Personal Injury Law Terms: What Is “Loss of Use”?

Clearly, the primary concern in the aftermath of a collision is always the health and wellbeing of everyone involved. Your next thoughts are likely to be how badly your vehicle is damaged and, assuming it will be inoperable for any period of time, how you will get from place to place while it is being repaired or replaced. A personal injury lawyer licensed to practice in Houston, TX and the rest of the state can help you answer that question.

Several questions should be asked when your vehicle is put out of commission due to an accident., including who was at fault, what type of coverage you and the other driver(s) carry, how badly your vehicle was damaged, whether it was used for personal or commercial purposes, which policy will cover your damages, to what extent, and whether Texas law can help you receive compensation for the loss of use of your vehicle. Let’s examine them all.

What Is Meant by ‘Loss of Use’ in Personal Injury Law?

As a legal term, ‘Loss of Use’ describes the compensation due to a driver when their vehicle is undrivable after an automobile accident. That compensation can cover several situations, including the expense of a replacement vehicle, the cost of repairs to the damaged car, truck, motorcycle, or scooter, and the loss of income due to the vehicle’s unavailability and/or the driver’s lost time at work. 
The term applies whether the vehicle’s loss of use is temporary or permanent. If the vehicle damage is repairable, a loss of use claim should be made for the length of time you spend without the vehicle. When the damage is permanent, the loss of use claim should be submitted to cover the period spent awaiting compensation. In other words, any compensation would cover you from the day of the accident until such time as you receive payment.

How Does Fault Apply to Drivers in and Around Houston, TX?

When one driver is found to be solely at fault for a collision, Texas law is clear. That driver or their insurance carrier is responsible for compensating anyone else involved in the accident, be it one or more other drivers, pedestrians, or property owners. It’s critical for you to collect information from other drivers and take your own photos wherever possible to help determine fault, but matters become more complicated when multiple parties are determined to be responsible.

Texas’ modified comparative negligence law assigns responsibility when more than one person is at fault for an accident. ‘Comparative negligence’ apportions any compensation received according to level of blame. For example, if you are 25% responsible, you may receive only 75% of your loss of use claim. Importantly, the ‘modified’ factor dictates that a driver found to be more than 50% at fault is not entitled to any compensation from other parties. They must rely on their own insurer.

How Does Loss of Use Apply to Commercial Vehicles?

Food trucks, delivery vans, dump trucks, semis, and taxis are among the many types of vehicles that generate income for the driver. If a work vehicle is damaged to the extent that it cannot function or be readily replaced, then its operator cannot work and faces a significant loss of income. A loss of use claim should include compensation for the income lost while the vehicle is under repair or, where necessary, a replacement vehicle is properly outfitted.

If the driver isn’t the commercial vehicle’s owner/operator, their company will want to make the claim for loss of use to recover the lost income and pay for repairs or a replacement vehicle. However, the driver may still make a separate loss of use claim to compensate for lost wages. Such a claim could also be made by a driver whose car is leased for them by a rideshare service such as Uber, Lyft, Didi, or Ola.

Does Your Type of Insurance Coverage Matter?

Texas has four fundamental automobile coverages. All drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance to cover damages to others in an accident. Most drivers also carry at least $15,000 in UM/UIM insurance to protect against uninsured and underinsured motorists. Collision insurance and comprehensive insurance are usually mandated by dealers when financing vehicles. As well as those four, there are supplemental coverages for theft, road service, and specialty items such as stereo systems.

The types of insurance you and others involved carry are important for securing a rental car during the loss of use of your vehicle. Texas law requires the driver at fault to provide any other drivers involved with a rental car while theirs undergo repairs. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer is obligated to provide you with a rental car. Policies with optional rental reimbursement typically cover rental costs during repair or replacement no matter who is at fault.

Does Your Vehicle’s Diminished Value After Repairs Come Under Loss of Use?

Following repairs, any body-work done to a vehicle can make it appear as perfect as the day it was purchased. Yet, even when there is no lasting damage to the chassis, your vehicle has automatically been entered in a database that indicates it was involved in a collision. That entry immediately lowers the resale value of your car for anyone, including dealers, who employ a service such as CarFax to research the accident history of used cars.

If your vehicle is involved in an accident that requires repairs, you should bring a claim for diminished value in addition to one for loss of use. Although a claim for diminished value is separate from one for loss of use, it will help you recover any lost resale value of your car. The key difference between the two is that diminished value is invalidated when you are, in any measure, at fault for the damage to your vehicle.

Are There Any Laws Covering the Type of Rental Car Insurers Must Provide?

Some insurance companies will do anything to minimize a settlement. That includes ignoring the law when dealing with uninformed claimants. For that reason, it’s important to know that, beyond the mandate to provide rental cars to drivers suffering from loss of use, Texas demands the vehicle supplied be of the same class as the one damaged. If you were driving a luxury sedan, they cannot saddle you with a tiny subcompact. Know your rights if you want leg and headroom.

Sometimes, knowing your rights isn’t enough when dealing with a large faceless corporation. Insurance companies frequently need to be prodded into meeting their obligations. As well, you may need someone on your side if they try to misrepresent the facts of your case. Even when the fault in a collision seems clear and you clearly deserve compensation, it could be delayed or even denied when you don’t have legal representation. 

Ideally, your representatives should possess the experience of having served as personal injury lawyers for the citizens of Houston, TX for 70 years. A large firm with the resources and knowledge to fight on your behalf can assist you in receiving the full compensation you deserve due to loss of use, diminished value, and other costs resulting from an automobile accident. Contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, and Stogner today to schedule a free consultation in person or online.