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What Are My Options When My Vehicle Has Been Damaged by Another?
- 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 damage 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 obtain 2 or 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
- 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 you 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 similar mileage as yours. Ask car dealers what a similar car sells for on their lot. Obtain written estimates for retail values of your car from a salesperson.
- 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 is often 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 what the car is actually worth. You will not be entitled to recover compensation for the loan balance if the car is worth less. This is a result of a business decision when you purchased or leased your car.
- 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.
- Rental Car
If an accident is another's fault, that 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.
- 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 until your car is declared a total loss or until your car is repaired.
- Contact the insurance company for pre-authorization of all rentals. They 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."
- 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 probably will be required to pay for insurance coverage on the rental car. This rental car insurance is not compensable. You will not be reimbursed for insurance on a rental car.
- Most car rental companies want your business and most will have a drop-off and pick-up service if you request it, at no additional charge.
What do I do in Case of an Accident?
- Do not give a recorded or written statement to the other driver's insurance company.
- Take digital or regular photographs of the vehicle property damage.
- Sign a Property Damage Release only, not a release of ALL claims.
- Do not discuss any matters concerning your injuries with the at-fault insurance company. You are under no obligation to give this information and should discuss nothing but the damage to your car and the need for a rental car or "loss of use" compensation.
- Beware of the clever insurance adjuster. Avoid bringing your car to the insurance company shop or the drive-through service because it provides the insurance company with an opportunity to take photographs of you getting in and out of the car. The information could later be used against you if you decide to make a claim for bodily injury.
Obtain your own damage estimates. Please provide us with copies. Even if your car is a "total loss," it is still important to obtain an estimate to how much it was damaged.
What Damages are Recoverable in Personal Injury Cases?
Who Will Pay My Medical Bills?
Who Will Pay My Lost Wages?
What About My Pain And Suffering?
What If I Cannot Reach a Settlement With the Insurance Company?
Since an injured plaintiff in arbitration is limited in the amount he or she can recover, arbitration is not proper for cases involving more serious injuries.