A Short Primer on Property Damage

Juliet D'cruz

Updated on:

A Short Primer on Property Damage

When most people think of suing someone for property damage, it usually involves an auto accident. Most people know about property damage liability regarding auto accidents because many individuals drive, and each must purchase auto insurance to fulfill their state’s legal requirements.

Property Damage Caused by Another Individual

That’s not the only reason to contact a law firm specializing in property damage cases, like Apex Law. Your home, the surrounding structures, and your yard, can incur property damage caused by another individual. Most frequently, this type of damage includes:

  • Arson
  • Broken windows or doors
  • Graffiti or other vandalism
  • Theft.

The tricks children sometimes play at Halloween, such as egging houses, also fall into this category.

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Property Damage Legally Defined

The law defines property damage as any injury to an individual’s or organization’s property resulting from another individual’s or organization’s negligence, willful misconduct, or an act of nature. While you turn to your insurance company to file a claim when nature harms your property, when a person or an organization does it, contact an attorney.

Examples of Property Damage Liability

Property damage liability applies to many situations. For example, if your neighbor ran over your flower beds while learning to ride their new motorcycle, damaging the work of your landscaper, you have a property damage liability case.

Another example of property liability occurs when a company damages your property. Perhaps a nearby business dumps its trash on the back edge of your property. That illegal dumping, whether trash bags or chemicals, constitutes property damage.

Property Damage Awards

What can you recover in a property damage case? Typically, an award for property damage replaces the value of the property. The court or mediator determines this value using a formula that includes:

  • Repair or replacement costs
  • Loss of use costs
  • Sentimental value payment.

In calculating a loss of use payment, the court considers the financial costs created by the property damage. For instance, if someone struck your parked car and rendered it undrivable, you would need to take public transportation to work and errands, rent an Uber or Lyft, or rent a car. A property damage award that included loss of use would reimburse these costs.

Property Damage and Punitive Awards

Property damage typically results in compensatory damages of the actual costs incurred. Sometimes, the court also awards punitive damages when the at-fault individual acted negligently or willfully.

When the law finds that an individual acted negligently, it means the person failed to uphold a generally accepted standard. A doctor who did not perform an accepted battery of tests before making a diagnosis would be guilty of negligence, but so would an electrician who did not properly prepare your property for the work they did. TV shows often feature medical negligence, but negligence also occurs in property damage.

The law defines willful as acting intentionally. It might seem that the electrician’s example showed intent, but negligence refers to behaving irresponsibly. Willful or intentional action refers to damage planned and caused on purpose. If your duplex neighbor became angry because you worked on your car in the driveway all Saturday and bashed your vehicle’s hood with a crowbar, they acted willfully and with the intent to cause damage.

When Property Damage Happens

When property damage happens, phone an attorney who specializes in the area. Most lawyers don’t charge for the initial consultation, so you can find out if you have a case for a lawsuit with a phone call.