Injuries are not the only type of damage that you can sustain when you get into an accident. While injuries are typically front and center, property damage can be just as stressful and expensive.
Whether you’re looking at repairing or replacing the damaged property, it’s an expense you don’t want to pay out-of-pocket. So, what are the legal aspects of property damage compensation? We’ll take a look at this and more in the following paragraphs.
Understanding Missouri Property Damage Laws
Missouri has statutes for offenses relating to property damage, RSMo 569.100, RSMo 569.120, and RSMo 574.085. These statutes cover municipal ordinance violations, property damage, and institutional vandalism. On top of this, the codes also define 1st and 2nd-degree property damage.
Understanding which statute applies to your case is confusing. After all, if you don’t want to cite the wrong statute, it can result in your property damage case being dismissed. While an experienced attorney is familiar with the various statutes, it also helps when you understand the basics.
Municipal Ordinance Violation Property Damage
Municipal ordinances will rarely apply to you as a plaintiff. An example of this type of property damage is littering. Tossing your trash on a city street or sidewalk doesn’t technically damage the property, but it does create a mess and possibly an obstacle others need to avoid.
While jail time for violating this statute is possible, it rarely happens. Imagine how overcrowded city and county jails will be if everyone convicted of littering is sentenced to a few days in prison. Instead, fines are more common in this type of property damage offense.
Committing institutional vandalism can result in misdemeanor or felony charges. The severity of the charges depends on the amount of damage. Any property damage over $750 is almost always a class E felony. Damage over $5,000 jumps it up to a class D felony. A class D felony conviction can carry a sentence of no more than ten years in jail.
Institutional vandalism occurs when property belonging to the public or a religious institution is intentionally damaged. This charge may still apply if the property damage is accidental, the primary difference is you probably won’t be facing potential jail time. Instead, you’ll be liable for any repair or replacement costs.
2nd-Degree Property Damage
Missouri statute RSMo 569.120 covers the penalties associated with 2nd-degree property damage. This applies when an individual willfully damages someone else’s property. This can also apply if the individual damages their property in an attempt to file a fraudulent insurance claim. Any damage resulting in costs under $750 can qualify under the statute.
In most cases, a 2nd-degree property damage conviction is a misdemeanor. However, there’s an exception. The charge can be bumped up to a Class D felony if the property belongs to a law enforcement official or one of their close relatives. Think of their parents, siblings, spouse, or children.
1st-Degree Property Damage
RSMo 569.100 covers regulations relating to 1st-degree property damage, and the statute typically applies when repair and replacement costs are over $750. The defendant is usually facing a Class E felony conviction unless the property belongs to a law enforcement official or close relative. In this case, it’s a more serious Class D felony.
Like with most laws, there can be exceptions beyond those involving the property of law enforcement officials. For example, if the property is damaged while committing another type of felony, burglary is an example. It can be a Class B felony, whcih can mean a sentence of 5 to 15 years in jail.
Proving the overall value of damaged property can be stressful. Property valuations are often subjective, and this can give the defense an opening to refute your claim. Working with an attorney can help limit the effectiveness of the defense, ensuring you receive full compensation for your property damage.
Proving Intentional Property Damage
Proving intentional property damage isn’t always easy. Even with video proof, you may still face an uphill battle in court. You must meet the standards defined in statute RSMo 562.016.3.
The regulation states you must prove the defendant acted knowingly and willfully when they damaged your property. Throwing a brick through your window is a knowing and willful act. Losing control of their vehicle and crashing through your fence may not meet the statute’s requirements.
Contact an Attorney and Protect Your Rights
Attempting to navigate Missouri’s complex property damage laws can indeed be a frustrating and confusing experience.
To simplify this process, consider working with an experienced attorney who is well-versed in the various property damage codes and regulations specific to Missouri. Doing so can help you avoid the financial burden of paying for repairs and replacements out-of-pocket.
An attorney can provide valuable guidance on your legal rights and options, potentially helping you receive compensation for damages without incurring unnecessary expenses.