Every year in America, about 23 million vehicles are damaged in car crashes. Every year, there’s an astounding $115 billion in property damage caused by car accidents. In the state of Florida, drivers are required to have property damage insurance, but they’re only required to carry $10,000 of property damage insurance. Imagine this, you’re in a wreck, you exchange information, or you get a police report, and you contact the insurance company for the other driver, the driver who’s at fault. You talk to the insurance adjuster and immediately they start telling you how it is and how it’s going to be; where to take your car, when to take your car, whether they’ll give you a rental or they won’t give you a rental, and ultimately they tell you how much they’re going to pay to repair or replace your vehicle. Often times you will not agree with the value that they’ve determined for the crash that affected your vehicle. The question is, well, what can you do about it? Usually, these claims involving the vehicle are not significant enough that you’re going to pay an attorney to handle it. Most people end up handling these without an attorney because of the sheer economics of it. So here’s some pointers on how to handle your own property damage claim.
You can get your own estimates. The insurance company may have you take it to their particular body shop. They may send an adjuster who doesn’t even do repairs, they just adjust to your home or to your place of business to do an estimate, you don’t have to live by their estimate. Take it to the place who’s actually going to do the work and maybe get multiple estimates to see if the number they’re offering you is in line with what the actual cost to fix your vehicle will be. Better yet, you might even be able to go ahead and get your vehicle fixed, pay for it, and then submit the receipt to the insurance company. It’s kind of hard to argue with an estimate, which is an anticipation or forecast of what it might cost, when you are standing, holding a document showing exactly what it did cost to have the repair done. Now, not everybody can do that. But, if you have the ability to pick your own body shop and have the work done to your satisfaction, then you can submit the actual paid invoice for reimbursement to the insurance company.
You might also consider that your vehicle is worth less money now than it’s been in the car crash. It’s called diminished value. We have other content on diminished value claim for your vehicle but, factoring in not just the cost to repair my vehicle, but now because my vehicle was in a wreck caused by the other person, your insured, my vehicle is worth less money even if it’s repaired. That’s called the diminished value. You may want to try to pursue compensation for that reduction in value. Think of it this way, if you went to buy a car and there were two cars with the same exact mileage, the same exact color, the same exact features, and you get the famous Carfax that shows one of them was in a wreck and the other was not, and they both cost the same amount of money, which one would you buy? It’s very simple. Look at the diminished value in your vehicle and push that insurance adjuster to give you the value that is lost because of the crash due to the negligence of their insured.
You also may have other property that was damaged in the crash. Most people stick to and only think about the damage to their vehicle, such as the left quarter panel, the door, the mirror, the bumper but, oftentimes we see there are items within the vehicle or on your own person that are damaged or destroyed in a wreck. For example, if you were on a motorcycle and your watch was broken. We’ve had items that were in the glove box of the car that got broken and needed to be repaired. Items such as clothing that had to be cut off of people who were severely injured and being extricated from their vehicle. On a motorcycle, the saddlebags that are worth a lot of money on the side of the motor motorcycle. And various other things, items of personal property that can be damaged in a car wreck are covered under the other driver’s property damage insurance.
Now, $10,000 in property damage insurance is not very much, and with the increase in the cost of motor vehicles these days, we’re starting to see a slightly increased limit of insurance that people are choosing. Remember the minimum that’s required by the state at the time of this taping is $10,000, that will not pay if a total loss of the vehicle occurs for most any vehicle these days on the road. Some people are now carrying as much as $50,000 in property damage insurance. It’ll depend on the insurance available in your particular situation and what might be available to you. If the other driver has $10,000 of insurance and the cost to repair your vehicle is $12,000, the insurance company most likely is not going to pay you $12,000, they’re going to pay you $10,000, which is the limit of insurance.
Now, if your car is totaled, then you may have some different options available to you. For one, you need to do your homework and by homework, I mean check out what your car is worth. The insurance company is going to tell you what they think your car is worth and how much they will give you, but they are not the decider of that. You do your own homework, in the description below I’ve added three links that you can click and put in your vehicle details and see what your car is worth. What’s the year, make, model, the mileage, and the condition of the vehicle, then you’ll get a range of ideas from outside sources, you can compare those to what the insurance adjuster is telling you. Also, you might look at what makes your vehicle better than the average vehicle that the insurance company is trying to compensate you for. So maybe you have new tires on your totaled vehicle. Well, you’d want to have that receipt and you would want to tell the insurance company my car is better, I deserve more money because I have these new tires on this vehicle. Things like upgraded stereo systems or extra low mileage of your vehicle may distinguish your vehicle in a better way than the average, which is the price that they’re trying to give you for your vehicle.
Now, not everyone, but sometimes you’ll have the option on your own insurance policy to proceed under your collision coverage. This is against your own insurance company, it’s an insurance that you purchased. It is an optional insurance, so you have to check your policy to see if you have it but if you do, then your insurance company will work with you to get your vehicle repaired or replaced. It’s not always the best option because it is limited. It is limited to the damage to your vehicle, so the things like the personal property and diminished value mentioned earlier, those are things that are not recoverable under your collision insurance policy. You may also have a deductible under your collision policy that you would have to pay before your insurance company pays any of the repairs, or they’ll pay only a certain part and hold you responsible for your deductible. If you have a totaled car situation, your car has to be replaced, that does not mean a new car. They’ll do the same thing determining what is the value of your vehicle, and it will get replaced. That is, you will receive money that equals that value, and that almost always will not be enough to purchase a new vehicle. The last problem or difficulty with using your own insurance company is they sort of call the shots. You have a policy of insurance with them, which is a contract and they wrote that policy. You can bet that the terms of that policy, that contract, favor them and give them complete control. In this situation, under your collision coverage, they will tell you where to take it, they will tell that person what to do to your vehicle, and you have very little control over the process when you’re proceeding under your collision coverage; unlike when you’re dealing with the property damage claim against the at fault driver or their insurance company.