Property Damage in a Car Accident
Property damage is almost always the first issue to be settled. It happens that way because a bodily injury claim cannot be properly handled until your attorney and the at-fault party’s insurance company have an idea of how much treatment will be necessary to get your health back to pre-accident status. The property damage issue gets rushed because it can be very difficult to be without transportation for any length of time.
Once you have filed your property damage claim with either your own insurance provider, or with the liability carrier, and once fault has been determined, an insurance adjustor will call you and instruct you to either go to an auto body shop and get an estimate, or the adjustor will arrange to see the car and write up an estimate themselves. That estimate is negotiable. If you have a trusted auto body shop that you use, get an estimate there and push for the higher amount. The adjustor will often have a preferred auto body shop that they send people to. These “preferred dealers” are likely giving the insurance company a discount for their referrals. It will not necessarily hurt you to go to the recommended shop, but it might. The shop could potentially be so busy from all of their referrals that your car will not be given adequate attention. Some customers complain of these body shops doing poor work. If you do accept the bid and go to the recommended shop, you will likely have your car satisfactorily repaired in far less time than you would if you put up a stink about any part of the process.
If the adjustor comes back with an estimate that is an amount in excess of what the car is worth, your car will be considered “totaled.” Totaled means that it would cost the insurance company more to repair your car than the car is even worth based on fair market value. The insurance company will not make this poor investment. They will instead, simply pay you the fair market value of the car, then they will take the car and sell it for scrap value to recoup a small amount of their losses. Remember that the fair market value can also be negotiated. This is where a bit of a loophole comes into view. If you would like to keep the car, you can just have the insurance company deduct the scrap value that they could have collected, from the total fair market value that they offered. They hold back their scrap value that they are entitled to if they would have sold the car, you keep the car, and you get the entire balance minus the scrap value. In some situations, this can be a very bad deal because the car may actually be worth much more to you than what you could sell it for in your area. However, in many cases, with cars that are not worth much, keeping a totaled car can be a huge financial win. If you are able to either continue to safely drive the car, or you are able to either fix it or sell it, you win. This can truly be a case of having your cake and eating it too. It definitely pays to have insurance.
It is important to remember that the car may not be the only property that was damaged. Perhaps you had expensive equipment on board that was also ruined in the crash? Perhaps you were wearing expensive clothing that was ripped? All kinds of property could potentially be damaged in an automobile accident and you are entitled to recover any reasonable amount that you can prove. Proving those amounts and fighting for the highest offer will be much easier with the assistance of a car crash attorney.
This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.