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Handling Your Property Damage Claim in California

Posted by attorney James Bergener

If you were in an accident and sustained property damage, especially to your vehicle, there are certain things you should know about insurance companies and how they operate. First off, insurance companies have highly trained adjusters and skilled attorneys who will use every legal means at their disposal to pay you as little money as possible. Not having legal representation can make you vulnerable.

As an accident victim, you can pursue reimbursement either through your own insurance company (if you have coverage) or through the insurance company of the party at fault. Either way, be sure to get an independent written estimate of all damages. Never sign anything or agree to a taped phone or in-person interview with an insurance adjuster without first consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.

Even if you’re not sure if you have a case, Bergener & Associates is happy to give you a free consultation. Our skilled legal team can help you determine if you have a claim and advise you on how to proceed.

Pitfalls When Renting a Car

If your vehicle was rendered inoperative and you need to rent a car through your insurance plan, you don't have to accept the $20 or $25-per-day rental allowance. Instead, you may be entitled to the fair rental value of the car that was damaged in the accident. If, for example, your car was a high-end sports car, it would undoubtedly rent for more than the insurance firm will offer you. In this case, document the difference and claim the higher sum as part of your overall settlement.

Another way to save money is car storage fees. If your car had to be towed and is stuck in storage, you may still be charged the expensive storage fees. It’s best to remove your vehicle from storage as soon as possible, since you probably won't be reimbursed for the related fees.

Negotiating for a "Totaled Car"

If your car was totaled and the cost of repairs is more than the value of your car, you'll need to negotiate with the insurance company on what your totaled car is worth. Not surprisingly, your fair value figure may differ drastically from your insurer's. Nonetheless, you have the right to a fair settlement. That means you can seek the money you'll need to buy a similar car, or a car of the same or similar model and the same year and condition as your old one. Ideally, you would have accurate records of any past maintenance and repairs, which will factor into the actual cash value for your replacement car.

If you don't agree with the insurance company's offer, hire an independent appraiser to work with the insurance company's appraiser. If you still can't agree on a fair value for your totaled car, you can consult an independent arbitrator or a property damage attorney. One final note: if you can't find a similar car using the settlement amount within 35 days of your settlement, demand a written notice of what's required of you to reopen your claim. An experienced accident attorney can help you to negotiate a fair price for your totaled car.

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