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Property Damage

Property Damage

When we talk about property damage, we refer to any harm that comes to physical things you own. This can include your house, car, or even bike. Property damage can happen because of uncontrollable events like storms and fires or because someone did something (or failed to do something) that resulted in harm.

Common ways property can get damaged include:

  • Harm to your house, including any damage to the landscaping or driveway
  • Destruction at a place of business
  • Damage to personal items, such as your car or bicycle

Sometimes Mother Nature is to blame, with her powerful winds, fires, hailstorms, floods, or icy conditions. Other times, it’s due to people, whether they meant to do it through arson or it was unintentional in a car accident.

Types of Property

Generally, property is split into two categories: real or personal.

Real Property includes:

  • Land itself
  • Residential homes and apartments
  • Commercial buildings like offices or retail shops
  • Permanent structures, such as garages or barns
  • Landscaping features, such as trees, perennial gardens, and ponds

Personal Property (Chattels) includes:

  • Vehicles: cars, motorcycles, boats
  • Electronics: computers, smartphones, cameras
  • Personal items: jewelry, books, clothing
  • Household items: furniture, appliances, artwork
  • Collectibles: stamps, coins, antiques

Both real and personal property can be subject to damage or destruction. If this happens, owners can seek legal compensation for their damaged or lost property.

Negligence in Property Damage Claims

Negligence claims arise when someone’s careless actions lead to damage to your property. 

To establish negligence, you must show:

  • The person had a responsibility to act with care
  • They failed to meet this responsibility
  • Their failure caused the damage
  • The damage has a specific monetary value 

Consider an example where you contract a landscaper to maintain your yard. The landscaper accidentally damages an underground pipe, causing a flood in your garden. The landscaper had a duty to work with care, which was breached by the accidental damage, leading to a specific repair cost.

Trespass to Chattels 

Trespass to chattels occurs when someone intentionally meddles with your possessions. 

To bring a claim, you need to prove:

  • The interference was deliberate.
  • It directly affected your possession.
  • It resulted in damage.

For example, say a neighbor’s child intentionally throws paint over your outdoor furniture. The furniture is your personal property, and this deliberate act could be considered trespass to chattels. This could lead to a claim for the cost of cleanup or replacement. 

Conversion

Conversion involves someone taking or destroying your property in a way that asserts control over it. This might be the right claim if your property is taken or irreparably harmed.

Imagine a scenario where a contractor is hired to renovate your office but removes and keeps your equipment. This could be considered conversion because the contractor has exerted unauthorized control over your property. You could claim the current market value of the equipment as damages.

Trespass to Land

This legal cause of action arises when someone enters your property without permission.  If an individual enters your property without consent and causes damage, you can seek compensation for the harm done.

Product Liability

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe. You might have a product liability claim if a product defect leads to property damage. 

To pursue this, you must show:

  • The product was defective.
  • You used it as intended.
  • The defect caused damage.

For instance, if you purchase a new electronic device that malfunctions and sparks a fire, damaging your home, you can seek damages for the repairs needed. 

What if Someone Intentionally Damages My Property?

If someone unlawfully and intentionally harms your property, it’s essential to take the following steps:

  • Report to law enforcement: Contact the police immediately to report the incident. This will ensure there is an official record of the damage, which is crucial for any legal action.
  • Stay in communication: Keep in touch with law enforcement. They can provide information on potential criminal proceedings and may help secure restitution if the perpetrator is convicted.
  • Document everything: Gather evidence of the damage and keep all documentation, receipts, and repair estimates. This information will be vital for law enforcement and for any civil claims you pursue.
  • Check your insurance: Review your insurance policy. While the perpetrator’s insurance won’t cover intentional acts, your policy might cover the damages. You can file a claim with your insurance company to get reimbursed. 
  • Civil claim for negligence: If intent is difficult to prove, you might still be able to bring a claim based on negligence. In such cases, the wrongdoer’s insurance may cover the damages if they have a relevant policy.

Remember, in these situations, you should consult with an attorney specializing in property damage to guide you through the process and protect your rights.

How Long Do I Have to Bring a Property Damage Claim?

The statute of limitations for personal property damage claims is typically six years. However, it’s crucial to consult with a Portland personal injury attorney to confirm this time frame. Exceptions or specific circumstances could alter the period you must file a claim. An attorney can provide guidance tailored to your situation and ensure you take legal action within the applicable deadlines.

Contact an Experienced Portland Personal Injury Lawyer

Property damage can be stressful and expensive to deal with. You should not have to go through this frustrating process alone. Contact Tillmann Law Personal Injury Lawyers at (503) 272-8986 to schedule a free consultation with our Portland personal injury attorney.

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