Clark Law and Associates, LLC, Property Damage Attorneys Based out of Portland, Oregon
What types of property exist?
Real property generally refers to immovable property such as real estate or land. Personal property is generally considered property that is movable such as cars, jewelry, clothing, etcetera.
If my property was damaged does that mean that I can file a lawsuit and win in all cases?
No. In order to be compensated for your property damage, you must prove that someone either negligently or unlawfully and intentionally damaged your property. If an act of God, such as a storm or lighting damaged your property, you won't be able to sue God. However, you might have insurance coverage through your homeowners, business or auto insurance that covers acts of God. If your insurance company fails to honor your insurance contract and pay your property damage covered under your insurance policy, you may have a breach of contract claim with your insurance company. Obviously, if you damage your own property due to negligence or a willful act, you cannot sue yourself.
Property damage is not a theory of liability. Property damage is a type of recovery based upon civil cause of action, such as breach of contract with your insurance company, negligence or an intentional tort of another person. Property damage claims can occur in many different contexts such as:
- Auto accidents that cause vehicle damage to another vehicle and its contents, such as a smashed laptop
- A dangerous condition on someone's property causing property damage. E.g. A person falls into an unmarked hole along the sidewalk, falls and breaks her eye glasses.
- Toxic torts, where a dangerous material, such as a negligently handled chemical flows onto the property of another and damages the soil
- A defective product causing property damage. E.g. a product explodes and causes damage to either real or personal property.
- Dog Attacks that cause property damage. E.g. Sometimes, when a dog attacks it damages a person's clothing or purse.
- Breach of contract: Your insurance company fails to pay a covered property damage claim under the policy.
What should I do if someone unlawfully and intentionally damages my property?
If you know someone intentionally and unlawfully damaged your property, you should make a police report and stay in contact with the district attorney's office. Eventually you will need to provide the District Attorney's Office with documentation of your damages. If the person is convicted damaging your property., you will have a civil claim against the person for the property damage. Usually, a judge will order restitution as a part of the criminal's sentence for destroying your property and you will be repaid over time. If someone intentionally damages your property, their insurance will not cover their intentional crimes. Your own insurance may cover your property damage if others caused the damage. Thus, if you need reimbursed for your property damage right away, it might be best to go through your insurance company and let the criminal who damaged your property repay your insurance company through the terms of his/her sentence. If can prove that someone damaged your property but you cannot prove that it was intentional, you can always claim that the person was negligent and if the person has insurance, their insurance should cover the claim.
Even if I can prove that someone negligently or intentionally damaged my property, is it always worth it to sue that person?
No. If the person has no insurance, not assets of significant value and/or no income, then a judgement against that person may not be worth the paper it is written on. If the person intentionally and unlawfully damaged your property then the best option is to call the police and let the person go through the criminal justice system.
How long do I have to bring a personal property damage claim?
Generally six years. But check with an attorney, as there are exceptions. See ORS 12.080(4).