“So what about my property damage claim? You are my lawyer aren’t you?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that question I would be rich. In fairness, maybe we trial attorneys need to do a better job of explaining the scope of our representation to our clients.
Understandably, a property damage claim is a very emotional issue to many people. A raindrop on my freshly waxed convertible nearly puts me into a panic attack. I can’t even imagine what would happen if my beautiful baby received a dent or scratch at the hands of a negligent driver. Nevertheless, while I certainly am very sympathetic to my clients’ concerns regarding property damage, I many times have to politely remind them that property damage claims are not part of our contingency fee agreement.
The reason for this is that personal injury lawyers only get paid when we recover damages for personal injuries. Property damage would not be considered a personal injury. That money goes directly to the repair shop and we do not get a percentage of that disbursement (yes, diminution of value claims would be covered under the umbrella of personal injury because those claims are economic in nature and are recognized by the Florida Supreme Court as recoverable in a personal injury case).
What we do in our office for property damage claims is to offer our services, if needed, and to a limited extent, as a courtesy to the client. For example, one of my clients recently was getting the runaround from the property damage adjuster. I called the adjuster and followed up with a rather terse letter. Sure enough, several days later, problem solved.
In summary, property damage matters are usually handled quickly and efficiently by insurance companies. Remember however it is the responsibility of the driver to carry proper property damage coverage. If you are driving an expensive car and are underinsured, you can’t count on the at fault party’s insurance company to pay the bill if you get crunched. Similarly, when driving in a relatively affluent area such as Sarasota, you need to protect yourself if you crunch someone else’s Bentley because you may not have enough coverage to pay the property damage if you are at fault.
In closing, property damage matters are frustrating and emotionally charged. I have to cut this article short actually because it looks like it may rain and I do have to drive home quickly to my garage lest I get a water spot on my car!