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Diminished Value

The attorneys at Olive|Bearb Law Group, PLLC, are experts in handling all manner of auto property damage claims, including diminished value.

What Is Diminished Value?

Diminished value is the difference between the pre-loss and post-repair "fair market value" of a vehicle. When your new, low-mileage, "high-end" or "exotic" vehicle gets wrecked, consumer demand goes down even if the repair shop does a great job fixing it. As demand goes down, so does the value of your property. You have property rights you can enforce. Diminished value claims are strongest for newer vehicles that suffer structural damage in a collision that do not have a history of prior collision repair. Luxury vehicles tend to be hypersensitive to diminished value. Exotic, antique, collector vehicles, and other "rolling artwork" require special handling - every one of those vehicles requires special investigation and proof. Olive|Bearb Law Group, PLLC, diminished value attorneys can evaluate whether your vehicle has a viable diminished value claim and help you obtain fair compensation from the responsible insurance company.

What Legal Rules Apply?

Washington law expressly recognizes that diminished value is a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of collision-related physical damage to a motor vehicle that isn't a total loss. Any significant body shop repair - even from the best shops - leaves the vehicle different from how it rolled out of the factory. The term "inherent diminished value" refers to a vehicle's losing market value because it actually has residual physical damage despite the best possible repair. These legal rules are complicated and changing over time. The diminished value lawyers at Olive|Bearb Law Group, PLLC, research these changes and stay current on the cutting edge legal developments so we know the rules.

How Do You Experience Diminished Value?

Consider the fair market value of your vehicle to be the best price you could have gotten for the vehicle before the wreck, and consider the post-repair fair market value of a vehicle to be and the best price you can get now. Did you want to sell your car before the wreck? Do you want to sell it now? Those questions aren't as important: you had the right to sell your car before the wreck, and you have the right to sell it now. If you suffer damage to those rights, the at-fault party (or your own insurance company if the at-fault party doesn't have enough insurance) has to make it up to you. Paying to fix your car may not be enough.

Most wrecks cause permanent damage. For example, if a body shop has to straighten bent structural metal, the metal isn't as strong as before it was bent in the first place. Factories don't use Bondo® when they build cars. Factories weld cars together using robots, but body shops don't. Factories dip cars in corrosion protection materials and apply paint by atomization and then bake them dry at temperatures body shops can't use because important electrical components would fry. Except in the most minor collisions, wrecked cars leave even the best body shops different than they left the factory. The body shop can't restore those cars to "true pre-loss condition." Vehicle buyers react to that residual physical damage in a predictably negative way.

Before the collision, you probably could have sold your vehicle on the private market (say, on AutoTrader® or Craigslist®) or through trade. You probably would have obtained less money for the car in trade, so the vehicle probably had the greatest value to you on the private market. For newer, clean-history vehicles, you probably could have competed with manufacturer-authorized dealers in the private market. You may not have obtained quite the same price as those dealers, but close. A diminished value appraiser can determine the private market value of a vehicle. It's a relatively straightforward process, and the pre-loss value of your vehicle is not normally a controversial part of this type of insurance claim.

The only realistic option you will probably have for liquidating your car after it has a history of significant damage is to trade it for another car. The consumer market for late-model used vehicles is discriminating. You could attempt to sell the vehicle on the private market at a discount, but you would be unlikely to find a prospective buyer who doesn't hang up within a few seconds of learning that the vehicle suffered structural damage in a wreck. The more exotic the vehicle, the more you will be hard-pressed to sell it with a damage history. Whether you would ever find a buyer, and if so after how many months, and for what price, are such unpredictable considerations that the private market may no longer a "fair" market for the vehicle.

After the collision and repair, you can probably, at best, obtain "wholesale trade" value for the vehicle. Manufacturer franchise dealers don't generally sell vehicles with structural damage history. Instead, they sell them at wholesale auctions and "used car lots" buy them. Franchise dealers rarely want to pay more in trade for vehicles with structural damage history than they could obtain at an auction, and used car lots rarely want to pay more in trade then they would have to pay at an auction. For most vehicles, "low trade," "low book," and "wholesale trade" are synonymous, well-researched benchmark values.

How Our Diminished Value Attorneys Can Help

If you owned a newer vehicle without a history of prior collision repair that suffered structural damage in a collision that wasn't your fault, you may have lost hundreds or thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands. Even if you had no intention of selling the vehicle before the collision, or any intention after, you had the right to sell it, and the damage history limits your options.

You may be tempted to purchase an online diminished value appraisal or negotiate your diminished value claim on your own. We recommend against that approach. We work with expert appraisers who have proven themselves in Court to make sure that your claim is both accurate and strong if we have to present it to a jury. Insurance companies have countless excuses for delaying, denying, and minimizing diminished value claims. We've heard them all. Insurance companies know Olive|Bearb Law Group, PLLC attorneys are serious in pursuing fair compensation for our clients because they know we gather the evidence we need to prove your case.

What Next?

Contact us. Our attorneys will talk to you for free with no obligation. We will do our best to answer your questions and help you even if you elect not to retain us. You have nothing to lose and valuable information to gain. If you do elect to retain us, we will fight to hold the responsible insurance companies accountable.