In the small world of automobile claims, there’s new buzz surrounding California Diminished Value law and the recent changes in California Jury Instructions regarding property damage to automobiles.
The changes came in response to one attorney’s relentless pursuit of justice. Attorney Montie S. Day refused to sit idly by when he realized California insurance carriers and their adjusters were using language in official jury instructions to try and make accident victims believe they could not legally recover lost value damages. Specifically, we’re talking about inherent lost market value to automobiles, or as it is more commonly known, diminished value or simply DV. Market surveys and sales prove that damaged and repaired vehicles are generally less desirable (thus, less valuable) on the resale market than identical vehicles that have never been damaged and repaired.
What’s interesting here is that big changes are expected, yet there is no new California Diminished Value law. What the insightful Mr. Day attacked was not improper law (jury instructions are not law, and the law in California already recognized the right of a victim to recover inherent lost value aka diminished value). Instead he realized insurance carriers were using language in the jury instructions to mislead accident victims and imply that the law in California would not allow recovery of inherent diminished value, so he attacked and exposed that unfair and misleading tactic.
Since There Are No Changes to California Diminished Value Law, How Does That Affect Prior DV Claims?
Because what Mr. Day has done does not create any new law, people who have a current California diminished value claim that have been wrongfully denied can now go back to the carriers that improperly denied the claims and demand payment!
If there were a new law, then only new victims would benefit. Mr. Day has helped far more victims by having the California Supreme Court’s Judicial Council revise and clarify California’s Jury Instruction 3903J than he would have helped if he had actually created a new law. Getting the government to clarify the standing law and point out that the law DOES allow for diminished value recovery is an outstanding achievement, especially in the state where the most unlawful denials come from, California.
I want to just drive one point home here. The culprit insurance carriers in California purposely defrauded accident victims for profit. Did you read that? Insurance carriers in California who were citing a portion of the old 3903J instruction as a reason to deny diminished value claims were purposely defrauding victims for profit, and arguably this practice has cost lives.
Montie Day’s efforts have made it much harder for certain claims “professionals” to convince accident victims that they cannot recover the inherent lost market value, a.k.a diminished value of their vehicle. One of their tools for fraud has been removed. As more people become aware of their rights and demand justice, insurance carriers will be forced to take California diminished value claims more seriously.
You know what the most rewarding thing is that will come from the hard work and perseverance that Mr. Day has demonstrated?
The saving of human lives.
Because the Judicial Council took Mr. Day’s complaint to heart and saw the need to clarify what they could, lives will be saved. Insurance companies that would have previously insisted that heavily damaged vehicles be repaired will now have a better incentive to declare the vehicles totaled. If even one potential accident victim is saved from being in an accident in an unsafely repaired vehicle that should have been totaled, then Mr. Day’s efforts were worthwhile. Below is the revised instruction that is effective as of 2016.
With the clarifying language in bold, the new 3903J instruction 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] 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)
If you are interested in more information about this subject, please feel free to contact my office directly. I can be reached at 214-220-9144. You can also request a free claim consultation to get help fighting for your diminished value in California – just fill out the form below!