Suppose that you are in an accident which is entirely the other driver’s fault and your two-year-old car is totaled. Is the other driver responsible for buying you a new car? No. When a car or other personal property is damaged or destroyed, the measure of damages is: How much will it cost to fix it? If it can’t be fixed, how much is its replacement value? For instance, let’s say you paid $25,000 for your car two years ago, but the fair market value of a two-year-old car of the same make and model was $17,500 at the time of the accident that destroyed your car. Under these circumstances, the most you can recover from the other driver is only $17,500. This is true even though you are likely to still owe more on your car loan than $17,500. Or if the cost of repairing your vehicle after such an accident exceeds its fair market value, the defendant would nevertheless only have to pay you the fair market value of the vehicle.
Likewise, if any contents you had in your car were damaged or destroyed during the accident, the party at fault must compensate you for their fair market value at the time of the accident. If the party at fault is uninsured, you will ordinarily have to recover the value of the contents by submitting a claim to your homeowner’s insurance company.