If you are injured in collision that was caused by someone else, then you have (2) two different claims: a claim for bodily injuries known as your "personal injury claim", and a separate property damage claim, for damage done to your property and vehicle. These claims can be settled separately, at different times, as long as you do not a “General Release of All Claims”.
Many Personal Injury Attorneys refuse to help their clients with the property damage claim. They feel that it is "not worth their time". As a person who has been in a serious collision myself, I cannot underestimate how stressful it can be trying to navigate the property damage aspects of a claim when your car is totaled and you are injured. There are also several pitfalls when dealing with the property damage aspects of these claims that the average person is likely to fall into.
- Get Your Vehicle Out of Storage: If your vehicle is in storage, you should get it out of storage as fast as possible. Every day it is in storage, it incurs storage fees. Because you are obligated to minimize the costs to the insurance company, you may be charged with some of the storage fees if the vehicle stays in storage an unreasonable amount of time.
- Is Your Vehicle a Total Loss? If so, then you are entitled to the fair market value of the car, plus sales tax and tags transfer fees. The insurance company is required to deem your vehicle a “total loss” if the damage is exceeds between 70-75% of it's value or more. If your vehicle is a total loss, as soon as the insurance company "makes an offer" on your total loss, they will try to cut off your rental car.
- How Much Is Your Vehicle Worth? The value of your car is the fair market value (not what you owe on your car or the replacement cost).You will have to prove the value of your car and you can do this by using tax values, Kelley Blue Book value, NADA value, or an independent appraisal. You can also submit proof of very recent repairs or maintenance that may be accounted for. Note: Sentimental value cannot be calculated.
- Get an Independent Estimate for Repairs: If your vehicle is able to be driven, you should take it for an independent estimate from a shop of your choice. Note: Insurance Companies will not pay for the repairs to be done by your family member, or a hole in the wall shop either. The shop you chose must be a legitimate shop that is licensed and insured to do the work.They will also need to provide an estimate with parts and repair time calculations. However, do not let the insurance company convince you that you can only use their recommended shop. 99% of the time, your independent shop will come up with an estimate that is higher than theirs. That is why they prefer you use their shop. However, there is evidence out there that the insurance companies are able to strong arm the shops they work with to get these types of repairs done as quickly and cheaply as possible. I don't know about you, but I do not want that to be a possibility for my car?
- Random Property Damage Check in The Mail? Don't be surprised when you receive a random check in the mail from the at-fault insurance company for your property damage that you have not yet agreed to. Their inspector makes a visual inspection and sends off a check for what he or she "thinks" the repairs may cost. They are hoping you take the cash and don't actually fix your car. If you fix your car, they will later likely have to send a "supplemental" check for the difference.
- Rental Car Runaround? Often insurance companies will not approve giving you a rental car until they have spoken with their own driver. If that driver is evading the insurance company, it make take several weeks for your rental car to be approved. In the meantime, you can use your own rental car coverage, which is why it is so important to have on your own policy. If a rental car is approved, insist that they pay for it directly, do not agree to have them reimburse you, why should you, this collision was not your fault!
- Loss of Use: As discussed, you are entitled to a rental car or “loss of use” of your car from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The at-fault insurance company can provide you with a rental car while your car is being repaired or if you have another vehicle to drive while your car is being repaired, you are entitled to “loss of use” of your car, which is usually calculated as $20-$30 per day for a reasonable period while your car is being repaired or until they agree to pay for your total loss.
- Diminished Value: If your car was wrecked and then repaired, you may be entitled to the loss of value of your car (your diminution of value) since you now have a car that will no longer have a pristine Carfax report and could have a variety of problems and be harder to sell that a wreck-free car would not likely have.
- Property Damage Used as a Tool to Minimize Your Personal Injury Claim? If the insurance companies can minimize the amount of money it costs to repair your vehicle, they can later present evidence to the jury that "it only took $2,000.00 to repair your car, so there's no way you could be injured". Be very wary of this tactic
- They Are Not Going To Make It Easy: Remember, the at-fault insurance company wants to make this very unpleasant for you. They are setting the tone, trying to intimidate you. They want you to get frustrated and upset. The insurance company hopes that you will get so frustrated that you will just give up on the entire case. Don't let them win.
If you have been injured in a collision and need help with both your property damage claim and your personal injury claim then give us a call today! (404) 436-1529!