What can I do to recover replacement costs for our vehicle?

My cousin and his girlfriend were driving my truck, when they were rear-ended by a semi and then pushed into 2 other cars. I started my claim with my insurance and also with the semi’s insurance. The semi’s insurance agent said they are still investigating liability but warned me that with all of the vehicles involved that there may be limit issues if they accept liability. So for me to proceed with my

insurance first and let them settle up with semi’s insurer later. The problem is that my truck was

ruled a total loss. My insurance said if do the claim with them. That it’s basically pay my truck off that’s it. My problem is that’s fine with my old truck but I had it leased. I put $5000 when got it, plus paid on it the last 3 years. I’ve had health problems and don’t have the funds for a new down payment. My insurance agent suggested seeking an attorney to go after then for replacement costs on my truck. I’ve never been involved in a accident before. And just don’t want to come out with no truck, no down

payment, plus lose my investment for last 3 years because I planned to purchase after lease was over.

Asked on October 26, 2017 under Accident Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You are not entitled to replacement cost. When property is destroyed, the most you are entitled to is its then-current fair market (or "blue book") value, plus reasonable expenses directly related to the accident (e.g. towing costs; car rental cost for a few days or week or two; etc.). The law doesn't care, so to speak, about what you paid for the truck, or still owe on it, or what it would take to get a new one:
1) Value is, if not objective, at least consistent and readily determinable, but cost, etc. is all over the place: some people get vehicles as gifts (e.g. from family) or are great at negotiating and get great deals; other people overpay. The law cannot use something that changes person-to-person as the measure for compensation.
2) Conceptually, if something is destroyed, getting its value fully compensates you. For example: say someone played a "prank" in which they took $100 from you and cut the bills up, threw them in a lake, set them on fire--i.e. destroyed them. You could sue them for the $100, of course. But you can't get $200 from them when they destroyed $100 of yours, since once you got $100 back, you received replacement for what you lost--$100 of value gets you $100 in compensation. Similarly, since the law views money as the equivalent of other property, if a car worth, say, $4,000 is destroyed, $4,000--it's value in money--compensates you.
3) It's not the other driver's fault that you don't have funds to replace the truck--they have nothing to do with your financial situation.
Therefore, whether you settle the case or sue and get a judgment, the measure of what you are entitled to is the economic value of what was destroyed.


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