The General Rule
If someone damages your car in Oregon, you have a property damage claim.
The General Rule: You may recover your car's loss of fair market value because of the property damage.
How is this measured?
It depends on if the car can be fixed. If it can, then you can claim the cost of repair. Cost of repair is generally considered the loss of value your car lost because of the damage. But not all the time.
If you own a late model car, and the cost of repair is extensive, then you also have a claim for the change in the car's value even after repairs are completed.
You are shopping for a used car, and on the lot are two identical cars with identical features and identical mileage. One car, however, was in an accident, and had significant repairs. If the cars were priced the same, which one would you buy? Better yet, how much less would you pay for the damaged car? That difference in price is the diminished value.
How to Prove Loss of Value
If your car is repairable, the cost of repair represents the bulk of your loss of value.
If you feel you have a claim for diminished value, the adjuster may make an offer, but it is probably based upon their own appraiser's estimate on the diminished value. Depending on the extent of damage to your car, consider hiring your own appraiser, and negotiate from there.
What About a Rental?
Another category of property damage is "loss of use." This is the cost of renting a similar car for the time that your car is not drivable or is being repaired. You are entitled to the cost of renting a similar vehicle. If you were driving a full sized pickup truck that was damaged collision, and it goes to the shop for repair, you get the cost of renting a full sized pickup truck.
You can claim the loss of use for the time you are without a car because of repairs, or if your car is a total loss (see below), the time to replace your car.
The term "totaled" is in insurance term. It means that the cost of repair is so close to the car's value, that it makes no sense to repair the car, and the car is "totaled," or a total loss. If this happens, you may recover the car's fair market value. "Fair market value" is what a willing buyer would have paid a willing seller for the car on the day before the collision. Many of our clients have no intention of selling their car and wish they could have held onto it for the long haul. That, unfortunately, does not come into play. Fair market value differs greatly from "replacement value."
Insurance companies hire appraisers to determine the car’s value before the collision, and will use data bases of recent sales of similar cars to yours to come up with the fair market value offer. Few people are thrilled with the insurance company's offer. However, property damage adjusters usually stick to their guns on total loss offers unless there is new information about the car's value, like recent major overhauls (new engine), that it was not aware of. You can disagree with the insurance adjuster, but if you want to fight with them, you may need to get your own appraiser involved, and you must wait until your injury claim is resolved, or include the property damage claim when you file the injury claim in court. This is because in Oregon, the injury claim and the property damage claim are separate legal claims, but they arise from the same event. All claims you have arising from one event must be filed in the same lawsuit. If one of those claims is resolved, you can still file any other existing claims.
Some people wish to hold onto the car, even after the collision. If you keep the car, the insurance company will reduce the property damage claim payment by the car's "salvage value." The salvage value is what the car wreckage would sell for at an auction.
If you do not keep the car, the insurance company is buying the car from you when it resolves the claim. You will be asked to sign the title. If you cannot find the title, you will be given DMV forms that allow for a replacement title.
We handle property damage claims for our injury clients, and do not take on stand alone property damage claims, but if you contact us, we can direct you to some attorneys that handle these cases. But, if you have questions, check out our other articles, or order our Oregon Personal Injury Guide. It offers information on property damage.