Loss of Use – The Rarely Known Property Damage Claim

Property Damage ClaimIn almost every auto accident, one or both of the parties suffer some type of property damage to their vehicles. The at-fault party’s insurance will normally cover your property damage, either by way of repair or deeming it a total loss, and giving you the fair market value. Everybody seems familiar with this “repair” or “total loss” compensation. But there is an underlying claim that most people are not aware of. This is the “Loss of Use” claim.

Loss of a property is different than “Loss of Use.” Don’t be confused by the two. Loss of a property, like your car, entitles you to the replacement cost, which is at fair market value. However, loss of use is when you are deprived of the use of that car. When you get into an auto accident and your car gets damaged, maybe it’s not drivable. It takes the insurance company weeks to fix your car if there is a liability dispute. What happens in the meantime? You borrow a friend’s car. You use your spouse’s car. You take the bus. You ride your bike. You walk. In all these scenarios, you were deprived of the use of your vehicle. This is your property. You should be able to use it, but for the fact that someone else deprived you of it. This is the Loss of Use claim (property damage claim). What can you get for compensation and how do you value it?

As stated by the court, “The measure of damages for the loss of use of personal property may be determined with reference to the rental value of similar property which the plaintiff can hire for use during the period when he is deprived of the use of his own property.” Collins v. American Empire Ins. Co. (1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 787, 817. To recover for damages for loss of use, a person must prove the reasonable cost to rent a similar vehicle for the time reasonable necessary to repair or replace her vehicle. (CACI 3903M)

Rental value of cars usually run about $30.00 to $50.00 per day. So, whenever you are in an auto accident, don’t be so quick to settle your property damage claim because you may have this underlying claim that the insurance company will definitely not tell you about. You must make the demand yourself in order to get the full compensation you deserve. If a client retains the The Law Firm of R. Sam immediately after the accident and they have not resolved their property damage claim, we usually advise them on this claim – free of charge. In some instances, we will make the demand on the client’s behalf. Again, free of charge.  We may also help them by calling the adjuster and asking them about what is going on with their cars, whether that be fixing it or deeming it as a total loss. This again, is something we do free of charge.  We only represent clients for their personal injury claims, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go above and beyond to help them out.

Caveat: Loss of use is inapplicable for the period of time you were provided a rental vehicle by the at-fault party’s insurance during the time you were deprived of the use of your car. So, for example, if after a week after the accident the insurance company finally fixes your car and provides you a rental, you cannot claim loss of use for that time period. You can claim loss of use for that week prior to them providing you the rental car! So, don’t settle your property damage claim without demanding your loss of use claim!