I have an investment mobile home built in 1972 which I paid $2,000 for sitting on an empty storage lot next to boats, vehicles and other trailers. I spent the summer remodeling it at a cost of $8600. I am a licensed and insured general contractor. 4 weeks ago a tree pruning contractor fell a big one right in the middle of it, cutting it half and totaling it as well as totaling several other's vehicles, trailers and boats. This contractor was insured. However, his insurance company is insisting on ACV (Actual Cash Value) for the trailer only not including any renovations, to a total estimate of: $2800 (estimated via NADA in "Excellent" condition)

They won't negotiate. Who do I sue in small claims court for the depreciated value of the renovations? The contractor or his insurance company?

State: Montana

1 Answer 1


You sue BOTH the contractor AND his insurance company.

Your interest is in being made whole. It doesn't matter who pays you — whether the contractor pays or the insurance company pays. As long as you are made whole. One scenario you want to avoid is holding a judgment against a contractor who doesn't have the money to pay you then turns around and claims bankruptcy or skips town. That's why you sue both. You want to have a judgment against the insurance company too in case the contractor can not or does not pay you.

Also, check your jurisdiction but you might need to sue in Circuit Court because the limit of jurisdiction for small claims court might be set at $5,000 as it is in many jurisdictions.

You should sue for the highest amount possible. Then negotiate downward if warranted. Your invoices for materials and labor from your recent renovations and any photographs you might have taken would be your evidence to support your claim exceeding the ACV.

If you sue them, they will negotiate.

  • I have the documentation and photos. The small claims court limit is $12k in my county. So, would I name both parties in one suit?
    – maplemale
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:40
  • 4
    @maplemale: Yes, you can sue multiple parties simultaneously. In the same complaint (suit). Please run this by an attorney first and get some paid legal advice. Don't confuse anything you see on this site with legal advice. It's worth exactly what you are paying for it. Nothing. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:50
  • I believe this advice to be sound based on the results I received. After much back and forth, we came down to: Either give us a better offer, or face a court filing (and we named both the insurance company and the insured in the letter). In the end, we settled out of court for nearly 4x original offer amount. Some things that helped: We contacted the state insurance commissioner. We sent comps for other trailers. We kept a level, non-emotional head thru it all and came to logical if, then else conclusions.
    – maplemale
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 19:09

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