Under Texas Law, a Loss of Use Claim is Limited to the “Reasonable Time to Replace” a Totaled Vehicle

car keysWhen someone’s negligence (or recklessness) causes an east Texas automobile accident, for which types of injuries or damages may the victim be compensated? Will the case be settled out of court, or will it be necessary to try the issues to a jury?

While each case stands on its own facts, typical damages in a car wreck case include property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Very often, the property damage aspect of a claim gets settled out of court fairly quickly, while the personal injury portion of the claim takes much longer to settle or may even go to trial. A recently decided appellate court case represents an exception to that general rule.

Facts of the Case

In a recent court case, the plaintiff was a woman who was involved in an automobile accident in 2011. She filed suit against the defendant driver, who she alleged caused the crash by rear-ending her vehicle on an expressway. The plaintiff’s lawsuit sought compensation for both injuries and property damage. The personal injury portion of the claim was settled a few months later.

The case then proceeded only upon the plaintiff’s property damage claim, with the trial court ultimately deciding that the plaintiff was not entitled to any additional compensation for property damage or loss of use of her automobile beyond that which she had already received from the defendant’s liability insurance company. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that she had presented competent evidence to support an award of additional damages, including compensation for several years’ loss of use of her vehicle.

Holding of the Court

The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of the defendant. The court first pointed out that, insofar as it would have been economically infeasible to repair the plaintiff’s vehicle given its fair market value, her “4Runner” sport utility vehicle was considered a “total loss.” Thus, the general measure of direct damages to the plaintiff was the fair market value of the vehicle immediately before the accident at the place where the crash happened. However, the plaintiff in the case also sought payment for towing and storage costs, as well as the loss of the use of her auto.

The court, however, disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention that she was entitled to additional monies, noting that she had already received payment from the defendant’s insurer that was sufficient to compensate her for all of her claimed losses. In so holding, the court reiterated that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that, in cases involving a “totaled” vehicle, a plaintiff may only recover loss of use damages for the time “reasonably needed to replace” the subject vehicle. The fact that the plaintiff’s case had lingered on the trial court’s docket for several years did not increase the amount to which she was entitled.

An Experienced East Texas Attorney Here to Help

East Texas car accident lawsuits can involve many different types of damages. In addition to compensation for property damage and the loss of the use of one’s automobile, a person who has been involved in a car accident may be entitled to additional monies for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Earl Drott Law has been handling motor vehicle accident cases and other types of personal injury claims for many years, and we are here to help your family seek fair compensation. For a free consultation regarding your Tyler or Smith County accident case, call us today at 903-531-9300.

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