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Do I Need a Lawyer - Diminished Value and Punitive Damage Claims


This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.

In one of our prior shows, I exposed one of the best kept secrets in the insurance industry - a secret that is saving insurance companies literally hundreds of millions of dollars each year right here in Georgia.

And this money should be paid to Georgia's consumers.

But like most things, if the person doesn't know they are entitled to receive this money, the insurance company is not going to knock on their door and voluntarily hand it to them.

Joining me now to talk more about this big insurance company secret is Sarah Low, an attorney that works with me at the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates.

Sarah, thanks for joining us this morning.

Sarah: Good morning, Gary.

Gary: OK Sarah, let's talk about this big secret where insurance companies are taking advantage of Georgia's consumers.

Sarah: Well let's hope it is not a secret when we get through, Gary.

It's called a "diminished value claim."

Let me explain what that means.

If you are involved in a car wreck, your car will suffer property damage.

When you get your car repaired, you know it will be worth less than it was before the wreck.

Gary: Sarah - I'm going to get Adam Weart, our executive producer, to put some graphics up on the screen for our viewers to see.

Sarah: Perfect. Thanks Adam.
Let's look at the first graphic.

Think of it this way.

You walk onto a used car lot and you see two identical cars parked side by side.

One has never been wrecked, and one has been wrecked and repaired.

Most people would never buy the car that has been wrecked and repaired.

You don't want to buy someone else's problem.

Gary: And if you would even consider buying the car that has been wrecked, you would want a substantial discount.

Sarah: That's right. Diminished value is what the market says your vehicle lost in value because of the wreck and repairs.

Gary: Sarah, how do you calculate diminished value?

Sarah: The only way to do it is by hiring an appraiser to do a market survey for your car.

And this is where the insurance companies are misleading consumers.

A lot of insurance companies use a formula they created to calculate diminished value.

They make it sound like it is a fair and reasonable method but it is not.

Let me give you another example of how the insurance companies are not being fair.

One insurance company sent our client a check for $496.00 telling him they calculated diminished value using their special formula.

We hired an independent appraiser. His market survey showed the vehicle lost $2,235.00 in diminished value.

The insurance company was trying to cheat our client out of over $1,700.

This isn't right.

Gary: No, it's not right, but insurance companies get away with this every day here in Georgia.

And it's time we stop them.

Sarah: Gary, let me point out something else about diminished value claims.

You can still have a claim for diminished value - even if you are at fault for causing the wreck!

Gary: Sarah, we have also been very successful in getting our clients additional money - above and beyond the diminished value claim - when the defendant that causes the wreck was driving under the influence. Please tell us about one of those cases.

Sarah: Sure. My favorite was one where our client was driving a 2002 Cadillac Sedan DeVille.
The other driver rear-ended his car and caused almost $6,000 in property damage.
The police arrested the at fault driver at the scene because he was driving drunk.
Our firm hired an appraiser to perform a diminished assessment.
He appraised the diminished value at $3,000.00.

Gary: And Adam - if you can put that appraisal on the screen for us now, that would be great.
There you see the phrase - TOTAL RESIDUAL DIMINISHED VALUE $3,000.00.

Sarah: So this looks like a simple $3,000.00 claim. However, we were able to settle the diminished value claim for $26,756.67 because the Defendant was DUI when he caused the wreck.

Gary: That's right. The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Bowen v. Waters that we can seek punitive damages against the Defendant in cases where only property is damaged.

Sarah: And Gary, I know you have an entire chapter dedicated to diminished value in your book, The Authority on Personal Injury Claims in Georgia.

Gary: And I do cover diminished value claims in the book. People can get the book at

Sarah, thanks for being with us today.

Sarah: Gary, thanks for having me.

Just pick up the phone right now and give us a call at (770) 934-8000.

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