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CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Legal > Property Damage Lawsuit

Property Damage Lawsuit Cost


How Much Does a Property Damage Lawsuit Cost?

 
low costLow: Small Claims Fees Can Run $20-$320average costMedium: Attorneys Usually Charge $100-$300 per Hour for Consultation

A homeowner or business property damage claim can range from a neighbor's tree falling on a corner of your house to the devastation of a hurricane, storm, tornado, flood, landslide, fire or other disaster.

Typical costs:

  • For minor problems, the amount of money involved in a property damage case is often not sufficient to tempt a lawyer into tackling it on a contingency basis or to justify an attorney's time at an hourly rate of $100-$300 or more. If your claim can't be settled satisfactorily with the individual who at fault and/or the insurance company, you can file a complaint in Small Claims Court, which is typically designed to resolve simple cases without the use of lawyers. The maximum amount that can be awarded in Small Claims Court varies from $2,500-$15,000, depending on state law.
  • For more extensive damage where an individual or agency can be found liable, such as a landslide under your house because of inadequate municipal drainage, an attorney may agree to take your case on contingency. In this case, the lawyer will be paid anywhere from 25-40 percent of any monies you receive in a settlement or court judgment (the percentage is usually at the higher end of the scale if the case goes to trial or is appealed). Often the lawyer will also pay out-of-pocket expenses such as fees for expert witnesses and other consultants, and then be reimbursed out of the settlement/judgment.
  • Even when the damage is not as extensive or there isn't another party that is clearly liable, you can consult with an attorney at $100-$300 or more an hour to get legal guidance through the insurance claim process. The total cost will depend on the amount of time/assistance you require, the complexity of your case and whether you need to use of experts or consultants to establish liability or explain the causes and extent of the damages.
  • If you're considered to be at fault, typically the cost of replacement or repairs to someone else's property will be paid by your homeowners or business insurance, and the insurance company will also provide legal representation in the event of a lawsuit.
Related articles: Small Claims Court, Car Accident Lawsuit, Dog Bite Lawsuit, Slip and Fall Lawsuit

What should be included:
  • In legal terms, "damage" is a loss or harm resulting from injury to a person, property or reputation; "damages" refers to compensation given to a person who suffered a loss or harm due to the unlawful act or omission of another. The person at fault must pay the injured party for the loss. Whether you're at fault or the victim of someone else's negligence, UnitedPolicyholders.org provides tips[1] for handling property damage claims.
  • Depending on the nature of the problem, your attorney may hire structural engineers, appraisers, contractors and other experts to establish the amount of loss and damage you have suffered. In preparing your case, they will look at building repair costs, the contents of the structure, any additional living or operating expenses while you can't occupy the building, and any loss from the interruption of your business. Cornell Law School explains the difference between the compensatory and punitive damages[2] that a defendant might be ordered to pay.
Shopping for a property damage lawsuit:
  • Ask about the attorney's training and experience in property damage cases. When you meet with an attorney, bring copies of all documents relating to the case. Lawyers.com lists 12 questions[3] to ask your potential lawyer.
  • The American Bar Association[4] provides links to lawyer referral services and lists legal resources in each state.
  • Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand whether the lawyer is being paid an hourly rate or on contingency, and what other costs you might have to pay or have deducted from your settlement/judgment.
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External Resources:
  1.  www.uphelp.org/library/guides/property-damage-claims
  2.  www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Damages
  3.  research.lawyers.com/12-Questions-To-Ask-Your-Potential-Lawyer.html
  4.  apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm
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