Regardless of the type of injury any property damage which is caused by the same injury as that which causes the injury or which by way of the injury needs to be replaced is an item which must be replaced for its fair market value as of the time of the loss.

The obvious example is in an automobile collision. You are sitting at a red light and your car gets hit from behind. Your vehicle sustains $5,700 in estimated damages. You have full collision coverage, but a $1,000.00 deductible. You are insured by Liberty Mutual. The insurer for the negligent striking driver is USAA Insurance. You report the claim to both companies. Liberty Mutual advises to go ahead and get the car fixed because it agrees with the estimate and it will pay $4,700.00 for the repair and additional sums if more damage is found. USAA calls and agrees its insured is at fault and it will pay the property damage at your repair shop and it has made some adjustments, but your body shop has agreed and USAA will pay all of the repairs and any supplemental damage.

Under this scenario there is no need to consult with an attorney as long as the release you are signing for USAA is for property damage only and not a release of any personal injury claims. It makes no sense to go through Liberty Mutual and have to pay the deductible to get your car back and then go after USAA for the difference.

There are times, however, when the striking vehicle and its insurer do not agree on fault. The person who struck you swears you swerved into his/her lane and stood on the brakes and basically invited the crash. USAA denies coverage and you are forced to go through Liberty Mutual and pay out the deductible. That does not mean you have lost the battle with the negligent insurer. You can make a claim against the negligent driver for the property damage as well as the personal injuries at a later time and receive the deductible as an item of property damage. A word of caution, do not sue just for your property damage in small claims court because you were denied in your claim. If you file you must bring all claims for both property damage and personal injury at the same time or lose the ability to make the claim for personal injury later.

The real difficulty arises when you have a 6 or 7 year old car that is in great condition, is reliable and you were planning on keeping it for a few more years by passing it on to your soon to be driving age son or daughter. It is worth $8,000.00 in the market place and collision coverage cost is $500.00 every 6 months and you have a $1000.00 deductible. So before this recent loss you dropped collision coverage and naturally six months later a crash which is not your fault happens. The USAA insurer values the car at $6,000.00 and states the accident is at least 30% your fault so it will only pay you $4,200.00 (70% of its $6,000.00 valuation) You have no choice but to either accept this amount or try to convince USAA that the full value is $8,000.00 based on, and other valuation metrics. This still does not change the 30% reduction for alleged fault. You might contact the Pennsylvania Insurance Commission to complain about unfair insurance practices, but more likely than not you will make a business decision on negotiating or having an attorney negotiate for a higher amount based on those same metrics and on the clear facts of the case. Most attorneys won't get involved in property damage only cases because it may not be cost effective to litigate over $1,000.00 difference, especially if the only issue is fair market value of the car. However, if you or a loved one is injured in the crash many attorneys would be willing to take on the property damage claim so as to establish a relationship with you and the opposing insurer.

If you are only having a difference in valuation there are PA. Insurance Commission guidelines which must be followed to prevent arbitrary decision making. Do not hesitate to involve that agency or threaten to do so. Attorney involvement is something the insurer for the negligent driver does not want. However, imposing arbitrary liability discounts which are on their face ridiculous only assures an attorney will get involved. Feel free to call Murphy & Dengler to discuss any property damage issue.

Most non motor vehicle cases usually have very small property damage issues. One example: "I slipped and fell and was knocked unconscious. The next thing I know the ambulance crew is taking me to the hospital and I see the EMS crew had cut the sleeve of my brand new $400.00 jacket to get an IV line started." This item of property loss is a recoverable expense.

Some types of neglect can cause massive property damage with little or no personal injury. For example, a plumber comes to service a sump pump. In the course of repair the plumber loosens a clamp and fails to tighten the same after the repair is done. A few days later alarge rain storm hits. The sump pump goes on and off a few cycles and then the discharge hose separates from the outflow line because the circle clamp is not tightened, thus causing all of the water from a rain storm to flood the basement, ruin the finished basement walls and insulation, cause the heating system to fail and an cause an estimated $50,000 dollars of damage to the drywall. Insulation, carpeting, exercise equipment, pool table, stored holiday decorations including heirloom ornaments. The homeowners insurance has a $10,000 limit on basement flood damage because of past basement flooding. There is a very large claim against the plumber and the homeowner most assuredly needs to seek legal help for property damage.