Who Will Pay for Damage to My Car in a Car Crash?
Common Questions About Property Damage Claims
You’ve just been in a car accident. Your car was damaged, it may not even be drivable. Multiple questions are running through your head: Who will pay for damage to my car in a car crash? How am I going to get to work? What if I need a new car? What if the insurance company won’t pay? This blog is intended to answer some of those initial questions that you may be asking yourself.
Who is Going to Pay for the Damage to My Car?
Your most pressing question likely concerns who is responsible for fixing the damage to your car. If you caused the collision (or are found to be more than 50% for the collision) then you are responsible for the damage to your car. You should check with your insurance company to see if you have collision coverage. If you have collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for the damage (although you may be responsible for a deductible). If you do not have collision coverage, you will have to pay out of your own pocket to fix any damage to the vehicle.
If the other driver caused the collision then the other driver is responsible to pay for the damage they caused. You can make a direct claim through the at-fault vehicle’s insurance company. If you are partially at fault for the collision, the other driver’s insurance will reduce its payment to you by your percentage of fault.
If you have collision coverage on your own insurance policy, it may be easier to make the claim through your own policy first, even if you were not at fault for the collision. You are probably thinking that it isn’t fair that your insurance pays for the damage since you didn’t cause the collision. Have no fear. Your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the at-fault insurance company for the money it paid through a special process called inter-company arbitration.
How Do I Submit A Claim?
In order to initiate a property damage claim with an insurance company, you must first reach out to the property damage adjuster handling your claim. The next course of action will be determined based on the location of your vehicle. If your car is at a licensed autobody shop, the mechanic will usually work directly with the insurance company to have the damaged appraised and get reimbursed for fixing your vehicle. Remember, you can bring you car to any mechanic that you want. It does not need to be a shop recommended by the insurance company.
If your car is not already at a body shop, the property damage adjuster will send an appraiser to inspect the damage to your vehicle. During the inspection, the appraiser will usually take photographs of the damage to the vehicle. It is also important to tell the appraiser if you believe there is any damage to the car that is difficult to see, such as damage that might be underneath the car. The appraiser will then submit his or her report to the insurance company with an estimate for the amount of money it will take to fix the vehicle. Again, you can choose where you would like the car to be repaired.
What If My Car Is Totaled?
Your car will be considered “totaled” if it costs more money to fix the vehicle than it is actually worth. Additionally, if the insurance company’s estimate finds that the repairs will cost close to the value of your vehicle, they will often deem the vehicle a total loss to avoid the risk of ultimately paying more for the repairs than the vehicle is worth. If your car is deemed to be totaled, you are entitled to the fair market value of your car. To determine the fair market value, you can check common sources such as NADA, Kelly Blue Book, or other similar websites.
However, it is important to remember that the insurance company is only obligated to pay for the value of the property that was damaged. The insurance company is not responsible for paying off your car loan. For example, if you financed your car and the amount owed on the loan exceeds the value of your car, the insurance company only has to pay you the current value of the car. You are still responsible to pay off the remaining balance on the car loan. This happens more often on new cars, since many people finance new cars and values can decrease dramatically immediately after purchasing a car. Because of this, you should always consider buying gap insurance if you are purchasing a new vehicle. Gap insurance is designed to protect owners from this shortfall.
In addition to the value of the vehicle, if you purchase a replacement vehicle you are also entitled to the residual value of the inspection sticker, the $75.00 title fee, and the $25.00 transfer of registration fee. Make sure you ask the insurance company for these additional damages!
What If I Need a Rental Vehicle?
If you need to rent a vehicle, you should first check with your insurance to see if you have rental coverage. Typically, rental coverage will provide you with a per day limit for up to 30 days. If you were not at-fault for the collision, you can always go through the at-fault insurance carrier for payment of your replacement vehicle. It is important to remember that while most insurance companies will agree to pay for the rental vehicle directly, there is nothing that legally requires them to do so. This means that there is a chance that you will need to pay for the rental car up front and then get reimbursed by the insurance company. The at-fault insurance carrier is responsible for paying for the rental of a vehicle similar to the type of vehicle you were driving. This means that if you typically drive an SUV the at-fault insurance company cannot insist on only paying for a sedan.
It is also important to note that you cannot just drive a rental vehicle forever and expect the insurance company to pay for it. Typically, you are entitled to a rental for a reasonable period of time. Usually, this is the amount of time it takes for your car to be fixed or for you to reasonably find and purchase a replacement vehicle.
What If Other Items in My Vehicle Are Damaged – Will Insurance Cover Those Costs?
Yes. If there are other tangible items in the vehicle that are damaged as a result of the collision (such as a car seat, iPad, or eyeglasses), the insurance company will also reimburse you for those losses. In order to get reimbursed for these damages, you will need proof of the damage and proof of the replacement amount. This means you will need to take pictures of the damage. You will also need to keep copies of receipts for anything you paid for.
What If I Don’t Agree With the Amount Offered By The Insurance Company?
If you cannot reach an agreement with the other driver’s insurance company as to the value of your claim, you always have the option of filing a lawsuit. The easiest way to bring a claim for property damage is in the Small Claims Session of the District Court. Once you file the Small Claims Form you will be assigned a hearing date within a few months. At the hearing, you will be able to present your side to the Clerk Magistrate. Be sure to have some evidence to support your claim that the insurance company is not offering the full value of your car. The insurance company will also be able to introduce evidence at the hearing. After hearing all of the evidence, the Clerk Magistrate will take the case under advisement and issue a decision within a short amount of time.
Remember, if you are bringing your claim against the other driver’s insurance company, you only have three years from the accident to file this claim with the Court! Otherwise, the Statute of Limitations will have expired and you will not be able to recover from the other driver’s insurance.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your own insurance company, you have sixty (60) days to demand, in writing, that appraisers be selected to evaluate the damage to your vehicle. Both you and your insurance company will share the cost of the appraiser. The appraisers must then determine the amount of damage pursuant to a procedure set forth under Massachusetts General Law ch. 175, § 191A. The decision of the arbitrator is binding on both you and the insurance company.
Do I Need A Lawyer For A Property Damage Claim?
The short answer is no. In general, attorneys will not take on your property damage claim. Quite frankly, most attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means the attorney gets a percentage of your total recovery as a fee. So, if your property damage claim is worth $6,000.00, and the attorney takes 1/3 of the recovery, you would only end up with $4,000. That might be less than the current offer by your insurer, and would have gained nothing.
However, if you are also injured in the car accident, the attorney helping you with your injury claim should be willing to help you with your property damage claim, especially if the insurance company is giving you the run around.
At Alekman Ditusa, LLC, we are always willing to help our clients navigate their property damage claims, especially if the insurance company is giving the client a difficult time.
Call Us for a Free Consultation and to Get Your Questions Answered.
Our firm has over 60 years of combined legal experience making sure you don’t get left behind after an accident. Call us today for a free consultation to learn about seeking compensation.