In personal injury law, you hear a lot of talk about car accident injuries. This is with good reason. Injuries affect your life in several ways. What is less often discussed is how property damage can impact your life. Your health is always the most important thing to consider, but if your car doesn’t function, this could have a dramatic effect on you as well.
When everything goes correctly, insurance can cover property damage, and the process is smooth. You simply call your company, give them all the relevant information, and allow them to handle the rest. When it comes to insurance, however, things aren’t always that simple
Oklahoma is an at-fault state. This means that the driver who caused an accident is responsible for covering all damages. This coverage goes through their insurance, and that’s where the trouble begins. Insurance companies are known for protecting their bottom line first. This often leads them to find any excuse to deny benefits. They can claim their customer was not responsible, gumming up the process.
Even without this conflict, insurance isn’t always enough to cover your expenses. The at-fault driver could be uninsured or underinsured. When benefits max out, you are left covering the difference.
When insurance isn’t enough, going to court may be the only option you have left. “Personal injury” is not exclusive to bodily harm. It also applies to the economic injury you suffer from another’s negligence. In this article, we will discuss property damage lawsuits and the kinds of compensation you could receive.
DAMAGES THAT PAY YOU BACK
The money you receive in a lawsuit is often called “damages” because it pays you back for the damage you incurred. Here are some damages you could receive in a property damage lawsuit.
Damages can be direct compensation for the money you already lost or stand to lose. Hence, these are called “compensatory damages.” Compensatory damages reimburse any money you spent fixing your car. It may also cover any future expenses you expect to pay.
Getting your car fixed, you can expect to pay for more than just repairs. Often, you must rent a car or take public transport, adding to your expenses. These expenses are a direct consequence of your wreck, and a lawsuit can repay them via “consequential damages.”
Consequential damages also include any income you lost because of your wreck. Perhaps you needed your car for work, and you weren’t able to perform your duties. You eventually had to burn through your personal time and even took unpaid time off, waiting on your repairs. For some, the loss of their car effectively causes them to lose their job. It could also result in the loss of a promotion or an upcoming career change. In such cases, you can sue for a loss of “potential” income, recovering what you would have made if your car hadn’t been damaged.
Another form of expense could be incidentals, such as paying for calls, shipping, transportation, and so on. Though initially minor, these costs can add up, and you could have them recovered in a lawsuit.
In very rare instances, the court could award you punitive damages. These damages are solely meant to penalize a defendant. Civil courts do not dole out criminal penalties, so their only recourse for punishment is financial.
Punitive damages are awarded only when the defendant’s actions were willful and malicious. For instance, they may have intentionally targeted you on the road, causing an accident. Courts could perhaps call for punitive damages when the driver was exceedingly drunk, as another example.
PROVING YOUR CASE
Several factors go into proving a personal injury suit. When it comes to a property damage lawsuit, two of the most important elements are “foreseeability” and a “duty to mitigate.”
This can be a difficult concept to prove, and defendants will often use it against a plaintiff in court. Essentially, foreseeability is the reasonable consequences for one’s actions. For example, if you speed, it’s easy to see how you could cause a wreck. Furthermore, you could predict that the damage could be serious and cost quite a bit to fix. Foreseeability creates a reasonable link between the defendant’s actions and your request for compensation.
DUTY TO MITIGATE
When you are the injured party, you have a responsibility to keep the problem from getting worse. This is your “duty to mitigate.” For example, you should not keep driving if your car’s been damaged. Further travel can wear down damaged components, making matters worse. In court, the defendant may attempt to prove that you exacerbated the damage, and the compensation you’re requesting is unfair. It will be up to you and your attorney to demonstrate that you did your best to keep from creating further damage.