One of our first priorities in handling your case is to make sure that your property damage claim is handled properly and as quickly as possible. We know that getting replacement transportation is important so that you may be able to receive both the medical care you need as well as being able to return back to work as soon as you are able. Below is some helpful information that may help you understand your property damage claim.
Setting up the property damage claim
Our office will contact the responsible insurance company to set up a claim file. We will provide all the information necessary to set up the claim and will see that a claim adjuster is assigned to handle the property damage.
Your file will be assigned to one of our property damage specialists who will contact you within 24 hours to introduce themselves to you and provide their contact information as they assist in your claim. If for any reason you have not received a phone call or an email within this time, please contact our office. No action is required on your part during this process.
Once the insurance company has assigned an adjuster, we will determine how the vehicle damages will be appraised. Some insurance companies will simply request that you take the vehicle to a body shop and have the body shop send them an estimate for the repairs. Other times the insurance company will send an adjuster to go out and inspect the vehicle.
If the vehicle is drivable, the insurance company may offer a drive-in appointment where you may take the vehicle for inspection and in some instances immediate payment for the property damage.
What if my vehicle is not drivable?
If your vehicle is not drivable due to damages sustained in the accident, the at fault insurance company will be liable for your loss of use of the vehicle and will be required to pay for a rental vehicle.
It will be necessary for the insurance company to complete their investigation of the accident as well as confirm insurance coverage before they will agree to pay for the rental car. Even if the police report is clear as to who is to blame for an accident, this investigation can take time and delay authorization for a rental vehicle.
If you have collision coverage on your vehicle as well as rental reimbursement, a claim can be made with your own insurance to avoid this delay. When the liability investigation is complete, this claim can be abandoned and the at fault insurance can pick up the bills. So long as you are determined not to be at fault, this will not raise your insurance rates.
While the at fault driver’s insurance carrier is liable for a rental vehicle, they are not required by law to pay for the insurance coverage on the rental. If you have collision coverage, your own collision coverage will apply to the rental vehicle. There is no need to purchase additional coverage. If you do not have collision coverage, then you may be responsible for paying for the collision coverage on the rental which may be between 10 or $15 a day.
If your vehicle is not drivable due to damages sustained in the accident and you choose not to get a rental vehicle, we will pursue a loss of use claim on your behalf. This is money paid to you for the inconvenience caused by not having a vehicle to drive. Usually this is anywhere between $15 and $20 per day.
Loss of use or rental reimbursement is owed from the date the vehicle was rendered not drivable until the repairs have been completed. It is important that when the vehicle is taken to the shop for repairs that the shop is prepared to begin work and has ordered the parts to complete the job.
We strongly recommend using a reputable body shop to complete the repairs. Delays caused by body shops failing to order parts or taking too long to complete a job could result in the insurance company refusing to pay for additional rental expenses.
What if my vehicle is a total loss?
Not all vehicles can be repaired. If the repair costs exceed 75% of the fair market value of the vehicle at the time of the loss, the vehicle is deemed a total loss. The insurance company is not responsible for fixing the vehicle and cannot be required to repair it. Instead, the insurance company must pay the actual cash value (“ACV”) of the vehicle.
The value of your vehicle is determined by looking at a variety of sources. One resource is the National Auto Dealers Association (“NADA”) handbook, which provides values for similar vehicles with similar mileage. Other sources may include CCC or ADP which are used by insurance companies for a more localized evaluation.
If there are no liens on the vehicle and you have the title, you have the option of selling the vehicle to the insurance company or keeping the vehicle on a salvage title. If you choose to keep the vehicle, the insurance company will deduct from the value the amount of the “salvage quote.” That is the amount of money the insurance company would receive from a salvage company for the scrap metal.
If there is a lien on the vehicle, the insurance company will be required to pay the lien holder first before any payment can be made to the owner or anyone else.
What if I owe more than my vehicle is worth?
Since the value of the vehicle is determined by the make, model year and mileage and not by the amount of the loan, sometimes the amount owed can exceed the value of a vehicle. In this situation the owner of the vehicle may find themselves “upside down” on their car loan. This means that all of the money being paid by the insurance company for the value of the vehicle will go to the lien holder with no money going to the owner to be used to purchase another vehicle. Any remaining balance on the loan would still be owed by the owner unless the owner purchased “gap insurance” when the loan was taken out.
Gap insurance provides protection against being upside down on a car loan. In the event the loan balance is greater than for the value of the vehicle, gap insurance will make up the difference. Insurance will not pay any amount above the amount of the lien, however.
If no gap insurance is available and the owner owes more than the vehicle is worth, a “substitution of collateral” may still be possible. Rather than having a car payment on a vehicle that no longer exists and a new car payment for the replacement vehicle, some lenders may be willing to roll the balance of the old loan into the new vehicle loan. This is called a substitution of collateral because the new car is being substituted for the old car as collateral for the loan. This is useful because it not only avoids the two car payment problem, but also spreads the remaining balance over a longer period of time reducing the monthly expense of the loan.
Not every lienholder is willing to participate in a substitution of collateral. Often it depends on the payment history of the borrower prior to the accident. If payments have been made on time previously, the greater the likelihood the lien holder will offer this option.
We are here to help!
We hope that the above information is helpful in providing some basic understanding of the property damage claims process. Our office is dedicated to providing you with the assistance you need to make this process go as smoothly as possible. It is our job to make sure that this process moves as quickly and efficiently as possible and keep you informed every step of the way.
If you were injured in a car accident and sustained property damage to your vehicle, Price, Petho & Associates is here to help. Please call 704-372-2160 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our injury lawyers in Charlotte, Rockingham, or Rutherfordton.