Written by attorney Jeffrey Allen Howard

Property Damage Claims, in General, in North Carolina

Property damage claims are completely unlike bodily injury claims. There is a great deal of publicly available information that can help value total loss claims so that in most circumstances you will get at least a near approximation of the actual value of your car from the insurance company. Sadly, in most instances their cars are not worth what they would hope, but that’s just the reality of motor vehicles and their constant depreciation. Generally, if you are offered something within 15% of the KBB or NADA value of your car, it is not worth hiring some expert appraiser or spending hours researching car sale ads to argue for a few hundred more dollars. It simply is not a wise investment of your time and resources.

The far more important aspect of your claim is your bodily injury claim. Cars can be replaced, loss of material goods can be overcome, but injuries to your one and only body are far, far more serious and far more difficult to value and get over. I want to spend my time and resources helping you get the treatment you need and to get the compensation you deserve for your bodily injury. I want you to spend your time and resources on getting better.

In the end, your health is the most important aspect of your claim and it deserves our utmost attention. Having said all that, I’m happy to let you bend my ear if you have questions about your property damage issue and I will help walk you through it. If you are in one of the rare, rare exceptions to my rule and you need help in your claim I will offer it. Otherwise, take a look at the following points to help you walk through your property damage issue.


? You have the right to have your vehicle worked on by the mechanic/body shop of your choice, so tell the adjuster if you have a preference.

? If you’re having a dispute with the adjuster about what damage was pre-existing and what was caused by the accident, consider taking the vehicle to your mechanic to see if he can persuade them to see your way.

? If you’re continuing to have a dispute with the adjuster about a property damage issue and have collision coverage on your auto policy, you should consider making a claim with your carrier so the two insurance companies can fight about who’s right. The upside is you’ll get your car fixed likely in a more expedient manner and you can always attempt to get your deductible from the at-fault carrier.

? Pay very close attention to where your vehicle is taken after the accident. In many cases where liability is disputed or the carrier is lagging, the vehicle may be taken to a storage facility and storage charges may be accruing daily. You should make every effort to get the insurance company to move the vehicle to somewhere where there will be no storage costs, either at your home or a facility they own. If the at-fault carrier is non-responsive, use your own carrier. If that is not available, consider having it towed home at your own expense. It will likely save you money in the long run and you can always ask for reimbursement at the end of your claim.

? You should be paid the fair market value of your car if it is a total loss. A total loss is when the cost to repair the vehicle is 75% or greater than the value of the vehicle.

? Use online resources like Kelly Blue Book and NADA to help value your care.



? Remember, you are not getting retail for your car! And you’re also not getting trade in value! What you are entitled to for a total loss if “fair market value" which is defined as what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller at that moment in time. That’s obviously a moving target, which is why resources like KBB and NADA are valuable to help you get a good target range for the value of your vehicle.

? If your car is repaired and is not a total loss you may have a claim for diminished value. In other words, your car may be worth less since it was damaged. These are rare claims and are difficult to prove and sometimes expensive to pursue. These do not generally fly very well when you have an older car that is damaged. But if you have a newer car with low mileage, you might have something. If you think you have one of these, call an attorney to discuss it. This is one of the rare instances where an attorney's involvement in your property damage claim can make a difference.

These are just a few helpful hints to help you navigate the wacky world of property damage claims. If you have any questions I’m happy to talk with you about them, but remember to keep it all in perspective.

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