In addition to injuring your body, an accident can damage your car and other property. Seeking compensation for the damage to your vehicle can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming, but it is possible and often worth the trouble.
The first step is to contact the responsible driver’s insurance company and inquire about whether they will accept responsibility for the accident and pay for the repairs to your vehicle. If your vehicle is damaged beyond repair, it will be “totaled,” and you will receive the fair market value of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
If the adverse driver’s insurance company accepts responsibility, it will arrange for an estimate of the repairs. The process may differ based on the insurance company involved, but generally, they will give you a check for the value of the repairs. It is common for more damage to be found when the work is being done. In this case, the repair shop notifies the insurance company, and if they approve the necessary work, the insurance company will pay them directly.
After a vehicle is repaired, it is not worth as much as it was before the accident because it now has the accident on its car history report. Thus, the owner may be entitled to compensation for the diminution in value. Claims for diminution in value may require the services of an automobile appraiser and, therefore, are not worthwhile unless the decrease in value is significant.
When a vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will first pay the bank or finance company if there is an outstanding loan on the car. The remainder of the money, if any, will be paid to the owner of the car. In the event that the amount of the car loan exceeds the value of the car, which is likely to happen for new cars entirely (or almost entirely) paid for through a car loan, then there will be an outstanding balance with the loan company. For those who have “gap” insurance, the insurance provider should be contacted, as they will be responsible for that balance. If you do not have gap insurance, you may be able to add the balance to a new loan when you purchase a new vehicle. Be aware that if you stop making payments on your note after an accident, you could become in arrears and damage your credit rating, so it is often wise to continue making payments.
If the adverse driver’s insurer denies responsibility for the claim, waits too long to accept responsibility, or if the adverse driver did not have insurance, you could use your collision or uninsured motorist coverage to get your car repaired. This may require you to incur a deductible, but if the adverse insurance company ultimately does accept responsibility, they will reimburse you for your deductible.
For other items that may be damaged in an accident — such as phones, glasses, and clothing — you will need to demonstrate to the insurance company that the item was damaged as a result of the accident. You will also need to report the amount of any necessary repairs or, if the item is damaged beyond repair, the value of the item at the time of the accident.
Finally, if you are not able to reach an agreement with the insurance company, it may be necessary to file suit to obtain full compensation. If litigation is necessary, it is vital not to file a lawsuit only for damages to your vehicle or property if you also have a claim for personal injuries, as doing so may prevent you from recovering damages for your injuries. Therefore, it is advisable to check with your attorney before filing any claim for property damage.
At Simeone & Miller, LLP, our lawyers have helped thousands of Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland residents recover compensation for property damage and injuries resulting from preventable accidents. We have an extensive pool of knowledge and resources to help you cut through legal red tape with ease.