Property damage is any physical damage that occurs to tangible property. The damage can be the result of another person’s negligence, willful destruction, or an act of nature. While insurance usually comes in to play to cover the loss, compensation may need to come from the offending party directly, like in cases where the costs of damage exceed the policy limits. The amount of compensation due is usually determined by the value of the property and/or the cost to replace or repair the damage, or costs incurred until the property can be replaced or repaired. Determining compensation becomes more subjective in the case of heirlooms or property with sentimental value as these items may not be able to be replaced.
Property damage that may arise from another person’s negligence can include common events like an auto accident, or even damage that results from construction defects like foundation cracks or improper electrical or pluming work. A less common cause of damage arises due to subsidence, or when the ground beneath a property experiences a sudden sinking or settling. When this happens a structure may tilt, break, or collapse completely. While subsidence can occur due to natural causes, it is most commonly caused by the removal of water, gas, mineral resources and oil.
Willful destruction of property occurs when a person damages property intentionally and is usually categorized as vandalism. This can include anything from breaking a window to setting a house on fire.
Damage resulting from an act of nature can include wind damage from hurricanes or tornados, flooding, wildfires, lightning strikes, earthquakes, and burst pipes from cold weather.
Insurance adjusters, whether they work for you or the person who damaged your property, ultimately work for the insurance companies. As such, they will often try to deny your claim or vastly underpay on the claim.
During a property damage lawsuit, the plaintiff will file legal action against the person who damaged their property, called the defendant, for the purpose of recovering reimbursement to repair or replace the damaged property and can be based on several different damage claims.
Compensatory damage claims are intended to cover the costs involved in repairing or replacing the damaged property. Any costs incurred because the damaged property was rendered unusable, like a store having to close temporarily after having a vehicle crash through it, are covered in consequential damage claims. Punitive damage claims do not arise due to the actual damage to property, but as punishment for the defendant and to discourage others from acting in a similar manner. Punitive damages can only be awarded if the plaintiff has been awarded compensatory damages and will usually not exceed ten times the amount awarded for compensatory damages. Lastly, incidental damage claims aim to cover expenses that arise due to the loss or damage of property. For example, the cost of a rental vehicle while the plaintiff’s vehicle is being repaired could be claimed as an incidental damage claim.
Like in any legal matter it is important to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable in the type of lawsuit you are looking to file. In the case of property damage, you will want an attorney with the experience and resources to recover your losses, whether that is from the person who did the damage, their insurance company, or your insurance company. If your property has been damaged call The Cochran Firm today.