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The Status of Diminished Value Cases in New Jersey at the present time

Diminished Value claims can be defined as the loss in value of a motor vehicle because of a defendant’s negligence which causes an accident and when the repaired vehicle is not restored to its original value – that being at a time just before the accident took place.

The time has never been better to bring a diminished value case in New Jersey than the present time. The law is particularly clear that if a person’s personal property is damaged because of a defendant’s negligence, then that person would be entitled to money damages from the defendant for the amount of the loss suffered. The recent case law that has developed entitles a person to not just the amount of the repair costs but also the amount of the reduced value of the automobile that was damaged. New Jersey law has repeatedly enforced the concept of diminished value. While the courts may recognize the concept of diminished value it does not necessarily follow that the courts always recognize the proofs necessary to put forth the claim of diminished value.

I have been filing claims for diminished value in New Jersey for approximately 20 years. I have appeared before Judges who were quite reluctant to recognize these claims, especially at the inception of bringing these cases. Over the years Judges, while more receptive to these cases, are often skeptical of the proofs put before them to prove the loss in value. While a plaintiff can testify as to the loss in value it is strongly encouraged to provide expert testimony about the loss in value of the auto. A failure to provide this testimony can lead to a dismissal via motion of the defendant. Additionally, a plaintiff who relies on either a verbal offer or offers or even a written estimate risks the exclusion of this evidence as hearsay testimony. A diminished value of under $20,000 can be brought in the Special Civil part which has a reduced discovery period, and the case can be heard within 2-4 months, where as a loss of over $20,000 needs to be brought in Superior Court with a longer discovery period and the possibility of depositions and more significant discovery among the parties. A jury trial can be utilized in both courts however doing so necessitates a much more time-consuming endeavor. A case heard by a Judge alone obviously allows for the Judge’s own personal bias to play a role in the decision. The cases taken by my office tend to favor higher end cars and more significant monetary losses. I also combine personal injury cases along with diminished value cases when the need arises. For more information about either your diminished value case or those of your clients please call Mitchell Portnoi or Kyle Reed at 908-228-8800.

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