Property damage (damage to your car) from a car accident or crash means careful negotiation to obtain what you are legally entitled from the insurance company. Know what your are legally entitled before you begin negotiation so that it reduces tension and frustration and so you can quickly get to a middle ground. Joe Tunstall describes what to do. Property Damage from a Car Crash The law in North Carolina is clear, market value of the vehicle can be recovered. Further you may recover lost time from the vehicle and in the case of business use, some lost profit provided you take reasonable steps to make back your loss. The Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have specific decisions addressing how value is to be determined. In Gillespie v. Draughn the Court of Appeals addressed the issues and in Roberts v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. the North Carolina Supreme Court addressed these issues. “When a plaintiff’s vehicle is damaged by the negligence of a defendant, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the difference between the fair market value of the vehicle before and after the damage. Evidence of the cost of repairs or estimates thereof are competent to aid the jury in determining that difference. When a vehicle is negligently damaged, if it can be economically repaired, the plaintiff will also be entitled to recover such special damages as he has properly pleaded and proven for the loss of its use during the time he was necessarily deprived of it. [Citations omitted]”Id. at 606, 160 S.E.2d at 717.9 Gillespie v. Draughn, 54 N.C. App. 413, 417, 283 S.E.2d 548, 552 (1981). The Gillespie Court meant that you can recover the value of your vehicle immediately before the crash if it is totaled. If your vehicle can be repaired then the value of the vehicle including cost of repairs can be recovered. This court does not address, but certain statutes do that you may be able to recover for diminution in value. For a clear idea of how to recover diminution see our previous blog on diminution. In order to recover for loss of use, it must be possible to repair the damaged vehicle at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. The measure of damages to be recovered is the cost of renting a similar vehicle during a reasonable time for repairs. If the vehicle cannot be repaired or if it cannot be repaired within a reasonable time, plaintiff is obligated to purchase a replacement vehicle and will be entitled to reimbursement for costs of a rental vehicle during the interval necessary to acquire the replacement vehicle. Roberts v. Freight Carriers, supra; Ling v. Bell, 23 N.C.App. 10, 207 S.E.2d 789 (1974). Gillespie v. Draughn, 54 N.C. App. 413, 417, 283 S.E.2d 548, 552 (1981). In general, the right to recover for loss of use is limited to situations in which the damage to the vehicle can be repaired at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. If the vehicle is totally destroyed as an instrument of conveyance or if, because parts are unavailable or for some other special reason, repairs would be so long delayed as to be improvident, the plaintiff must purchase another vehicle. Roberts v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc., 273 N.C. 600, 606, 160 S.E.2d 712, 717 (1968) In this situation, he would be entitled to damages for loss of use only if another vehicle was not immediately obtainable and, in consequence, he suffered loss of earnings during the interval between the accident and the acquisition of another vehicle. The interval would be limited to the period reasonably necessary to acquire the new vehicle. Colonial Motor Coach Corp. v. New York Cent. R. Co., 131 Misc. 891, 228 N.Y.S. 508 (Sup.Ct.); 8 Am.Jur.2d Automobiles and Highway Traffic s 1049 (1963). Roberts v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc., 273 N.C. 600, 606, 160 S.E.2d 712, 717 (1968). The above language has created issues as many insurance companies has defined reasonable period to find a new vehicle to be as little as 48 hours. They also quite often stop payment for a rental before they send your check for the property damage. So purchase of a vehicle gets delayed a few days while you await their check and often, depending on your bank, get delayed up to ten (10) days waiting for their check to clear. Therefore, if it appears your vehicle is totaled, it is good to contact a reliable car dealer who can work with you on obtaining a vehicle while you await the insurance check for a down payment or purchase. O'Malley Tunstall BUSINESS VEHCILE Ordinarily the measure of damages for loss of use of a business vehicle is not the profits which the owner would have earned from its use during the time he was deprived of it; it is the cost of renting a similar vehicle during a reasonable period for repairs. Drewes v. Miller, 25 So.2d 820 (La.App.); annots., Damages to Commercial Vehicle, 169 A.L.R. 1074, 1087-1098 (1947), 4 A.L.R. 1350, 1351-1363 (1919). This limitation is an application of the rule that one who seeks to hold another liable for damages must use reasonable diligence to avoid or mitigate them. 2 Strong, N.C. Index, Damages s 8 (1959); annot., Duty of one suing for damage to vehicle to minimize damages; 55 A.L.R.2d 936 (1957); National Dairy Products Corp. v. Jumper, 241 Miss. 339, 130 So.2d 922. Thus, before a plaintiff may recover lost profits resulting from the deprivation of his vehicle, he must show (1) that he made a reasonable effort to obtain a substitute vehicle for the time required to repair or replace the damaged one, and (2) that he was unable to obtain one in the area reasonably related to his business. In the absence of such a showing, he may not recover lost profits. National Dairy Products Corp. v. Jumper, supra; Drewes v. Miller, supra; 25 C.J.S. Damages s 83c (1966). When, however, he has carried the burden of proving that no substitute vehicle could be rented, a plaintiff may recover lost profits if he can establish the amount of the loss with reasonable certainty. See Smith v. Corsat, 260 N.C. 92, 131 S.E.2d 894; Johnson v. Atlantic Coast R. Co., 140 N.C. 574, 53 S.E. 362; 8 Am.Jur.2d Automobiles and Highway Traffic s 1050 (1963). If a plaintiff could have rented a substitute vehicle, the cost of hiring it during the time reasonably necessary to acquire a new one or to repair the old one is the measure of his damage even though no other vehicle was rented. The burden is on the plaintiff to establish the cost of such hire. 8 Am.Jur.2d Automobiles and Highway Traffic s 1047 (1963). Roberts v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc., 273 N.C. 600, 606-07, 160 S.E.2d 712, 717-18 (1968) The fact that an owner, in lieu of repairing a vehicle which could have been economically repaired, ‘trades it in’ on new equipment, will not preclude him from recovering damages for loss of its use during the time reasonably required to purchase new equipment or to make the repairs, whichever is shorter. *607 Glass v. Miller, 51 N.E.2d 299 (Ohio App.). See Hayes Freight Lines v. Tarver, 148 Ohio St. 82, 73 N.E.2d 192. **718 7891011 The above language sets out the test for loss money in a business vehicle. To recover you MUST show: (1) that he made a reasonable effort to obtain a substitute vehicle for the time required to repair or replace the damaged one, and (2) that he was unable to obtain one in the area reasonably related to his business. So you must attempt to find a vehicle and rent to to reduce business loss. Property damage can be confusing and frustrating. Often people are injured and hurting during this period which makes following this advice even more difficult. Call us if you need assistance 855-975-2625 or visit our webpages to contact us.
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