PROPERTY DAMAGE HOW TO AVOID THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE
May 5, 2018
Consider the following common scenario: You’re sitting at home on a quiet Sunday afternoon when suddenly a baseball comes crashing in through your dining room window. The window is destroyed, and your fine china is shattered to boot. If you have found yourself in this situation—or in a situation very much like it—odds are you have been the victim of property damage. Property damage claims are among the most common types filed. They are initiated when private or public property experiences destruction or damage either as the result of natural phenomena or the actions of someone who is not that property’s owner. Property damage falls into two categories: negligence, which includes oversight and human error; and intentional damage, which is usually, but not always, attributable to malicious intent. Property damage attributed to natural phenomena may be legally attributed to a person if that person’s neglect contributed to the property damage.
PROPERTY DAMAGE DUE TO NEGLIGENCE
Damage due to negligence, sometimes presents difficulties with respect to its definition. But it basically boils down to whether your property was harmed as a result of another person’s conduct because that person failed to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. Cases involving negligence also occur when a person with a duty or responsibility to act fails to do so. For example, your plumber promises to inspect some leaky bathroom pipes in your home, but then neglects to do so, and then an hour later those same pipes burst, flooding your entire house and doing an immense amount of damage. Or, another example: An express mail carrier service loses an important package you had been expecting and neglects to inform you of the fact that it has been misplaced.
Damage due to negligence need not be limited to single negligent parties. It may happen that you find yourself a victim of “compound negligence,” that is, a situation in which damage results from the negligent acts of more than one person. In such instances, the case for establishing culpable parties’ negligent can become quite complicated.
Consider the following questions in order to determine if the property damage you suffered was due to negligence:
- Did the person who caused the property damage behave in a reasonable manner?
- Was your own conduct partly to blame for your injuries?
If you answered “no” to these questions, then you have reason to suspect negligence in your property damage case. Even if you consider yourself only partly at fault and the other party mostly at fault, you still have a decent chance of getting compensation for the damage to your property, because the majority of courts follow “comparative negligence,” which involves subtracting your negligence from 100 percent to discover the amount of legal responsibility the other party bears.
Some instances of property damage result from negligence on the part of manufacturers of consumer products. For instance, faulty wiring in coffee machine could start a fire, resulting in the total destruction of the victim’s dwelling. Or faulty piping could burst, causing widespread flooding and property damage. If you think yourself the victim of a defective product, file a claim as soon as possible. Many states have a “statute of limitations,” which limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective product. A valid claim filed after this period is usually denied—though many states do have some form of “delayed discovery” rule, which decrees that the statute dates to the time the injury or property damage was discovered. “Delayed discovery” generally applies to cases where the plaintiff has been exposed to dangerous chemicals like PCBs, but the harm done is not apparent until years later, though it can also theoretically be applied to a product that caused damage to property that was not immediately apparent.
Sometimes the malicious intent of another party is to blame for property damage. Property damage due to malicious intent can sometimes be considered an act of violence and is therefore prosecuted accordingly.
PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE
If someone is liable for your personal injury, they are also most likely liable for damage sustained to your property. Property damage occurs most frequently in car accidents. Frequently, the contents of the vehicle may sustain damage along with the vehicle itself. You should include the following items in any property damage claim brought about by a car accident:
- Watches and jewelry
- Headphones and hearing aids
- Any object you happened to be carrying as the accident occurred
Any property damage sustained during a vehicle accident will be figured separately from any claim of personal injury. Property damage cases concerning vehicle damage are often settled more quickly than personal injury claims.
FIVE RULES FOR VICTIMS OF PROPERTY DAMAGE
It is important to keep accurate and detailed records of property damage. To file a successful claim, you will need as much evidence of the damage done as you can reasonably collect. If you find yourself the victim of property damage, make sure you take the following five actions:
- File a police report
- Take photographs of the damage
- Keep a journal of the events surrounding the property damage event
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses
- Contact an attorney trained in property damage litigation
Because filing a claim of property damage requires a familiarity with your state’s rules and regulations governing property damage, it is important to seek the advice of an attorney trained in property damage litigation. A property damage attorney will ensure your case is handled correctly, saving you the time and aggravation of having to deal with the claim yourself. Having been trained in property damage law, a property damage lawyer will be able to navigate the often complex process of filing a claim, ensuring that you receive legal justice for any injuries and damages suffered from a property damage event.
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