How Do I Handle My Property Damage Claims

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how to handle property damage claimsWho will pay to fix my car when I am in a car accident with another vehicle?

If you have collision insurance on your vehicle, the quickest way to get your vehicle repaired after an auto accident is through your own insurance company.  However, you will normally have to pay the deductible to the repair shop before they will begin repairs.  The deductible will be returned to you if the accident was not your fault and the other driver or the other vehicle’s owner has liability insurance.  Work with your own insurance company to get the needed repairs.

If the accident is not your fault, then you should contact the other driver’s insurance company and they will then investigate the claim, make a determination of fault, inspect your vehicle and offer you an amount to settle the property damage claim, allowing you to pick a reasonable repair shop to fix your vehicle.

Collision Coverage and Comprehensive Coverage

Collision insurance covers property damage from car accidents with other vehicles.  Comprehensive insurance covers property damage caused by other types of accidents with items other than another vehicle, such as hitting a fence, tree or an animal.  Comprehensive coverage also covers damage from theft and vandalism and from “Acts of God” such as storms, floods and fire. 

Insurance Company Estimates

The first estimate made by the insurance company field adjuster visual and photographic inspection most often does not cover the completed damage to your vehicle.  Once your vehicle is at the repair shop and parts are removed to begin repairs, the repair shop usually finds addition structural damage and engine problems.  The repair shop will make supplemental repair estimates and send the supplemental estimate to you and the insurance company.  The insurance companies will review the supplemental estimates with its field adjuster.  If the repairs are found to be reasonable and from the accident, the insurance company will normally pay the reasonable supplemental damages to your vehicle. 

Should I use my own insurance to get my vehicle repaired or the at-fault driver’s insurance?

The advantages to using your own collision insurance to get your vehicle repaired is your insurance company will handle all the headaches and work directly with the repair shop to get your vehicle on the road as soon as possible.  There may be some disadvantages.  Your insurance policy may require the repair shop to use after-market parts instead of the vehicle’s manufacturer parts.  Also, your own insurance company will strongly recommend which repair shops in your area they want you to take your vehicle to for repairs.  Your insurance company will steer you away from the expensive vehicle’s dealership for repairs.  Also, your insurance company will only pay for a rental vehicle if you have purchased vehicle rental insurance.  And of course, you are obligated to pay the amount of the collision deductible from your insurance policy.

If you use the at-fault driver’s insurance company and the insurance company has made the determination that the accident is their insured’s fault then you have more options for your vehicle repairs.  It is easier to pick the repair shop you believe will do the best job fixing your vehicle.  The at-fault driver’s insurance company will also pay for a rental vehicle for you that is of like kind to your vehicle while the vehicle is unusable and in the repair shop.  Also, there will not be a deductible to repair your vehicle. 

Please take caution when speaking with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  You will be interviewed on how the accident happened and if you are hurt.  It is their job to find that you are partially at fault for the accident and only pay you a percentage of the value of the repairs or damages.  Do not give the other driver’s insurance company a recorded statement that they can use against you later on. 

What if the insurance company determines my vehicle is totaled?

An insurance company will total your vehicle when the initial property damage estimates are close to or exceeds the present market value of your vehicle.  The insurance company will run a market analysis report with an estimate of the value of your vehicle using information of vehicles of like kind that have recently sold in your area.  Often, the estimated value of your vehicle is low.  It will be up to you to present addition information of the value of your vehicle based upon upgrades you made to the vehicle and what you have found to be the selling price of the vehicle in your area.  Along with the value of your vehicle, insurance companies will add the tax and license paid on the vehicle.  The insurance company will require you to sign over your title to receive a check for the market value of your vehicle.  If your vehicle is totaled, you will have an option to buy the vehicle back at the salvage value. 

Have you been involved in a motor vehicle accident? Call Buckley & Associates at (206) 622-1100 today for your free consultation with experienced Seattle car accident attorneys.

We serve clients throughout the Seattle area and the state of Washington from our offices in Seattle and Tacoma.