Law & Legal & Attorney Human rights

Seattle Eminent Domain Attorney - Why Doesn"t Sentimental Value Count for Something?

You got that letter today in the mail and your worst nightmare is finally a reality - that highway expansion program has finally come through and the Seattle Department of Transportation has let you know they are going to need your property for the project. And they aren't asking for it, but taking it.

You understand that you eventually will have to sell your property to the government, but don't want to go nicely. You want to get the most money you can for your property - after all, if you were going to sell your property on the open market, you wouldn't agree to a sale until you got the price you wanted, right? But when you get your offer of just compensation you are extremely disappointed. Not only is the offer far below what you thought it would be, but they didn't even take into account things you think are very important, like the fact that the property is special to you, the fact that the government is taking your property against your will, or the fact that you are going to have to live in a construction zone for a long time. And when you point that out to the government, they dismiss your claims without a second thought. Why?

Before I go any farther, I want to point out that although I am a Seattle Washington eminent domain attorney [] I don't want you to read this article and then go run off and do something without first speaking with a Washington condemnation attorney about your specific situation. And I'd highly recommend you do that, as the money you could make over and above your offer would definitely be worth the attorney's fee (and we don't get paid unless we get you money over your original offer).

Back to the point, the reason the condemning authorities don't pay any attention to what you are saying is because they don't have to. That's right, if you feel like you should be paid more money for your property because of sentimental value or because it is being taken against your will, your pleas will fall on deaf ears. And the reason is this, the point of just compensation, from the legal point of view, is to get the landowner what they would have received had there been a willing buyer and willing seller. Essentially what a reasonable buyer on the open market would have paid and a reasonable seller on the open market would have sold for (otherwise known as fair market value). The concept of fair market value doesn't include sympathy or sentimentality.

But, all is not lost. Condemnors know that if you get your case in front of a jury the jury will understand that the land is being taken against your will and you can speak about the history of your property and what it has meant to your family (this must be done without alluding to getting more money for it, but the jury can't help but think of that when they are deliberating) and take that into consideration, even subconsciously, when handing out a determination of just compensation. And a good eminent domain lawyer will know how to subtly point that out during negotiations.

Bottom line, sentimental value doesn't technically count because it is not a factor in determining just compensation under the law. But in reality it is something the jury thinks about, and with the right Washington condemnation lawyer it can be used to your advantage.

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