I’m often contacted by individuals who have suffered property damage to their automobile, house, or other property. They have questions about what sort of money payments they are entitled to receive for property destruction or loss, and they often have questions about what they are entitled to receive payments for. With that in mind, this article will hopefully shed some light on what payments you may be entitled to for property damage claims in Virginia.
Personal Property or Real Property?
The first step in knowing your rights in property damage cases is determining whether the damaged property is personal property or real property. An easy way to think of personal property is that it is all property that is not real estate. That includes all tangible goods that are not real estate, such as motor vehicles, animals, furniture, and merchandise. It also includes what are called intangible goods – stock interests, financial interests, or intellectual property interests, such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
Real property, on the other hand, includes real estate. The best way to think of real property is to think of land and everything that is affixed to it, namely houses and other structures.
Money Owed for Damage to Personal Property
When personal property is damaged due to another’s fault, Virginia law requires the responsible party to pay the difference between the “market value of the property immediately before and immediately after the property was damaged.”[i] In other words, the party causing damage must pay the property owner the difference in the property’s value from before and after the accident.
Virginia law recognizes an exception to this rule: if the damaged property can be repaired and the cost of the repairs is less than the loss of the property’s fair market value, then the property owner is entitled to obtain the cost of repairing the personal property.
These valuation issues most typically arise in car accidents. If the owner’s car is unrecoverable or “totaled,” the owner will be entitled to the full value of the automobile. If, on the other hand, the owner’s car can be repaired for less cost than the fair market value of the automobile, then the owner can be paid the reasonable repair costs.
It often occurs that the other party’s insurance company will refuse to pay anything for damage to your car or vehicle. The insurance company may raise defenses to the injury to property claim. If this happens, call an experienced attorney immediately.
It is important to keep in mind that, unlike personal injury claims in Virginia, property owners are not permitted to obtain non-economic damages in property damage claims. That means, for example, that a property owner cannot collect money for pain and suffering based on the sentimental value of lost, damaged, or destroyed property. For more information on this issue, please review my article, Types of Money Damages in Personal Injury Cases.
Money Owed for Damage to Real Property
Virginia law permits an owner of real estate wider opportunities to collect money in a Virginia property damage claim. As in the case of personal property, an owner of permanently damaged real estate can obtain the diminution in the property’s value caused by another’s conduct. In addition, Virginia law recognizes that “damages for injury to real property include compensation for loss of use of the property and other consequential injuries in addition to any permanent property damage, whether measured by restoration or market value.”[ii]
Depending on the context in which the damage to real property occurred, it is possible that a property owner could receive a wide variety of money awards for damage to their property. Such awards could arise when damages occur to the real estate of a business and cause the business to stop operating for some time. When that happens, the business owner may be able to obtain monetary payments for loss of use, lost profits, and other harms caused by the damage to real property.
If you need help with a property damage claim or property destruction claim in Virginia, please contact Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Robert E. Byrne, Jr. of MartinWren, P.C. Bob offers free consultations for property damage and personal injury claims, and he can be reached, toll free, at 855-812-9220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a general discussion of when an at-fault party is required to provide compensation for bodily injuries or injuries to property, please review the article, Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?