I own a sports car and was recently rear-ended by someone who has accepted full liability. My insurance is trying to price out the repair cost of my car and assures me I will not be out of pocket anything. However, there is one wrinkle.

I have a ground effects kit on my car (front air dam, side skirts, rear bumper cover) that cost around $1200 for the full set. At the time of purchase the rear bumper cover could be purchased individually for around $600. However, during COVID the manufacturer went out of business. I've found someone still selling remaining inventory of these kits, but only as the full kit for $1200. There is also a manufacturer of far lesser quality (different material, fitment issues, etc) selling a similar component for $250.

So the cost of the part damaged is $600, but the only way to correctly 'repair' the damage is to buy a full kit for $1200. In this sort of situation how are damages calculated? Am I owed the $600 replacement cost for the component, or am I owed the $1200 because that's what I'm actually out to do the repair correctly? Or do I need to take the $250 component that insurance wants me to accept?

  • similar example: I once broke the extruder-lever in a 3D printer. you can't get this part alone, but a full extruder kit cost 30-something. I swapped everything (which was physically easier than disassembling and re-assembling the parts) and now have an extra frame that is useless...
    – Trish
    Sep 29, 2022 at 15:38
  • The answer depends upon where the accident took place. I assume a typical United States jurisdiction in my answer, but there is some variation in state law and a great deal of variation internationally.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 29, 2022 at 16:21
  • 1
    @ohwilleke Yes, that was my fault for not tagging the state. I've updated it to PA.
    – Nicholas
    Sep 29, 2022 at 17:14
  • The logically correct way would be that the insurance pays the full set, hands you the parts needed for the repair, and keeps the rest or puts them on eBay :-)
    – gnasher729
    Sep 30, 2022 at 9:25

1 Answer 1


General the measure of property damages in an automobile accident lawsuit in the United States is the minimum amount of money necessary to restore the vehicle to its pre-accident state, and/or the diminution of fair market value of the vehicle due to the accident that repairs can't fully remedy in a reasonable fashion.

Beyond that very general statement, the cases get decided on a case by case basis after consideration of all of the relevant facts related to damages.

There are legitimate arguments either way regarding what is reasonably necessary to repair the vehicle to its pre-accident state in this situation.

Generally speaking, if there is a lawsuit, neither side will get their attorney fees in the United States, so they both have to decide how much they are willing to fight over a modest dollar amount dispute. A $950 disagreement would be eaten up in two to four hours of lawyer time, so that colors the analysis. To some extent it ends up being a game of chicken - who is most credibly going to continue to fight knowing that taking a legal battle to the full extent it could be taken would be mutually destructive.

  • Wouldn't any lawsuit for a value under the state defined limit ($5000 in PA?) automatically go to small claims court? I thought lawyers were not allowed there, so legal fees would amount only to the filing fee?
    – Nicholas
    Sep 29, 2022 at 17:13
  • Normally, small claims court is not a mandatory option for plaintiffs. Instead it is usually an option available to plaintiffs who can also choose a non-small claims limited jurisdiction court where lawyers are allowed. And, even if lawyers don't represent you at trial, you would often get a little coaching from a lawyer in advance. Also, your own time isn't worthless in most cases and even in small claims court the defendant usually isn't barred from having a lawyer (albeit in a few rule environment where being one doesn't help as much).
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 29, 2022 at 22:44
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    @TigerGuy uh... my head went to the wrong question
    – Trish
    Sep 30, 2022 at 0:33

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