The most basic and normal rule uses diminution in value as the measure of damages of destroyed property. An example of this would be the difference between the fair market value of a home immediately before and after a fire. However, this method is not the only way of measuring damages and other methods may be substituted if the court finds them more appropriate.
If the damages have been repaired, or are capable of repair, so as to restore the fair market value as it existed immediately before the harm, at a cost less than the difference in value, then the measure of damage is the cost of the repair rather than the difference in value. This is why, if the damage is repairable, the most-frequent measure of damages will be the cost of repair.
In some circumstances a combination of the two would be appropriate. For example, if repairs have been made but the property cannot be completely repaired, the measure of damages is the difference in the fair market value of the property immediately before the harm and immediately after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs.
The cost of repair as a measure of damages cannot be used (a) when the cost of repair exceeds the fair market value of the property destroyed, or (b) the cost of repair exceeds the difference in fair market before and after the loss. In any of the above two situations, the value of the property itself immediately before the harm is the correct measure of damages.
Restitution for Criminal Acts
Additionally, there is a remedy available specifically for victims of a crime. Direct victims of crime have a statutory right under California Penal Code section 1202.4 to restitution based on the full amount of their losses, regardless of full or partial reimbursement from other sources except the state Restitution Fund. Restitution is required for direct injury to both persons and property.
For example, if a drunk driver causes a car accident that injures someone, the drunk driver will be responsible for paying restitution to the victim for the damages to the car and to the people injured. An insured can also receive restitution for payment of their insurance deductible.
Additional Damages for Specific Harms
California law provides additional remedies for certain types of property damage. For example, Civil Code §3346 allows property owners to recover double or triple damages for the destruction of trees on their property. At Webb Law Group our dedicated team has helped individuals and families in California navigate the process of the orderly distribution of family possessions. If you have questions about how to resolve a family trust dispute and whether trust litigation is appropriate, contact us online or at (619) 399-7700 or (559) 431-4888 for a confidential consultation.