Who pays for my car damage is a question anyone in a car crash asks. The answer is the at fault driver’s insurance or the car owners own insurance, depending on the circumstances and the comparative negligence.

First, there is a difference between diminished market value and cost of repair. When a car is not totaled out, the measure of damages is the difference between the automobile’s market value before the accident and its value immediately after accident. Nashban Barrel & Container Co. v. G.G. Parsons Trucking Co., 49 Wis. 2d 591, 603, 182 N.W.2d 448 (1971). If the car is repairable, the reasonable cost of repairs is admissible to determine diminished market value. Krueger, 30 Wis. 2d at 449; Chapleau, 178 Wis. 545. If the changed market value (presumably by an expert appraiser) and the cost of repairs are both determinable, then the lower of the two figures is the recoverable amount of damages. Nashban Barrel, 49 Wis. 2d at 603; Krueger, 30 Wis. 2d 445. However, if repairs to the car do not restore it to its preinjury value and the plaintiff has been or will be harmed by such loss in value, the plaintiff is entitled to damages for the proven lost value in addition to damages for the reasonable cost of repair. Hellenbrand v. Hilliard, 2004 WI App 151, ¶ 25 , 275 Wis. 2d 741. The problem is its difficult and costly to hire an expert to attest to diminished value, before or after repairs. In most cases it is not practical to hire experts to establish diminished value unless the amount involved is exceedingly high.

If a car is increased in market value after repairs, that is deducted from a damages award; reasonable, not actual, costs to put the automobile in its prior condition are allowed. Chapleau, 178 Wis. at 550. This could be the case with a very old car, but in that case it would probably be totaled out  before repairs are authorized.

Loss of use for car damage of a damaged automobile is allowable. Kim v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 176 Wis. 2d 890 , 501 N.W.2d 24 (1993) ; Nashban Barrel & Container Co. v. G.G. Parsons Trucking Co., 49 Wis. 2d 591, 602 , 182 N.W.2d 448 (1971), Wis. JI–Civil 1800 . The cost of hiring or renting another vehicle during the period of repair is a proper measure of damages for loss of use. Nashban, 49 Wis. 2d at 600. However, a claimant does not have to acquire a temporary replacement vehicle to recover loss of use damages. Kim, 176 Wis. 2d at 899.

McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.