At Morris Bart, LLC, we guide you each step of the way after an accident. When dealing with property damage, follow this general guide on what to expect and how to handle insurance companies and adjusters. Though it often seems easier for clients to take on the property damage claim themselves, your attorney can guide you in speaking with the insurance adjuster, getting a rental car, and/or fixing your damaged vehicle.
Knowing what to do when your car is damaged because of another driver’s carelessness is crucial to recovering the compensation you need to get your car repaired or replaced and keeping your life going without your wheels in the meantime.
What Is Considered Property Damage?
Anything that was damaged in or on your vehicle during an accident is considered property damage. Lost a bumper during a fender bender? Shattered a windshield? These are common damages to expect compensation for after an accident. But what if your smartphone’s screen breaks while swerving? What if your laptop is damaged? If so, you’re entitled to the cost of repair or replacement value.
One important item to remember is your child’s car seat. Child safety seats can cost several hundred dollars and must be replaced any time they are in an accident. The forces of a crash can cause the plastic to weaken or crack. Car seats may not provide the protection they were designed to offer if involved in a second accident.
It’s important to do an inventory of your vehicle if you are in a car accident to make sure you receive compensation for all damages caused by the negligent driver. Do not forget to include damaged items in the trunk, things in your bag, or aftermarket parts you added to your car.
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Get Ahead of the Adjuster
If you are filing a fault-based claim or using your own collision coverage, you will likely need to work with an insurance adjuster to work out the details of your claim. If you have an attorney, they will handle this for you.
Before speaking with an insurance adjuster, make sure you have or have done the following:
- Claim Number: You may have this already, or else your assigned attorney can get it to you.
- Vehicle Title: You will need to give the official title document to the adjuster if your car is paid off. If you do not have the title, you will give them information about your car loan.
- Vehicle Tow: If your vehicle was towed from the scene of the accident, be sure you know where. Insurance companies will only pay for 2-3 days of storage fees; make sure you get your vehicle out of storage as soon as possible to avoid incurring any extra fees. NOTE: If your vehicle sits in a tow lot for more than 30 days, it could be sold at auction.
- Vehicle Photos: Insurance companies may have you submit your photos online. If this is the case, make sure to include pictures of the entire vehicle, even the undamaged parts. It’s always better to have too many pictures than not enough pictures.
When you speak to your adjuster about the damage, don’t discuss any details about the wreck if you are working with a lawyer—your attorney will handle those details for you. All you need to do is let the adjuster contact you. Give the adjuster the necessary info, as stated above, and nothing more.
If you are not working with an attorney, you may need to eventually discuss what happened in your accident with your own insurance company. Alternatively, they can get the information they need from the police report and other evidence. If you do talk to them, speak as little as possible, only give them facts (not opinions) and stick to the basics of where, when, who, and what briefly.
Follow Up with the Adjuster
Filing your claim and giving the insurer the information requested can have several outcomes. Depending on your specific circumstances, this could include negotiating a settlement, getting money to repair your car, or getting a check for the car’s value.
The following are three instances that you’ll most likely deal with when handling your property damage claim:
- Rental Car: Insurance companies arrange this for you. Be sure that the adjuster gives you a vehicle return date. If your car is not fixed but your rental is to be turned in, contact the adjuster immediately for an extension on the rental. Extensions are not usually an issue; however, last-minute extensions can be difficult. This is especially true with the current rental car shortages nationwide.
- Repairs: You may have the option of choosing where you’d like your vehicle fixed, or the insurance company may tell you where to get an estimate in your area. Make a definite plan with the adjuster to get an estimate at a specific time and place. If you get your own estimate, the adjuster may want to get a separate estimate to compare the pricing—it’s annoying, but it’s part of the process. Request the third estimate from an independent repair shop if the estimates from either business are too different. And remember, before leaving the repair shop with your repaired vehicle, make sure everything is fixed properly. Call the adjuster if the repairs are unsatisfactory.
- Totaled Vehicle: The cost of repair could be greater than the value of the car, so the insurance company may decide to pay you the value of the car prior to the accident. There isn’t much to negotiate when it comes to a totaled vehicle. This fixed value is based on what your car would sell for on the present market. Some states even codify exactly how this value is set. Other states have a little leeway, and you may be able to challenge a low offer.
If you think that you’re getting the runaround for the value of your vehicle, contact your personal injury attorney for guidance.
When do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
If you required medical care, even to assess if you were hurt, you may have a personal injury claim in addition to your property damages. We recommend contacting a car accident firm for a free consultation.
In other circumstances, you may want to hire an attorney if your property damages were significant, such as if you were driving a luxury car or lost expensive personal possessions.
Lastly, if you run into any snags with the insurance company, you may want to reach out to discuss your case with a lawyer to learn more about your options. Most car accident law firms offer free consultations and work based on contingency fees.
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If you or a loved one has been in an automobile wreck, or any type of personal injury incident, contact us today or fill out our free case evaluation form. We provide free consultations for accident victims.
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