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Claim compensation if an item or product causes damage

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If an item causes damage to your property through no fault of your own, you may have a legal right to claim compensation (also known as claiming ‘damages’).

For example, you may be able to claim compensation if your washing machine starts leaking and damages your kitchen floor.

If an item or product has given you an injury you’ll have to make a personal injury claim.

If you have insurance that covers the problem, you could make a claim on your insurance policy. This could be quicker and easier, but it could mean the amount you pay for your insurance will go up.

Work out how much compensation you want

You'll need to work out a fair amount of compensation to ask for. You should consider:

  • how much money you’ve spent fixing the problems, or how much it will cost to fix
  • how much time you’ve spent and what your time is worth

How to claim compensation

It’s a good idea to take photos of any damage caused so you can use them as evidence. You should also make note of dates and times when things went wrong.

The action you should take depends on whether or not you bought the item that caused the damage.

If you bought the item that caused the damage

You should first try to claim compensation from the company you bought the item from. Call or write to them and explain your situation.

What to write or say:

“The law says I’m entitled to be paid damages when a faulty item causes damage.”

You can include the cost of the faulty item in your claim for damages, but not if you’ve already had a refund or been given a replacement.

If you write, include copies of photos or any other proof you have of the damage. It’s a good idea to keep the originals in case you need them later. You can send the letter by registered post so you have proof that it was received.

If you didn’t buy the item that caused the damage

You have the legal right to get compensation from the manufacturer (ie the company that made the product) if all of the following apply:

  • you’re claiming for more than £275
  • the item that caused the damage was unsafe
  • the damage wasn’t done to something owned by a business

You can’t claim the cost of the faulty item - only the cost of the damage and distress.

Call or write to them and explain your situation.

What to write or say

“The product has damaged my personal property, therefore I’m legally entitled to damages under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.”

If your claim is for less than £275

You can make a claim for ‘negligence’ against either the manufacturer or the company you bought the item from. You may have to prove that they were negligent, but it’s worth calling or writing to them first to explain your situation.

What to write or say

“The product has damaged my personal property, therefore I believe I’m legally entitled to damages for negligence.”

If you’re still not getting anywhere

If you’re not offered compensation or you’re unhappy with the offer, you should:

  1. Check if the trader’s a member of a trade association. Look on the trader’s website or ask them if you can’t find this information. Contact the trade association and explain the situation.
  2. Ask the trader if they’re a member of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme - it’s a way of solving disagreements without going to court. If they don’t respond or won’t use an ADR scheme, keep a record of the fact that you asked them (and the date). Read more about using an ADR scheme.

If you bought the item yourself with a credit card, you can contact the bank (or credit card company) and say you want to make a ‘section 75 claim’. If you used a debit card, say you want to make a ‘chargeback’ claim. If you don’t get anywhere, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If you’re still not happy, you’ll have to go to court to get compensation. This can be expensive and take a long time.

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