How to Handle the Property Damage Portion of a Personal Injury Claim
One of the frustrating things about a car accident, is the loss of your mode of transportation. People need a car to get to work, pick up the kids, to buy food, etc. The faster you settle the property damage portion of your insurance claim, the faster you can get back to normal life.
My car isn*t totaled, but it needs repairs. What do I do?Sometimes the insurance provider will send an adjuster to review and estimate the cost of the damages to your vehicle independent of any repair shop. Other times you may want to take your vehicle to several other independent mechanics that you trust in the area to give you an estimate of the cost to repair the car. Large insurance providers have contracts with some local mechanics to repair their customers* vehicles. You do not have to use these mechanics if you do not feel comfortable with them. You have the absolute right to decide who will repair your vehicle.
In some instances, the insurance company will claim that some damage to your vehicle existed before the accident occurred. In these cases, you will need to convince the insurance provider otherwise. Some mechanics can help determine the age of the damage.
While the insurance company must return your car to the condition that it was before the accident, the mechanic may use refurbished or reconditioned parts. However, if you want original manufactured parts, you have the right to demand those be used on your vehicle.
The insurance company tells me that my car is totaled. What do I do?In most cases, the insurance company has the responsibility to either repair or replace your vehicle. Normally, it is simply a questions of cost efficiency. In other words, if it costs less money to replace the damaged vehicle than it does to repair it, the insurance company will declare the vehicle a *total loss.* Sometimes the insurance company may take a couple of weeks before making you an offer. The insurance company has 30 days to process the claim.
The insurance company will attempt to provide you an offer of what your car was valued immediately before the accident occurred. The difficulty arises when the insurance company offers you less money than you think the car is worth. Do not accept the insurance company*s offer without checking the market value of your vehicle. Typically, the insurance company will offer you less than the value of your vehicle. Check the market value of your car on www.kbb.com and Auto Trader. If you live in Utah check similar vehicles posted on www.ksl.com. If you find the same make and model of your vehicle in similar condition posted for more money than the insurance offers, send those ads/estimates to the adjuster and ask for a larger amount.
If you owe more money on your vehicle than the market value, the insurance adjuster will not pay more money to you. They are only obligated to pay the fair market value of your vehicle.
Insurance companies will not typically compensate you for recent repairs or maintenance on an older car. Sometimes new tires or a new engine will only slightly increase the value of the vehicle. However, you will likely need receipts to show the adjuster of these new replacements.
When the insurance company offers a settlement for the total loss of your vehicle, the insurance company essentially buys your car. If you wish to keep the totaled vehicle, you can purchase it back from the insurance company for the salvage value. The adjuster can deduct the salvage value from the settlement and you are able to keep your car. You will need to get a *salvage title* from the DMV. This title greatly reduces the value of your vehicle and it alerts potential buyers that your vehicle was totaled but then repaired.
Besides the price of the vehicle, you had to pay sales tax, a tag fee, and a registration fee. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the prorated amount of these costs which are unused. The insurance company should reimburse you for the applicable sales tax on the actual cash value of the car, the cost of the tag transfer fee, and the prorated amount of your yearly car tax and registration fee.
Can I get a rental car?If your car is declared a total loss by the insurance provider, they must provide you a rental car until the adjuster makes a reasonable offer on your car.
Usually, the insurance company of the person who caused the wreck is required to provide you with a rental car. If you caused the accident or there is not another person to blame, you must look to your insurance policy to determine if rental coverage is available. Many insurance contracts don*t provide rental coverage for their own customers.
Insurance companies may receive a discount from a particular car rental provider. Ask the insurance adjuster handling your claim where you should obtain a rental car. The insurance company has to pay the cost for the *reasonable incurred rental costs of a substitute vehicle.* Clearing the rental car company with the adjuster will avoid the possibility of paying extra for the rental car. Sometimes you will have to pay the rental car bill first, then you will get reimbursed by the insurance company at a later date.