Jury Instructions for Property Damage D.C. Car Accident Attorney
In cases involving damage to real and personal property, Chapter 15 of the Washington, D.C. Jury Instructions guide jurors in their deliberations.
Before diving into the instructions, let’s cover some terminology:
- Real property: fixed property, like land and buildings
- Personal property: anything other than real estate, like vehicles or electronicsIn car accident cases, property damage can be part of the settlement.
- Fair market value: the price the would result from a fair negotiation
- The fair market value is determined in part by age, condition, and depreciation.
The plaintiff should be reasonably compensated for injuries to personal and real property. However, this is contingent on reasonable reparability. If the cost to repair an item is reasonable, then that amount should be awarded. If, however, the cost to repair the item is unreasonable, a different calculation is used.
If the cost of repair is greater than the loss of value, “then you should award the plaintiff only an amount equal to the difference between the fair market value of the property immediately before the damage and its fair market value in damaged condition.”
In simpler words, let’s say someone else’s negligence caused a crack in your phone and damaged the battery:
- Value before the accident: $1000
- Value after the accident: $700
- Cost of repair: $500
The cost of repair is more than the loss in value. The instructions tell us that the award should be for $300 (value before the accident minus value after the accident).
The same rules discussed above apply to real property.
There are some caveats: if the person has a special reason for restoring the property, the jury has the right to award more than the loss of market value; if there is no market value after the incident, then the award should be equal to the fair market value immediately before the accident, minus the value of salvage or scrap metal.
The rest of the instructions cover lost property, and lost use of property.
Finally, for the loss of used household goods or clothing, the amount awarded should be for the actual value to the owner, not necessarily the fair market value. The actual value to the owner is a reasonable value the item had to the owner (based on the nature and condition of the goods, and the purpose to which they were adopted and used). If, in an accident, an old family relic (that has no value on the open market) is damaged, its special value to the family will be accounted for in any settlement.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen today for a free case evaluation.