Understanding Car Accident Property Damage

car accident property damage

Scooting around the high-traffic Phoenix area becomes routine. Accidents happen, but you’re a careful driver, so what can go wrong?

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were 121,345 automobile crashes in 2021. Of those, 85,079 were property damage only, plus 1,063 fatalities and 35,203 injuries.

The actions of an inattentive driver can cause a major car accident, leaving you injured and your car a mangled mess. Filing a car accident property damage claim can be challenging, and the repair costs are high.

Repair costs range from $100 for a minor car accident to $10,000 for a rear-end collision. The average bumper replacement runs between $300 and $500, and a total suspension replacement costs about $5,000.

This article explains when hiring an attorney for a property damage claim is appropriate and what to expect when suing for vehicle damage.

What Is Car Accident Property Damage?

Vehicle property damage is the battering a car sustains when involved in a collision. You may be familiar with car accident attorneys filing lawsuits for people suffering personal injury or wrongful death in minor or major car accidents.

Damages done to the vehicle are not generally a part of a personal injury claim. The attorney may handle your property damage claim as part of their services.

Depending on your situation, the property damage claim may be paid by either your auto insurance or the other driver’s insurance. The most crucial step is to notify your car insurance company immediately following the accident. Before approving the claim, they will inform you of their policy for receiving body shop estimates and any additional adjuster inspections.

The insurance company will determine whether to repair your vehicle or if they consider it a total loss. In the latter’s case, they pay you the car’s value at the time of impact. The insurance company may ask you to sign a property damage settlement agreement before receiving payment.

Read this document thoroughly. Ensure it releases the company’s liability on property damage only. You could be removing their liability for any personal injuries you have from the accident if the agreement contains references to “all claims,” “personal injury,” or “bodily injury.”

Do not sign a form granting a complete liability release. Schedule a consultation with an attorney familiar with filing car accident claims to discuss your options.  

Property Inside the Vehicle

While the biggest repair expense is for the vehicle, don’t forget about claiming a loss for personal property damage inside the car. Were you transporting a laptop that no longer operates? What about your cell phone, tablet, or briefcase that flew across the vehicle at the point of impact?

Don’t forget personal items for the little ones you transport. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing all child restraints following a moderate to severe collision. To qualify as a minor accident, meaning your child’s seat is still safe, the following criteria must be met:

  • You can drive the vehicle away from the crash
  • The door closest to the child seat was not damaged
  • None of the vehicle occupants suffer personal injuries
  • The airbags do not deploy
  • There is no visible damage to the child’s seat.

In addition to the above criteria, check the child seat owner’s manual to verify manufacturer recommendations. The cost of replacing child restraints can add up quickly if you have several children ranging in usage from an infant carrier to a high-back seat or booster. 

Other expenses in this category include repairs to nearby property, including mailboxes and yard damage. You may incur fees for towing your vehicle and renting a car while waiting for repairs or until you can purchase a replacement.

Diminished Value

In Arizona, vehicle property damage determinations are made by evaluating three areas:

  • Cost of the repair
  • Diminution in value—damages owed after a party breaches a contract
  • Loss of use and rental cost

Selling or trading a vehicle in Arizona requires disclosing all damage from prior accidents. You find two identical cars from the same year with comparable mileage. One has a clean record; the other has a car accident history.

Which will you buy? Most customers place a higher value on the one with a clear accident record.

This is why your car’s value is less than before the collision. It has an inherent diminished value (DV).

DV is a loss of market value because of being in an accident. Diminution in value is the calculation of damages by subtracting the car’s market value before and after the collision.

Arizona law allows you to file a claim for DV against the party who caused the accident. That person’s insurance company must pay you for the diminished value.

Determining Loss in Value

Determining loss in value requires analyzing several factors. This begins with the year, make, and model of the automobile. You must factor in the overall vehicle condition and mileage at the time of the accident, plus what damages are sustained due to the collision.

Other considerations include if your car’s repairs are to industry standard, whether it was previously in any other accidents, and what potential buyers or car dealers are willing to pay since the completion of repairs.

The tricky part is determining fair market value before and after an accident. Third-party insurance carriers are going to question DV determinations.

You will need to obtain an expert appraiser for a determination of the pre-loss and post-loss value of your automobile. The appraiser will write a report giving their opinion regarding DV.

Ensure the expert your hire has the qualifications to prove your case in court. The best way to confirm legal standing is through the assistance of a car accident attorney.

Arizona Car Accident Laws

Being familiar with car accident laws in Arizona ensures your legal standing if you find yourself in a collision. There is no obligation to report an auto accident, but law enforcement must file a report if there are:

  • Injuries or fatalities
  • Property damage exceeding $1,000
  • A driver receives a citation

You have a legal obligation to remain at the scene of the accident and exchange information with the other drivers. Fleeing the scene will result in a criminal charge of either felony or misdemeanor hit-and-run.

Comparative negligence is a system that allows the recovery of damages, even if partially at fault for the accident. The damages you receive will reflect a reduction equivalent to your percentage of responsibility in the collision.

There is no damage limit on how much compensation you may receive in a personal injury car accident lawsuit. The only limitation is the deadline for filing your claim.

Arizona Revised Statutes §12-542 specifies a two-year statute of limitations for filing to recover damages for the property. This includes both real property and personal property, including vehicle damage.

Your case will likely be dismissed if you do not meet the filing deadline. Hire a car accident attorney to ensure all pleadings comply with legal requirements, and your case moves forward

Can I Sue if I Wasn’t Injured?

Arizona law allows you to bring a lawsuit when you incur damages without personal injury. You can receive compensation for property damage to the vehicle and emotional distress following the accident.

It is essential to lay the groundwork for a tort claim immediately. This includes:

  • Documenting the accident scene
  • Contacting law enforcement to report the accident
  • Seeking medical treatment to ensure you have no hidden injuries
  • Scheduling a consultation with a car accident attorney.

Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be able to file for emotional distress or mental anguish. These fall under the “pain and suffering” category and are a component in many car accident actions. By filing an action for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, you may be able to recover damages, even though there is no physical injury.

What Is a Tort?

A tort is an act or omission that results in injury or harm to another person. The injury is not physical; it is the invasion of a person’s legal rights. It is a civil wrong, and the courts can impose liability on the at-fault party.

In the case of an auto accident, this includes the impairment of a person’s rights to travel the Arizona roadways without harm. Another driver’s negligent behavior, resulting in an accident, violates the first driver’s rights. 

When determining liability in a tort action, the party at fault must pay monetary compensation to remedy the other person’s loss.

Proving Property Damage Liability

When your car accident attorney files a lawsuit on your behalf, they must prove the other driver’s negligence is the reason for your loss. They must show evidence that:

  • The other driver had a duty to drive in a careful, prudent manner
  • That the driver breached their duty, causing an accident
  • Because of the accident, you are suffering financial loss, including the repair of your automobile

Arizona law requires drivers to have a minimum property damage liability coverage of $15,000. This coverage pays for a victim’s property loss, vehicle replacement, or repairs. This includes personal property inside the vehicle.

To determine whether your case meets the legal requirements for compensation, contact a car accident lawyer to discuss your options.

When to Hire a Lawyer

The best time to hire an attorney for your car accident property damage is as soon after the accident as possible. The faster your attorney is on the case, the quicker they can obtain a police report and gather the evidence necessary to negotiate a settlement or take the matter to trial.

If you suffer loss from an auto accident, call Sweet Lawyers at (800) 674-7854, or request a call back using our online form. We provide free consultations and have a 98% success rate.

You have nothing to lose and a lot of compensation to gain. Call today!

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