If you were in a car accident that only damaged your vehicle, you may have difficulty retaining legal help if you want to pursue legal action. This is because property damage-only cases rarely recover enough money to pay a lawyer for their services. As a result, most personal injury attorneys do not solely handle property damage claims stemming from car accidents. Instead, they take them in conjunction with personal injury or car accident claims.
(Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, will take property damage-only claims stemming from so called acts of god, like hurricane, fire, wind, and flood damage, but not negligence, like car accidents.)
However, to help you better understand why a lawyer may not take on a property damage-only claim, in the following post, we will go over the main reasons why and discuss the possible legal remedies you may have following these accidents.
What Does Property Damage Mean?
In general, property damage is defined as damage, injury, or harm to anything that is not a person. This damage is usually due to natural forces (wind, fire, or flooding) or someone’s omission or actions (negligence or theft).
This property damage can include damage to:
- Residential properties, such as your home or driveway
- Personal property, including your motor vehicle, bikes, and even your pet
- Commercial property
What Is the Worth of a Property Damage Claim?
Typically, the compensation you can receive in a property damage claim will depend on the situation, as well as:
- What property was damaged in the accident?
- What was the severity of the damage?
- Is there insurance coverage available to cover the losses to the property?
- Was another person responsible for the property damage?
Based on these factors, your monetary damages may include compensation for the repair of your property or the item’s fair market value if the property was damaged beyond repair or was stolen.
Why Do Personal Injury Lawyers Avoid Property Damage-Only Cases?
When it comes to a property damage-only case, a personal injury attorney can only do so much with these types of claims, especially when no bodily injuries are involved. As a result, many personal injury attorneys will not take these types of claims, especially after a car accident.
Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay them a percentage of what they recover for you.
Consequently, since these cases do not often result in significant financial recovery, it is usually not worth it for the personal injury attorney to take on these cases unless they involve injuries, which could substantially increase the financial damages.
How To Get Compensation After a Property Damage- Only Car Accident
Generally, if you have a property damage-only car crash, you will only have a few ways to get the money you need. These methods include the following:
Make a Claim With the Insurance Company
Depending on where you live, you must make an insurance claim with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company. For instance, if you live in a no-fault insurance state, you will have to make a claim with your own insurance company regardless of who was liable for the collision.
However, the responsible party’s insurance company will have to pay the car damages if you reside in an at-fault state. Additionally, if you have collision and comprehensive coverage, this optional coverage can help you cover your destroyed vehicle.
Otherwise, you will have to pay for repairs or a replacement vehicle out-of-pocket if insufficient insurance is available or the other driver does not have insurance.
Pursuing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
If you cannot get the money you need from the insurance company or the other person does not have insurance, another option is to sue the at-fault party in small claims court. However, there are limits to how much money you can get from these courts, so it is essential to understand the laws when pursuing a lawsuit in small claims court. Plus, if the individual cannot afford to pay you, even if they are required to, you may still get nothing.
How to Help Your Property-Damage Only Car Accident Claim
After a property damage-only car accident, there are things you can do that can help your legal claim. These actions include the following:
Contact the Police Right After the Accident
You want to call 911 immediately after the collision. The police will report to the scene and create an official report, including information about the parties involved in the accident, their contact details, and the police officer’s findings about what happened and who was responsible for the accident. These details will be important if you decide to pursue an insurance claim.
Report the Incident to the Insurance Company
You will have to report the incident to the appropriate insurance company, depending on your coverage and where you live. Failing to report the incident to the insurer can impact your right to compensation. You also want to ensure you follow the proper steps when filing your insurance claim to give you the best chance of securing the most money possible.
Get Your Motor Vehicle Repaired or Finalize Your Payout
When you file your claim, the insurance adjuster will obtain repair estimates, investigate the incident, and coordinate with the repair shop to help fix your car. If your vehicle was completely totaled, the insurance company might send you a check for the value of the motor vehicle before the accident.
Yet, suppose you experience pushback in this process or run into any trouble. In that case, you may want to reach out to a legal professional who has experience with these property damage-only accidents and can help you figure out what you need to do to get the money you need.
