In the United States, property damage is generally recognized as injury to real or personal property. Damages in this category can be done to items such as cars, gardens, and homes. Injury can be caused intentionally, due to negligence, or by forces of nature, and still be considered property damage.
The causes of harm are not always clear. In some cases, the actual damages may be the result of a natural force, such as lightning. It may have been a person’s negligence by leaving an item outdoors, however, that created the circumstances for the damages.
There are also cases where property damage is intentional, but the harm is done without malice. If a child is locked inside of a house and a passerby breaks the window to rescue the child, he is not doing so with mean-spirited intentions. When damage to a property occurs, the owners of the property are generally entitled to compensation. Circumstances involving the causes are typically taken into consideration and sometimes owners are not compensated.
When owners are entitled, the awarded amount can depend on many factors. These include the costs of repairs, losses incurred because the item is out of use, and sentimental value. Money is not the only means of compensation. If the damaged property cannot be repaired to a favorable condition, it may have to be replaced. In other cases, a person responsible for such harm may be required to perform some action, such as repairing the item.
An owner and a person accused of property damage may not agree, in which case it may be necessary to take the dispute to court. These matters are often heard in civil courts, but in some cases they are regarded as crimes. Vandalism is an example of a matter that can be treated as a crime. This type of damage usually deals with surface injuries, such as spray painting someone’s car.
Property damage is not limited to the possessions of individuals. Government and public property can also be harmed. When a person harms government or public property with ill intentions, the case is typically handled as a crime. Terrorism is an example, which often involves significant amounts of property damage and can result in death. These cases are typically matters of federal concern and are dealt with harshly.
Those seeking compensation or claiming innocence in property damage cases may represent themselves in court if the matter is not extremely serious. Other cases, such as terrorism, will require lawyers for both sides. In many states, there are legal professionals who specialize in this area of law.