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How to Handle Property Damage Claims After a Car Accident?

If you’ve been involved in a car wreck, you want to get your vehicle repaired as quickly as possible. 

Look Deal with Your Carrier- If the Adverse Insurer is Not Helpful

Feedback from the negligent parties’ insurance carriers is often a waste of time, victims would be better off handling the claim through their insurance company, provided they have collision coverage. This is true, even though you will initially be out of your deductible.  While every state is different, in at-fault states, you may have a choice in how the auto accident claim is processed.

Your insurance company generally will treat you better than someone else’s insurance company.

Additionally, your insurance company will be more responsive and often fairer about the procedure.

People do not want to involve their own insurance company after a wreck that was not their fault.

While this is understandable, your insurance company may be the better route to take because they are in the business of claims handling and will deal with the negligent driver’s insurance company and take that burden off you.

If you elect to go through your own insurance company to get your car repaired or get the fair market value of your vehicle if it is totaled, make sure you ask your insurance company to collect your deductible from the negligent party’s carrier.

Your own insurance company will seek to obtain your deductible back at the same time they collect the money that they have spent to repair or replace the vehicle. In effect, your insurer will collect from the other insurer the money your company spent to repair or replace your car if the accident was the other person’s fault.

If the accident was not your fault, your own insurance company probably should not hold the accident against you.

Dealing With Adjusters Can Be Tough

People who deal with adverse insurance company adjusters are sometimes surprised and shocked with how they are treated in the claims handling process. Here are the two main reasons why.

The first reason is that the other party’s insurance company does not owe you a duty and will generally delay or deny if they possibly can. Moving slowly is the rule rather than the exception. 

Also, if the driver who caused the wreck is not straightforward with their insurance company, the claims handling process can be further delayed.

The second reason is that the civil justice system in many states does not generally provide a remedy for claims handling abuses by the adjuster for the other party. 

Tort reform has exacerbated the attitude and treatment that adverse adjuster subjects to many innocent families.

Pick Your Shop and Let Them Deal with the Insurer

If your vehicle is repairable, it is usually preferable to take it to a shop you are comfortable with and let the shop deal directly with the insurance carrier. Beginning in the middle between the repair shop and the insurance carrier is not usually a good position for many people.

It is always a good idea to obtain photographs of the damage to your vehicle before it is repaired. This is especially true if you were injured in the accident and the property damage is significant.

Rental Cars

If your car is repairable, the adverse at-fault insurance company will usually pay for a rental vehicle subject to certain limits. Most insurance companies have preferred rental agencies and can quickly set up a rental car through one of their companies.

If you go through your own insurance company for rental car coverage, look at your insurance policy to see the limits of your coverage, so there are no surprises at the end of the rental.

Diminished Value

For newer vehicles that are wrecked in a manner that will reduce their value, you may consider making a diminished value claim in addition to repair costs. The burden to establish the diminished value will be upon you and get written estimates from car dealers about the decrease in value to submit to the adjuster can be helpful in that regard.

Total Loss

Suppose your vehicle cannot be repaired and is “totaled” (when the repair costs exceed the car’s value). In that case, in some states, the insurer handling the claim will be responsible for the car’s fair market value plus tax, title, and license fees necessary to obtain a replacement vehicle of comparable value.

Expect an adverse insurance company to look to the lowest values they can find when looking to total a vehicle. On the other hand, you should go online or to a dealer and obtain information regarding the value of your car at the time of the accident.

Be wary of companies that appear to be “independent” of the insurance company that is hard to give a value for your vehicle. Those companies work for the insurance company that hired them and know where their bread is buttered. Be prepared to counter the lowball efforts with facts from authoritative sources.

Obtaining rental car reimbursement from an adverse carrier when your car is totaled is very difficult as there is case law indicating that the adverse carrier did not owe a rental car refund when the vehicle was totaled. Nevertheless, some of the more reputable insurance carriers do pay for your loss of use until they tender an offer to you and settle the property damage claim.

If your vehicle is “totaled,” you may want to look to your auto policy for rental car coverage.

Red Note: 3 June 2022

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