California is a diminished value state, which means you may be entitled to the diminished value of your vehicle after an auto accident. The statute of limitation on diminished value claims in California is 3 years, and California does have uninsured motorist coverage for diminished value. You can’t submit a California diminished value claim if you were the at-fault party in an accident, or if the damage was caused by something other than a collision.
The following cases are pertinent to the State of California and Diminished Value:
Carson v. Mercury Insurance Company
In this case, Melody Carson’s vehicle, worth approximately $8,000 was in an accident. Upon appraising the vehicle post-accident, Mercury Insurance Company completed repairs totally $18,000. Carson sued, claiming that Mercury should have kept her financial security in mind when completing the repairs, especially since they were so much higher than the pre-accident value of the vehicle.
Without documented proof of the pre-accident condition and value, Carson did not prevail in this case.
Change to the California Civil Code Section 3333, California Jury Instruction 3903J
Prior to the change, plaintiffs who wanted to recompense losses from an accident could not recover both the cost of repair and the diminished value. Instead, plaintiffs could only have one or the other, usually choosing the one with higher value.
Before this correction, California Jury Instruction 3903J read:
To recover damages for harm to personal property, [ name of plaintiff ] must prove the reduction in the [ item of personal property ]’s value or the reasonable cost of repairing it, whichever is less. [If there is evidence of both, [name of plaintiff ] is entitled to the lesser of the two amounts.]” (emphasis added)
The new working allows for plaintiffs to reclaim both losses, as long as the total amount awarded doesn’t exceed the automobile’s pre-accident value.
The new wording of this Jury Instruction now reads:
To recover damages for harm to personal property, [name of plaintiff] must prove the reduction in the [item of personal property e.g, automobile]’s value or the reasonable cost of repairing it, whichever is less. [If there is evidence of both, [name of plaintiff 1 is entitled to the lesser of the two amounts.] [However, if you find that the [e.g.. automobile] can be repaired, but after repairs it will be worth less than it was before the harm, the damages are (1) the difference between its value before the harm and its lesser value after the repairs have been made plus (2) the reasonable cost of making the repairs. The total amount awarded may not exceed the[ e.g., automobile]’s value before the harm occurred.] (Emphasis added)