Why Can’t I Find An Attorney To Handle My Property Damage Case?
We are frequently asked by potential clients why our office will not handle a non-injury property damage case. I am quite sure other personal injury lawyers and law firms are faced in dealing with similar phone calls and inquires from prospective clients, who were in a car accident, they were not injured, but need help with the property damage only portion of their claim. We have a policy in our office, that we will handle all property damage claims of our injury clients, free of charge. In fact, we make it a priority to get the clients up and running again in their vehicle, as many times, that is the thing that is most important to someone who has been through the hassle of an accident, and that is, how quickly they can get their vehicle fixed, so they can go back to work, make it to their doctor’s visits and otherwise not be inconvenienced as a result of being without a car following a serious car accident.
For those individuals who were not injured and have a property damage claim, the reason most personal injury lawyers will not take the case to help is there simply is not enough money involved to be compensated for resolving the claim. Most clients would not want the option of paying the lawyer their normal hourly fee for doing the work, and most probably would not want to pay 1/3 over to the lawyer for resolving the claim. As a result, most personal injury lawyers simply will say no to handling anything but a serious injury case and helping the client as part of the injury case only, resolve the damage to their car.
What are the options that a person has who has a property damage only case? 1. They can make claim against their own automobile insurance company for damages to their car. Most individuals don’t like that idea for two reasons (a) they have to pay their deductible to get their car fixed and (b) they are concerned their rates will be jacked as a result of making the claim. 2. They can make claim against the other driver’s insurance company. This will avoid the problem of having to pay the deductible and or concerns about rates going up in the future. However, it can be a slow process and the insurance company can put you through various hoops of wanting to take a recorded statement first, having several estimates sent in on the damages to the car, and sending an adjuster out to personally inspect the car. Expect delays if you go this route. 3. If the other driver does not have a valid automobile insurance policy, you would also have the option of starting a small claims lawsuit if less than $10,000 of damage in Wisconsin. This is not always a quick remedy either, as from filing date to your court date, could take a month or so before you are in court. If the person shows up in court and contests liability, causation, or the damages to your vehicle, you may find yourself in a several month battle by going in and out of court fighting about the damage to your car. The case could wind up in a small claims trial, and the person who doesn’t like the outcome of that hearing, as a right, at least under Wisconsin law, to appeal to the trial judge to have another court hearing over the issue. This route seems like an endless game of going to court and fighting with the person who caused the accident. Worse, even if you win, if they couldn’t afford insurance in the first place, chances are they have little or no income or assets to pay you for the damages. You may have involved yourself in a several month battle in small claims court, only to wind up with a “judgment” against the defendant, but still doesn’t create money for you to go to get your car fixed. Unfair, you say? I hear you loud and clear!
It is best where there is insurance coverage on either driver, to simply make claim with the insurance companies and have your car promptly fixed, even if this means, you use your own insurance and pay the deductible. Your insurance company or you can on your own, always try to recoup the deductible portion against the other driver.
So, in answer to the headline of this blog, “why can’t you find an attorney to handle the property damage only portion of the case,” it can simply be a big hassle and a lot of extra work for the attorney, with little or no way to get paid for the time put in, and no attorney can afford to reasonably do that, even though many of us are completely well intended, and would like to be able to help people just like you in these situations.