By far, the most frustrating part of your case will involve the repair and payment of damage done to your car. The reason that auto damage claims are so difficult to handle is that insurance companies will try to avoid paying for anything but the most direct evidence of damage. For example, if two weeks before your accident, you had taken your car to a mechanic for a tune-up, a wheel alignment, a radiator flush, and an oil change, none of the money you spent would be reimbursable to you.
A car that is totaled
If you car is considered “totaled” because the cost of repair exceeds its value, you will discover that the insurance company only wants to pay you the “blue book” value of your car. Often, the “blue book” value is much less than what your car was worth to you. We will do what we can to increase the property damage offer, but usually you will only be reimbursed for the blue book value.
Increasing the property damage offer
One way to help increase the amount of money you will receive for property damage is to take your car to at least two reputable mechanics for estimates. You should also take pictures of the damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. These steps will help you decide whether the insurance company’s estimate is accurate, and will help you prove your out of pocket loss should your case go to court.
We also recommend that you first submit your property damage claim to the other driver’s insurance company for payment. If the other driver’s insurer agrees to pay for your damage, they are admitting that their insured was at fault – an admission that will help us in settlement negotiations. In addition, you will not have to pay the deductible you will pay if your insurance company pays.
If you have “collision” coverage on your policy, your property damage will be paid even if the other driver’s insurance company refuses to admit liability. If you do not have collision coverage, and the other driver’s insurer refuses to admit liability, you will probably have to wait until the time of settlement before your car is fixed.
Contact with the insurance company
We recommend that you handle your property damage claim as quickly as possible. Neither wrecker yard storage fees nor rental car bills are usually paid by insurance beyond a few days. Please call us if you have any questions about this area.
We often find that our clients can settle their own property damage claims faster than we can although we are more than happy to assist you at no charge. If you do choose to handle your own property damage claim, remember to be careful about what you say, and do not discuss your physical condition or your version of the accident with the property damage appraisal.
Rental Car Coverage
Rental car coverage will be available to you if your vehicle is not totaled, and if there is insurance coverage for rentals. If the other driver’s insurance company accepts liability, they will usually pay a set amount per day for rental car coverage. If liability is disputed, you will have to look to your own insurance carrier to pay for rental car usage. This assumes that you purchased rental car reimbursement when you bought your policy. Here, too, coverage will only provide a set amount of reimbursement per day.