How is the value of damages determined?

Property damage valuation is an art form that may require the services of a professional or expert appraiser. If the property has been completely destroyed so that it is of no further use and has no salvage value, the measure of damages can be set at the fair market value of the property immediately before its loss. Generally, an injured party may recover for the loss or harm - both present and prospective - which are the natural, necessary or reasonable result of such damage.

If the property can be repaired, the amount of damages can be set at the amount it costs to repair the property plus the loss of its use by the owner. If the cost to repair the property exceeds the fair market value of the property before loss, the damages can be limited to the fair market value. In addition to the cost to repair or replace plus loss of use, interest and loss of profits may also be added as elements of damages.

With respect to punitive damages, the amount is often determined after an inquiry reveals the wealth of the wrong-doer. For example, punitive damages in the amount of $10,000 is typically sufficient to deter similar acts or omissions for most people - but if the wrong-doer is a multi-millionaire, a $10,000 punitive damage award may be an insufficient deterrence. An award of damages that is the result of passion or prejudice on the part of a jury - meaning that the award is not supported by the evidence or that it does not bear any correlation to the amount of actual damages suffered - can be set aside by a judge upon review.

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