The law regarding your property damage is fairly straightforward and you really don’t need to pay an attorney to handle it for you. We normally don’t handle your property damage claim for you, but we’re happy to help. Here are some pointers.
If you have not done so, get photos of all sides of your vehicle! Buy a disposable camera if you have to.
Property Damage Release
Once you settle your property damage claim, you will be asked to sign a Property Damage Release. Read this document and make sure it says “Property Damage Only”. If it says “bodily injury” or “personal injury” STOP! We will be happy to review the release for you. You do not want to inadvertently sign away your rights to claim your bodily injury damages.
If your car can be repaired:
- The insurance company is responsible for the cost of reasonable repairs to your vehicle. This may not be the estimated amount from the repair facility you choose. If the company can have the repairs done at a lower cost, they are allowed to do so and you can pay the difference if you still want to use the repair facility of your choice. If your repair facility gives you a different estimate, have your repair facility call the property damage adjuster directly, as many times the insurance company and the repair facility can work out the difference.
- The insurance company can also run an estimate using after-market parts in the repair of your vehicle as long as the part is equal to the original part in terms of fit, quality, performance and warranty. If you refuse to use after-market parts, you pay the difference.
- The insurance company can deduct depreciation when they allow for an entire paint job or items such as tires and batteries, when the damage was only to a portion of the item and a full paint job wasn’t needed or the tires and batteries were old and near replacement. Depreciation is the decrease in the value of the vehicle or part because of age or wear and tear.
- Once your vehicle is repaired, you can make a depreciation or diminution in value claim against the insurance company. This means you are ask the insurance company to pay you the decreased value of what you could have sold your car before the accident to what you can sell your car after the wreck. You will need proof of how much your car depreciated in value to make this claim.
- You should notify the adjuster immediately once your vehicle is repaired, in writing.
- You are entitled to be reimbursed for loss of use of vehicle for the reasonable time it takes to repair of your vehicle. The insurance companies will not pay for delays on your part or on the part of the body shop you chose to use. Most insurance companies try to get you in a rental vehicle as soon as possible, but they are not required to put you in a rental; they are only required to reimburse you for the loss of use incurred for a reasonable period of time to repair your car. The rental agency can require you to provide proof of your own insurance as most insurance companies will not pay for the insurance the rental agency requests you pay. If you have your own collision coverage, you are not required to purchase the insurance from the rental agency.
If your car cannot be repaired:
- If the damage to your car is equal to or exceeds the total cost of repair or exceeds 75% of the actual cash value (ACV) of your car, the company can call your vehicle a total loss. They pay you the ACV less any liens against the vehicle. ACV is the market value of your totaled vehicle at the time of the wreck for the condition that it was in.
- You can determine ACV by using the local market price of a comparable vehicle or getting 2 qualified dealers in the area to submit statements of the value of your vehicle.
- The insurance company does not have to provide a rental car if your car is totaled. Most companies do as a courtesy to you so go ahead and ask for a rental and see what they do.
- You have the right to allow the company to “total your car” and pay you the value less the salvage rights. You can negotiate this amount. This is what a salvage yard would pay for the wrecked vehicle.
The insurance company has 30 days to pay the claim, make an offer, deny the claim or assert they are investigating the claim. If you experience any trouble you do have the right to use your own collision insurance carrier to pay the claim (you will pay a deductible) and then let the two companies fight it out. If you do not have collision insurance, your only recourse is to file suit. Thus we recommend trying to resolve differences if you can!
For more information, read our Property Damage Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).