If someone damages your property through irresponsible or criminal behavior, a property damage claim might arise in your favor. In some cases, you might have a property damage claim even when the defendant is not at fault (a claim over a defective product, for example). 

You can enforce your property damage claim under state law. The more you understand about Texas property damage claims, however, the better your chances of victory.

Examples of Property Involved in Property Damage Claims

More than half of all property damage claims involve the following types of property:

  • A car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or boat;
  • Real property such as your home (structural damage);
  • Fixtures, such as furniture;
  • Electronics (computers, for example);
  • Personal belongings such as clothing and jewelry;
  • Landscaping;
  • Artwork; and
  • Business equipment.

Damage to intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets) is handled using an entirely different legal system. Intellectual property law is beyond the scope of this article.

The Role of Evidence in Property Damage Claims

The harsh truth is that in law, the truth is irrelevant without evidence. Some of the most common evidence used in property damage claims include: 

  • Photographic evidence,
  • Police or incident reports,
  • Witness statements,
  • Expert testimony,
  • Receipts and invoices,
  • Insurance documents,
  • Weather reports,
  • Maintenance records,
  • Copies of any claim-related correspondence,
  • Expert appraisals, and
  • Repair estimates.

Evidence doesn’t always have to be admissible in court. Police reports generated in response to car accidents, for example, are usually inadmissible hearsay in court. Nonetheless, they can still help you settle your claim outside of court. 

That’s because the defendant knows all you have to do to elicit the same evidence (in superior form) is to call the police officer who wrote the report to the witness stand.

The Claims Process

Your property damage claim will not enforce itself—you have to enforce it if you want to receive any compensation. Below are some of the typical steps in the property damage claim process:

  • Document the damage. If your car suffered damage in a traffic accident, for example, take your car to a garage and have them. Have them issue a written repair estimate.
  • Identify which insurance policy, if any, covers the damage to your property. Remember that the applicable insurance policy might be the defendant’s liability insurance policy, against which you must file a third-party claim. 
  • Notify the insurance company of the accident and the damage to your property.
  • Take the formal steps necessary to file a claim with the insurance company.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company. This will require a process of offer and counteroffer, since the insurance company’s initial offer will probably be far lower than the true value of your claim.
  • File a lawsuit against the defendant if you cannot get an adequate settlement offer. Remember, you can always withdraw your lawsuit in exchange for an acceptable settlement.
  • Undergo the pretrial discovery process to gather evidence.
  • Settle your claim or go to trial.

You probably won’t have to go through all of these steps to obtain compensation; the foregoing is a description of a worst-case scenario. Remember that the statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit is usually two years after the date of the accident.

How To Handle Vehicle Damage in a Car Accident

Vehicle damage in a car accident is probably the most common type of property damage claim. Texas requires motorists with vehicles registered in-state to carry at least $25,000 in property damage liability insurance. 

If another driver was at fault, you can file a third-party claim against their liability insurance policy. Beware—nearly 10% of Texas motorists are (illegally) uninsured. In anticipation of this scenario, consider purchasing uninsured motorist (UIM) insurance. 

The Insurance Adjuster Is Not Your Friend 

Insurance companies exist for one purpose and one purpose only, and it’s not to help accident victims recover fair compensation. It’s to make as large a profit as possible. Every dollar they pay out in claims is a dollar less profit they can add to their profits. 

Although a certain amount of trickery is to be expected, if the insurance adjuster goes too far, you might qualify to file a “bad faith insurance” claim. Since this is a separate claim, you will then have two claims to enforce, both of which can yield compensation.

If Your Claim Is Valuable, the Houston Personal Injury Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help

You might not need a lawyer to enforce a property damage claim of negligible value. If your property damage claim is intimately connected with a personal injury claim you are asserting (automobile damage incident to car accident injuries, for example), you can have your personal injury lawyer handle your property damage claim as well.

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
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Houston, TX 77098
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