We all take special precautions to avoid damage to our vehicles, such as swerving around a pothole or parking in the “empty” part of the parking lot to avoid a scratch. But, even if you are extremely careful, there are still situations that are unavoidable. One such situation is when someone deliberately causes damage to your vehicle. The rules of insurance make sense for an accident, but what happens when someone intentionally causes malicious damage to a motor vehicle? Are you (the owner) responsible to pay for it? Does insurance cover the costs?
Malicious Damage to A Motor Vehicle
Malicious damage to a motor vehicle is when the damage was motivated by malice, vindictiveness or spite. This action is considered a criminal damage offense in Arizona and can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the damage. ARS 13-602 defines the following actions as criminal damage:
- Defacing or damaging property
- Tampering with property to substantially impair it’s function or value
- Tampering with or damaging the property of a utility
- Parking any vehicle in a way that will deprive livestock of access to the only reasonably available water
- Drawing or inscribing a message, slogan, sign, or symbol that is made on any public or private building, structure, or surface, except the ground, and that is made without permission of the owner
This is basically stating that malicious damage to a motor vehicle happens when someone else; damages your vehicle, inhibits its ability to function, or defaces it any way. If any of these things happened to you, you might be wandering what your options are to have these damages fixed.
Comprehensive Insurance Coverage
There are a few options to cover costs for malicious damage, but by far the best option would be to use your comprehensive insurance coverage (if part of your insurance). Comprehensive insurance coverage is used to help pay for repairs to a vehicle that was damaged in an event that was not accident related. However, not all policies protect their customers for the same events. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to see what your comprehensive insurance covers.
Filing a Lawsuit against Someone Else for Malicious Damage to Your Vehicle
The only other option (besides comprehensive insurance coverage) to cover costs is to file a lawsuit against the person responsible. There are two reasons for filing a lawsuit against someone for malicious damage to your vehicle:
- The car owner is not covered by comprehensive insurance, therefor wants the person responsible for the damage to pay for it.
- The car owner wants legal consequences for the actions of the person responsible.
When the cost to repair the damage is high and nothing will be covered by insurance, it makes financial sense to hire an attorney. The compensation for damages and the cost of working with an attorney will all be covered in the settlement. There are also moral reasons that it may be a good option to work with an attorney. An attorney is the best way to guarantee that the person responsible for causing the damages sees legal consequences for their actions.
Insurance Litigation for Malicious Damage to a Motor Vehicle
Even though we pay monthly premiums to have our vehicles covered for any sort of damage, insurance companies will still occasionally undercut their customers and not pay them the full amount they deserve. Insurance companies do this because they know that a majority of people don’t fully understand their insurance policies. This type of behavior is sneaky and unacceptable, but unfortunately there is not much that can be done to keep them from doing it. However, there are ways that you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of by your insurance company:
- Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy
- Research similar incidents and compare damage/compensation amounts
- Receive a 3rd party evaluation of damages
If after doing these things you believe that your insurance company is taking advantage of you by paying you less than you deserve, contact a personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you file an insurance dispute. Insurance disputes are important, they keep insurance companies honest and accountable. However, they are also notoriously difficult because insurance companies have lawyers on their payroll that fight these cases every single day. If you are going to enter a dispute with an insurance company, do it right and hire an attorney. Working with a personal injury attorney that understands Arizona insurance litigation laws will significantly increase your chance of receiving fair compensation.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.