We work hard for the items we own. Our electronics, vehicles, jewelry, and other items have value to us, both personally and in the eyes of the law. If your property was damaged or destroyed by another person’s intentional or negligent actions, you may be entitled to compensation.
It’s important to understand when property damage occurs and what your options are so you can recover any available compensation for repairing or replacing your property.
What Is Property Damage?
Property damage occurs when your property is damaged or destroyed. This applies when your property loses functionality and when it loses monetary value. If your vehicle is hit by another driver and your axle breaks, the car has lost functionality as well as monetary value.
If someone hits your vehicle and leaves a large dent or scratch, but the vehicle still works perfectly, your property has lost monetary value – but not functionality.
It’s important to differentiate between property damage and bodily injury, although both can occur in a single incident. For example, a car accident may cause vehicle damage and physical damage to the occupants. Different laws and procedures may apply to recovering damages for property damage and personal injuries.
Types of Property
Property generally can be divided into two categories: real property and personal property.
Real property includes land and things permanently attached to the land, such as your home, other structures on or in the property, and things growing on it, like trees. Personal property includes all other belongings, such as jewelry, cars, electronics, and other personal items.
Both of these types of property–real and personal property–can sustain damage. This can be due to natural causes, such as wildfires or floods, or the actions of people or companies.
Recovering Compensation for Your Property Damage
As mentioned earlier, property damage can arise from natural disasters or other similar causes. However, property damage can also be caused by people. If your property is damaged by another person or a company, there are legal principles that give you the right to seek compensation. Some common types of legal claims for property damage include:
If someone’s carelessness leads to harm to your property, you can pursue a tort claim for negligence to recover compensation. To succeed on a claim of negligence, you must show the following:
- The defendant’s actions or omissions fell below the accepted standard of care;
- Their actions directly caused harm to your property; and
- You suffered compensable losses due to that harm.
For example, if a driver runs a red light and crashes into your vehicle, you may be able to pursue a property damage claim based on the other driver’s negligence.
Trespass to Land or Trespass to Chattels
Trespass refers to when someone intentionally interferes with your property. If the interference involves real property, it is called trespass to land. If the interference involves personal property, it is called trespass to chattels. To prove a claim of trespass to land or chattels, you must show the following:
- You owned the property or had a right to possess it;
- The other party intentionally interfered with your property or entered your land without your permission;
- The interference deprived you of the possession or use of the property; and
- You were harmed by this deprivation.
For example, if your cousin takes your car without asking your permission and drives it around, this is trespass to chattels.
Conversion is similar to trespass to chattels, but it is more severe. In a conversion claim, the other party’s interference with your personal property is so substantial that it often requires payment for the full value of the damaged or destroyed property.
For example, if your cousin took your vehicle without your permission and sold it to another party, that would be grounds for a conversion claim.
What Are Your Options When Your Property Is Damaged?
When your property is damaged, you may have several options for receiving compensation for your losses.
Contact Your Insurance Company To Make a Claim
You probably have insurance for the different types of property you own, such as auto insurance and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. You may be able to make a claim for compensation with your insurance company, even if another person caused the property damage.
Make a Claim Against the At-Fault Party
If another person or entity caused the property damage, then you can pursue a claim against that party. Typically, you will deal with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
What Is Your Property Damage Claim Worth?
Ideally, if someone else’s actions caused you property damage, you should be “made whole” for the damages you suffered. For instance, if another driver runs a red light and crashes into your vehicle and it is totaled, then you should receive compensation for the value of your car at the time of the accident.
Determining the actual compensation you will receive for a property damage claim depends on several factors. These include the extent of the damage, the insurance coverage available, who was at fault and whether you bear some responsibility, and the relevant law in your area.
In New Mexico and Arizona, the amount of damages you can recover in a property damage claim is reduced by a percentage that reflects your degree of fault. For example, if you incurred $20,000 worth of property damage in a car accident, and you were 50% at fault for the accident, then you could recover $10,000.
Time Limits To Bring a Claim for Property Damage
It’s important to act quickly after property damage because there is usually a deadline to bring a claim for property damage. This is often called the statute of limitations. In Arizona, you have two years from the date of the incident to bring a claim for property damage. In New Mexico, you have four years to bring such a claim.
A Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With Your Property Damage Claim
Property damage cases can be complex, as they may involve valuable items and may also involve personal injury claims. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the full compensation that you are entitled to for any damage to your personal or real property.
Contact the attorneys at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers if you would like to discuss your case with one of our Phoenix injury lawyers. Just call (602) 595-5559 to schedule a free consultation.