Types of Property-Damage Only Accidents That May Need an Attorney
An act of god is an unfortunate event resulting from natural causes without human intervention. These accidents usually cannot be prevented, even if there was foresight or individuals were extra cautious.
Consequently, when these acts of god damage massive homes or commercial properties, property damage attorneys may be called to ensure that individuals get the money they need, especially if these damages were due to:
- Water leaks
These accidents often result in extensive damages, lost profits, and many other issues. That is why it is understandable why policyholders may want a skilled and experienced property damage attorney guiding them on the type of funds they can fight for.
Watch out for the Statute of Limitations
Even in cases involving property damages, some deadlines can stop you from going after the compensation and justice you deserve. These time restrictions, referred to as the statute of limitations, depend on the state where the accident occurred and the damages that resulted. But in general, for most property damage-only cases, individuals will only have a few years to file their suit. If they do not file within the allotted period, they can be barred from going after the money they need.
For these reasons, it is essential that after your property damage-only car accident, you promptly prepare the necessary documents and submit them before you run out of time to file your lawsuit.
Speak With Great Care to the Insurance Company
Another thing to remember when you take on these property damage-only cases is that the insurance company is not there to be your friend. They are a company that is in the business of making money. The less they pay you, the more they make in the long run. That is why these insurers will do everything they can to reduce the amount of your property claim.
As a result, it is essential that you watch what you say to these insurance adjusters. This means avoiding taking the blame for what happened or making statements such as “I’m sorry.” These comments can reduce the amount of money you can collect from these companies.
Depending on the situation and whether or not the insurance company is willing to work with you, it may be in your best interest to reach out to a lawyer who can handle these types of claims. A lawyer can work to make sure the insurance company is not scamming you out of the money you are entitled to.
How to Negotiate With the Insurance Company
Because the insurance company does not have your best interest in mind, a lawyer may advise you to:
Not Accept the First Offer You Receive
It is not uncommon for the insurance company to offer you a settlement amount shortly after your accident to wrap up the issue as quickly as possible for as little as possible. However, when you accept this first meager settlement, even if you have further expenses down the road, you will not be able to return to the insurance company and ask for more money. That is why it is best that before you accept anything from these insurers, you confirm that this amount is fair to you.
Determine an Amount Fairly Compensates You
When negotiating with the insurance company regarding financial damages, make sure you leave some space so that even if the insurance company does not accept your counteroffer, you can still settle on a settlement amount that will help you cover your losses.
Get Reasons Behind Their Settlement Offers
If the insurance company offers you a settlement amount, you will want to ask them their rationale behind this offer. This can provide further information regarding your claim and help you adjust your settlement amount based on these details. It will also allow you to argue why you believe the claim is worth what it is.
Ask for the Offer in Writing
After you and the insurance company agree on the settlement amount, make sure the offer is in writing. This can prevent any issues down the road when the insurance company tries to claim that they did not agree to those terms.
If You Were Hurt in a Car Accident, Reach out to an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
On the other hand, if you or a loved one were harmed in a motor vehicle accident and sustained property damage alongside bodily injuries, you should reach out to an experienced and knowledgeable car accident attorney as soon as possible. These cases are not only complex and involve a lot of moving parts, but they often deal with extensive financial damages.
Thankfully, you will not have to deal with this challenging case alone. Instead, when you work with an experienced car accident attorney, these lawyers can review the facts of your crash, figure out your legal options, and determine the legal action you should take next.
Your attorneys can:
- Thoroughly inspect the incident and secure the evidence needed to show what happened and who was responsible for the accident.
- Hire experts to help validate your legal claim.
- Handle the settlement negotiations with the insurer and the other side and go after a just amount.
- Fight for maximum financial damages if the other side is unwilling to give you a fair amount by heading to trial.
For further information regarding a motor vehicle accident that resulted in personal injuries and property damages, contact a knowledgeable car accident attorney today for a free consultation and let these legal professionals review how they can help your case.