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Property Damage

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Property Damage

When you are hurt in an accident, you expect the other party to pay your medical bills, reimburse you for lost wages, and repair damage to your property. A person can also cause damage to other property you own, such as your home. 

Property damage claims are typically handled separately from personal injury claims. Some important things to remember when dealing with a property damage claim in Florida are:

The Classes of Property

The Classes of Property

There are two classes of property. The first property class is real property. Real property is land and the things permanently attached to the land, such as residential homes, trees, sheds, inground swimming pools, and outbuildings. 

The second class of property is personal property or chattel. Typically, personal property is everything you own other than real estate. It includes vehicles, jewelry, furniture, cell phones, artwork, and other movable items. 

When a party causes damage to your property, you can file a property damage claim against that person for damages. However, you must determine the value of your property damage claim to know what amount you should demand to settle your claim.

Calculating the Value of a Property Damage Claim in Florida 

The general rule for calculating the value of damaged property is found in the case of United States Steel Corp v. Benefield, 352 So. 2d 892 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1977). The case law states that the property has a value that is the lesser of:

  • The cost to replace, restore, or repair the property; OR,
  • The diminution (reduction) in market value, which is the difference between the property value before the damage and after the damage. 

Suppose you installed a brand new custom-built mailbox. The cost of the mailbox was $750. 

A speeding driver runs into the mailbox, causing substantial damage. The cost to repair the mailbox is $400. The value of the mailbox in its current condition is estimated at $200, resulting in a reduced market value of $550.

Your property damage claim would total $400 because the repair cost is less than the reduction in the mailbox’s market value. 

The Sentimental Value Exception 

You might claim an exception to the general rule for valuing property damage in Florida if the property has sentimental value. First, you must prove that the property has sentimental value by:

  • Proving that the property is special to you; and,
  • There is no quantifiable market value for the property’s sentimental worth; or,
  • Limiting the value of your property damage claim to the property’s market value would be patently unfair.

Suppose the speeding driver slams into your porch instead of hitting your mailbox, damaging your rocking chair and other furniture. The general rule states the value is the lesser of the cost of repair or the reduction in market value.

However, let’s assume the rocking chair belonged to your great-great-grandmother. Generations of your family have been rocked in their chair. 

The rocker’s sentimental value is priceless. In that case, you might have a claim for sentimental value.

How Do I Prove I Am Entitled to Compensation for Property Damage in Tampa, FL?

Several legal theories can help you prove your claim for property damage. 

Negligence 

When a person acts unreasonably or without regard to the safety of others, they can be sued for negligence. Negligence is the basis for most property damage claims. You are required to prove:

  • The person who damaged your property owed you a legal duty of care
  • The person breached the duty of care by failing to act with reasonable prudence
  • The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the damage to your property
  • You sustained damages because of the person’s actions

An example of negligence may be a driver running a red light and slamming into your car, causing substantial property damage. Another example might be a contractor working on your home breaking something they are not there to fix. 

Theft and Conversion of Property

Florida Statute §772.11 provides a cause of action that might give you the right to recover damages when someone steals your property. You can sue the thief for property damage if you meet the requirements in the statute and can prove that the person committed theft of your property. 

Conversation is similar but defined as exercising control over someone’s property without the owner’s consent. Conversion is based on case law, but is still a valid cause of action.

Trespass to Land

If someone trespasses on your land and causes property damage, you can sue that person for damages. You must prove that the trespass was intentional. If so, you might have a civil claim against the trespasser if they cause damage while on your property.

Valued Policy Law for Insurance Coverage

If you have insurance coverage for the property that was damaged, Florida Code §627.702 might require the insurance company to cover the total loss of any building, mobile home, structure, or manufactured house. This law states the insurer’s liability under the policy for a total loss is the amount of money the property is insured for in the policy. 

There is a great deal of confusion regarding this law because there are many exceptions you must explore. An experienced Tampa property damage lawyer can help you determine the causes of action you can file to recover compensation for property damage. 

Call Now for a Free Consultation With Our Tampa Personal Injury Lawyers

Property damage claims are typically settled earlier in a personal injury case without the assistance of an attorney. However, personal injury damages are far more complicated and difficult to value. It is best to seek legal advice before accepting an insurance settlement because your claim could be worth much more than the settlement offer. Contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers at (813) 223-6200 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney. We want to help you receive a fair settlement for your personal injury claim.

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