If you are involved in a car wreck, your car will suffer property damage. When you get your car repaired, you know it will be worth less than it was before the wreck. Think of it this way. If you walk onto a used car lot and you saw two identical cars parked side by side. One had never been wrecked, and one had been wrecked and repaired. Most people would never buy the car that had been repaired. You don’t want to buy someone else’s problem. And if you would even consider buying the car that had been wrecked, you would want a substantial discount.
Diminished value is what the market says your vehicle lost in value because of the repairs. It is the loss in market value of a car after it has been wrecked and repaired.
Here is another way to look at it: Assume two identical cars are side by side on a car lot. One has been wrecked and repaired, and the other has never been wrecked and repaired. Diminished value is what the market says it expects Joe Consumer would want in a discount before he would be willing to buy the wrecked and repaired car vs. the one that has never been wrecked.
Claiming Diminished Value
It does not matter who is at fault in the wreck for you to be able to pursue a diminished value claim. If you are at fault in causing the wreck, you can still pursue a diminished value claim against your insurance company. If someone else causes the wreck, you can pursue the claim against their company. Either way, if your car is wrecked and repaired, you have a diminished value claim and have every right to pursue it.
Proving Diminished Value
How can you prove the diminished value of your client’s vehicle? There is a code section under Georgia law that deals specifically with “value.” According to O.C.G.A. Section 24-9-66:
“Direct testimony as to market value is in the nature of opinion evidence. One need not be an expert or dealer in the article in question but may testify as to its value if he has had an opportunity for forming a correct opinion.”
You can prove diminished value through an expert, through a dealer, or through someone else - including the owner - as long as you can show that person “had an opportunity for forming a correct opinion.”
Here are my suggestions:
(1) Hire an independent appraiser to evaluate the vehicle.
(2) In addition to the independent appraisal, take the final repair bill to CarMax. Provide them with a copy of the complete repair bill and ask them to appraise the vehicle and get you an offer on the vehicle. Next, get the appraiser’s card. When they come back with an appraisal and offer, get detailed and specific reasons from the appraiser as to the basis for their offer. Make sure to take notes.