion” might refer to the permanent theft of your property. It might also include acts of control or dominion over your property that completely destroys it. If you sue for conversion, you would ask for the property’s market value.
You can file a product liability claim for property damage if a defective, unreasonably dangerous consumer product damages your property. If you own the product itself, you can file a property damage claim if the defect destroys the product. If the defect injures you, you can also file a personal injury claim.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Handle Your Car Accident Property Damage Claim
Personal injury claims and property damage claims often go hand in hand. For this reason, personal injury lawyers generally have plenty of experience resolving car accident property damage claims. Schedule a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer to get an idea of what your options are.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.
M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers – Los Angeles Office
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Los Angeles, CA 90010
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Los Angeles, CA 90071