Someone hurt your baby, your car, your only method of transportation. Or the house that you finally finished paying mortgage on. Whether it’s a priceless antique or something that only holds value to you, nobody messes with your stuff. Learn about the different ways to get compensated for property damage.
The Two Types of Property Damage
Property damage encompasses damage to your car from a car accident, to your house when a neighbor swings a baseball bat through your window, to the flood in your kitchen if your plumber didn’t actually fit the leak.
Within property damage, there are two types of cases:
- Intentional Claims- when the defendant intentionally damages your property
- Negligence Claims- when the defendant doesn’t take reasonable care, resulting in significant damage or injury
Each claim comes with its own process.
How to Show Negligence?
It can be tricky to show proof of negligence. In order to show negligence, you must show that the defendent could have prevented the incident from happening by taking the proper precautions.
If they were reasonably aware that a problem existed (i.e. leaky pipes, faulty brakes, an old and rotten-looking tree), and did nothing to fix it, then they can be considered “negligent.” However, if the problem is tricker to discern, and at least on the outside, things seemed “fine,” then negligence is not so easy to demonstrate in a court of law.
Negligence is a tricky concept for even laywers to convey. Therefore, don’t be discouraged if your battle strategy for court doesn’t pan out. Just collect as much evidence as you can, and be sure you can answer the questions below:
- Did the person whose act (or failure to act) damaged your property behave in a reasonable way? Would you have behaved differently if you were in that person’s shoes?
- Did you in some part cause the damage/injury?
If you were in part responsible for the damage, it is still possible to be compensated for some of the damage. Comparative negligence means you pay a percentage of the damages based on the percentage of your negligence. If a judge thinks your being tired at the wheel was 20% of the reason behind your car accident, they will make you only pay 20% of the damages and the defendeant pay 80% of the damages.
How to Show Intentional Damage
If you believe your defendant intentionally damaged your property, then it would definitely help to have at least one witness testify for you. Otherwise, your trial may just end up being a case of she-said-he-said.
Even better would be an expert witness testimony. For example, if you believe that the damage to your car could have only come from a deliberate action, get the advice of a car expert or mechanic. If they agree with you, get them to testify to that end. To learn how to get and prepare a witness, click here.
How Much Can You Ask for?
You can ask for as much money as needed to have the “loss made good.” What this means is that you can either demand:
- enough to fix the damage, or
- if fixing the damage is worth more than the property itself, enough to replace the item
If you are trying to replace the item, you should ask for the fair market-value of the item. In other words, what you could have sold the item for a minute before the accident/damage occurred.
In this case too, it can help to have an expert witness attest to the value of the item. To get an expert witness, use the link above.
The Help When You Need It
Any time that you need help with your small claims case, reach out to us via LiveChat, on the phone at 1-888-SUE-YA-88. Most clients successfully complete their small claims paperwork without issue.
Warner, Ralph. “Property Damage Cases in Small Claims Court.” Nolo.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.