Don't assume that the other driver will report the accident to his insurance company. Exchange insurance information at the scene. Call both companies to report the claim. This will get the ball rolling and help your claim move along more quickly and satisfy any notice requirements.
If your vehicle is disabled from an accident. You are entitled to compensation for "loss of use." This usually takes the form of direct payment by the insurance company for a rental car. If you do not rent a vehicle, then you are entitled to cash compensation equivalent to the cost of renting a replacement vehicle.
The rental will not be available indefinitely. The law only requires that a rental be provided for a "reasonable" time. There is no clear definition of reasonable in the law, however, insurance companies will pay for a rental during the duration of repairs. If your vehicle is driveable make sure the body shop orders the parts before you take you car in. The insurance company may not pay for a rental while your car sits idle waiting for parts if you could be driving it. If your car is a "total loss" the insurance company will generally pay the rental expense from the date of the accident until three days following an offer to settle,
Vehicle Repairs - Part I
If your vehicle is repairable you have the right to have it repaired by the shop of your choice. Choose a reputable shop that guarantees its work. The insurance company will not be responsible for shoddy repair work.
A common misconception is that you have the right to have the repairs done using new factory parts. The insurance company is only obligated to pay for "like kind and quality part" or "LKQ."
Sometimes you will see a difference in the private repair estimate that the body shop gave you and the estimate prepared by the insurance adjuster. This shouldn't be cause for alarm. Most body shops will honor the adjuster's estimate. If more repairs are needed the body shop will file a supplemental claim with the insurance company.
When the repairs are finished be sure to inspect the car carefully and point out any problems with the repairs before you leave the body shop.
Vehicle Repairs Part II: Diminished Value
If your vehicle is five years old or less and the repair costs exceed 25% of the vehicle's value you must disclose the damage if you sell or trade your car. This disclosure will lower the value of your vehicle. Under the law you can file a "diminished value claim" with the insurance company. The claim should be made in writing and within 30 days of completion of the repairs. Most insurance companies will only pay 10-20% of the actual repair cost unless you actually sell or trade the car.
Total Loss Claims - Part I
Certain losses are not repairable. If the damage to your vehicle exceeds 75% of the fair market value of your vehicle the insurance company will declare the vehicle a "total loss." Typically the insurance company will buy your vehicle. They will pay the fair market value and take the vehicle. The company will then sell the vehicle to a salvage yard.
Insurance companies will appraise the value of your vehicle and determine the "fair market value" or fmv using a source such as the N.A.D.A. Guides to Used Var Values. this is the gold standard of used case values. The value listed may be reduced for high mileage or unusual wear and tear. Demand that the insurance company disclose the source they used to determine the value of your vehicle.
Total Loss Claims - Part II
Vehicle damage claims sometimes cause more stress and aggravation than any other aspect of a claim. The reason is that the law doesn't always provide a complete remedy. Remember the insurance company is only required to compensate you for the fair market value as opposed to the replacement cost or loan payoff. Often individuals' vehicles depreciate faster than equity builds in the vehicle. Dealers call this being "upside down." Unfortunately there is no getting around this. The advent of Gap Insurance has helped out with this problem. If you finance a vehicle, consider purchasing Gap insurance.
Hopefully this guide will help you through most issues that arise when your vehicle is damaged in a motor vehicle accident.
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