Auto Accident: Property Damage
The purpose of this guide is to provide a brief discussion of some issues surrounding a property damage claim.
The Insurance Company For The At-Fault DriverAfter the car accident, you will contact the insurance company for the at-fault driver. They will provide you with a claim number and assign a property damage adjuster to handle the claim. Once liability is established, they have determined that their driver was at fault, then the adjuster will determine whether the car can be repaired or whether the damages are so great that the car will need to be determined a total loss. If it is to be repaired, then the adjuster will likely try to steer you to one of their preferred shops. However, it is your decision as to which repair facility will perform the repairs.
Your Insurance CompanyIt is not unusual that the insurance company for the at-fault driver will not want to take any action on the property damage until they have had the opportunity to review the traffic accident report and speak with their insured so that they can make a liability determination. Because the liability determination can sometimes take weeks to complete, it is usually a good idea to go ahead and contact your own insurance company and allow them to evaluate the damage, and possibly let them repair the vehicle or pay you for the total loss under your insurance coverage. Your insurance company will then seek reimbursement from the other insurance company after liability has been found to be in your favor. This is a good option when the other insurance company is moving slowly or you have a newer model car. Your insurance company has an implied duty of good faith and fair dealing which means they have to provide a clear basis for their evaluation of the damages. The other driver's insurance company does not owe you this duty of good faith and fair dealing, and they are only motivated by saving money on the claim. If you do not agree with how they want to proceed on the claim then your only option is to file suit against their insured. This will not provide a very practical resolution when you need your property damage resolved quickly. Your own insurance company will also generally value a total loss on your vehicle higher than the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
Loss of UseIf your car is placed in the shop for repairs, then you are entitled to make a claim against the insurance company for the at-fault driver for the loss of use of your vehicle for the duration of the repairs. If your car is determined to be a total loss then you are entitled to the loss of use of the car up until you receive the total loss offer from the insurance carrier. The amount paid for the loss of use is based on the reasonable rental value of a substitute vehicle.
Diminution of ValueIf the car is repaired, you are entitled to make a claim against the insurance company for the at-fault driver for the diminution of value to the car for any decrease in the market value. Even when repairs are made correctly, because the car was in an accident, the value of the car will be diminished. When you go to resell your vehicle, most people will run a Carfax and it will show if the car has been in an accident and this will affect the resale value.