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Property Damage

Property Damage

An automobile accident is always stressful. You are not alone. This advice has been prepared to help guide you through some of the steps you should take to ensure that your property damage claim is handled speedily and that your interests are protected. When an accident is someone else’s fault, generally that person’s insurance company will try to get you to settle all claims at the same time as the claims for your property damage are resolved. Do not sign any release without talking to a lawyer. In the meantime,  if you have insurance coverage, have your insurance company reimburse you for your vehicle property damage.  A property damage claim is resolved in one of two ways: either your car can be repaired or it will be considered a total loss. This means that the cost of the repair exceeds the actual value of the vehicle.

The Estimate

Avoid bringing your car to the insurance company or the drive-through service. It provides the insurance company an opportunity to take photographs of you and observe you getting in and out of the car, which it can use at a later date to argue you were not significantly injured. Insurance claims representatives are very skilled in building a case against you.

In dealing with your property damage, the insurers will frequently take the opportunity to evaluate you as a person and your injuries. The information could later be used against you if you decide to make a claim for a bodily injury. Have a friend take your car for the damage appraisal or request the insurance company go to the location of the parked car. Obtain your own damage estimates and send them to the insurance adjuster.

Please provide us with copies of all property damage estimates and photographs of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident . Even if your car crash is a “total loss,” it is still important to obtain an estimate to prove that loss. Typically in a car crash case, you will be concerned with, initially, the payment of your car damage repair. We normally handle this for clients as a professional courtesy without charge if it’s an uncontested negotiation.

Some of the things you need to be aware of in handling property damage claims initially are as follows:

  • You may have the right to have your car repaired at the body shop of your choice. You need not accept the insurance company’s property appraisal of the actual repair costs. Take your car to your selected body shop and present a written estimate to the insurance company. Make sure you retain 2 -3 written estimates from different body shops. Do not rely solely on an insurance company’s estimate.
  • Be satisfied that your car is returned to pre-collision condition before signing any insurance company check or property damage release. Otherwise, you may waive your right to further repairs.
  • “Total loss” means that the cost of repair exceeds the reasonable retail market value for your car in the condition it was in at the time of the accident.
  • When your car is a “total loss,” the insurance company is obligated to pay for the market value of your car in the condition it was in before the collision. Market value can be determined by looking in classified ads for similar cars with the similar mileage as yours. You can also ask a car dealer salesperson what a similar car sells for at the dealership. Obtain written estimates for the retail values of your car. In negotiating the value of your car, let the insurance company know of any recent repairs, any special accessories and the value of any damaged contents. Show the company recent receipts of all service and maintenance records.
  • You have the right to “market value,” which, in today’s economy, is generally higher than “Blue Book value.”
  • An insurance company is not responsible for an outstanding loan or lease balance in excess of market value. So, if you bought a car and were making monthly payments, you may unfortunately owe more than the car is actually worth. You will not be entitled to recover compensation for the loan balance if the car is worth less unless you have gap insurance on your own insurance policy.
  • You are also entitled to recover pro-rated licensing fees on the balance remaining on the annual license and sales tax on the total loss value. If the accident is found to be another’s fault , the at-fault person’s insurance company should provide you with a rental car while your car is in the repair shop or until the insurer makes a reasonable offer to settle a “total loss” on your vehicle. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, your right to a rental car is subject to the terms of your own insurance policy.
  • If your car is declared a total loss or is being repaired, you may have the right to either a rental car or loss-of-use compensation for each day you are unable to use your car.
  • Contact the insurance company for pre-authorization of all rentals. The insurance company will direct you to local car rental companies.
  • If there is a delay in obtaining a rental car, you may be entitled to compensation for the “loss of use” of your vehicle for each day you have been deprived of its “use.” Unfortunately, this does not mean you will be able to lease a Mercedes even if that was your car in the collision. You will be limited to a reasonable rental value of a vehicle unless you can show special circumstance.
  • If you have collision coverage on your vehicle, you may not need additional rental car property damage insurance. Please check with your agent. If you do not have collision coverage, you will be required to pay for insurance coverage on the rental car. This rental car insurance isn’t compensable. You will not be reimbursed for insurance on a rental car.
  • Most car rental companies want your business and most will provide drop-off and pick-up service at no additional charge.

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