The purpose of today’s video is to discuss property damage claims. You know, there are many times when people are in an accident and they don’t have a personal injury claim. The only thing that they have to worry about is their property damage. That’s why we’re doing this video to help you understand the high points of the law that you need to know in order to finalize your property damage claim. It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between a property damage claim and a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim has a different statute of limitations than a property damage claim.
If you’re going to make your property damage claim against the person who’s at fault in the accident, then you have a six year statute of limitations. Your other option that you should realize is that if you have full coverage, you can make a claim against your own insurance policy to recover for your property damage. Now, the difference is there’s going to be a contractual statute of limitations in your insurance policy that applies, and it’s likely a two year statute of limitations versus a six year against the at-fault party.
Next, let’s talk about what recovery options are available for compensating you for your property damage.
First, in Oregon, the at-fault party gets the choice between repairing your vehicle or paying you the fair market value. More about this option later. The other option is to pursue the claim through your own insurer if you have full coverage. Your insurance company’s obligation to you is similar to the person who is at fault, the policy will allow the insurer to choose between repair, and depending on the policy language, paying you the fair market value (or replacement cost).
Another question I get a lot is whether or not a person is entitled to rental costs. Yes, under Oregon law, you are entitled to reasonable rental costs. What is reasonable is determined on a case by case basis. It’s important to realize that while your car is being repaired, it’s arguably reasonable for you to have a rental. Similarly, if you’re out trying to purchase a car because the at-fault party decided to replace yours, you should have time with the rental car so that you can get around.
Reasonable, though, has its limitations. You’re not going to be able to go out and rent a Ferrari if you had a Pinto. You should get a “like” vehicle and have it for a reasonable period of time. It’s also important to realize that even though Oregon Law says that the at-fault party has to pay you reasonable rental costs, you also have the option potentially of getting rental costs through your own automobile policy. It’s important to read your policy and understand which option is going to be best for you.
I’d also like to discuss something that I call the hole in the law problem. That is, when the value of your car is less than the amount that you actually owe. That is a problem because they don’t have to pay you any more than the fair market value of your car before it was in the accident.
It may be that you owe more than the actual fair market value of your car. One of the things that I recommend to people when I can talk to them before they’re in an accident is that they purchase gap insurance. If you have gap insurance already and you have property damage, it’s possible that gap insurance will stand in the middle and cover that value that you owe on the car, but that the car is not worth. If, however, you don’t have gap insurance, you could have a problem where you’re upside down. You still owe the creditor money, and yet the person who’s at fault doesn’t have to pay you the entire amount.
As a lawyer, one of the things that I’m always concerned about and that I talk with people who have property damage claims about is releasing more than just your property damage claim. A release is a contract that you sign at the end of the claim where they basically say: we’re giving you money and you’re releasing us from liability.
Well, it’s possible, and it’s happened in the past, that you have someone who is signing a release for what they believe is just their property damage claim and they accidentally also release their personal injury claim. You want to be careful that the release carves out the property damage and doesn’t by accident, release your personal injury claim. It’s really a good idea to call and have a lawyer look over the property damage release. (Click here for more information on insurance claim settlements.)
Let’s talk about a claim with a funny name. “Diminution in value”. A diminution claim may be made when you have a property damage claim and the other insurance company chooses to repair your car. The at-fault party gets to choose between repairing your car or paying fair market value. Well, if they choose to repair your car, it’s obviously worth less than it was before it was in the accident. Well, diminution in value is that difference. It’s the difference between your car’s value. Had it never been in an accident versus the value of the car after the repair. Diminution in value claims are valid in Oregon and should be made as part of your property damage claim.