Articles Tagged with Property Damage

Boat in Water

       In Alabama, as in most states, the law that controls a claim for compensation for injuries will differ significantly depending on whether a person is injured on land or on water.  Most claims for injury on land are based on the theory of common law negligence or the failure to exercise reasonable care.   Although some claims for injuries on a waterway may be based on negligence, in many instances they are   controlled by specific statutes that comprise admiralty law.

       There are several key differences between a person’s rights in a common law negligence case and an admiralty law case. For instance, under the common law, Alabama applies the doctrine of contributory negligence, meaning that if you contribute to the cause of an injury, no matter how slightly, you are barred from any recovery.  Comparative negligence applies in Admiralty law cases so fault is apportioned between the parties. If one person is 10% at-fault, they can still recover 90% of the damages they suffered.  It is also significantly more difficult to bring a wrongful death action under admiralty law versus common law.  Another key difference between a motor vehicle collision under common law and a boat collision under admiralty law is that “guest statutes” such as the Alabama Guest Statute have been found not to apply.  In addition, common law motor vehicle injury cases in Alabama are governed by a two year statute of limitations, while an Admiralty boat collision case would have a three year statute of limitations in which to file a lawsuit.

       Although Alabama has adopted a Mandatory Automobile Liability Insurance Act, there is no requirement that an operator of a boat have liability insurance.  A person with a boating license may operate a watercraft at 12 years old so long as they are supervised by a person over 21 years old.  A 14 year old person with a license can operate a watercraft unsupervised.

In Alabama, the measure of damages for personal property is the difference between the reasonable market value of the property immediately before it was damaged and its reasonable market value immediately after it was damaged.  In cases where an automobile is damaged but is not a total loss, the cost of repair is considered when determining the difference in market value.  In addition to the cost of repair, any diminution or decrease in value of the automobile resulting from the damage will be considered. When the damage to the vehicle is merely cosmetic or the vehicle is older, there may not be any diminution in value after appropriate repairs are completed.  In cases of newer model cars with substantial damage, the claim for diminution in value can be significant.

Alabama courts have ruled that an owner of property is qualified to state his or her opinion as to value of property before and after injury. Chambers v. Burgess, 281 So.2d 643 (1972); Parker v. Muse, 250 So.2d 688 (1971).  However, in many cases, it is beneficial to use experts to assess the diminution in value to a vehicle.   Experts can be particularly helpful when assessing the impact of damages to antique, classic or exotic automobiles.    Other states utilize a statutory formula using a base loss value, damage modifiers (severe, moderate or minor) and the vehicle’s mileage to assess the diminution in value.

Alabama does not have any laws that designate the type of replacement parts that must be used when repairing a damaged vehicle.  As long as the replacement parts are similar in fit and quality as the damaged parts, used parts or aftermarket parts may be used to complete repairs. Continue reading