How to Handle Property Damage Claims After a Car Accident
If you’ve been involved in a car wreck you want to get your vehicle repaired as quickly as possible. Many times, getting an answer or even feedback from the negligent parties insurance carrier is difficult.
Look to Dealing With Your Own Carrier- If the Adverse Insurer is Not Helpful
Most of the time, victims would be better off handling the claim through their own insurance company provided they have collision coverage. This is true, even though you will be out your deductible initially. It is been our experience that your own insurance company generally will treat you better than someone else’s insurance company.
Additionally, your own insurance company will be more responsive and often much more fair about the procedure.
People do not want to involve their own insurance company after a wreck that was not their fault.
While this is understandable, your own insurance company may be the better route to take because they are in the business of claims handling and will deal with the negligent driver’s insurance company and take that burden off of you.
If you elect to go through your own insurance company to get your car repaired or get the fair market value of your car if it is totaled, make sure you ask your insurance company to collect your deductible from the negligent parties carrier.
Your own insurance company will seek to obtain your deductible back at the same time they collect the money that they have spent for the repair or replacement of the vehicle. In effect your insurer will collect from the other insurer the money your company spent to repair or replace your car, if the accident was the other persons fault.
It’s been our experience that if the accident was not your fault your own insurance company probably should not hold the accident against you.
Tort Reform Has Made Insurers in Texas Bold
People who deal with adverse insurance company adjusters are sometimes surprised and shocked with how they are treated in the claims handling process. There are two main reasons for this phenomenon in Texas.
The first reason is that the other party’s insurance company does not owe you a duty and will generally delay or deny as long as they possibly can. Moving slowly is the rule rather than the exception. Also, if the driver who caused the wreck is not straightforward with their own insurance company the claims handling process can be further delayed.
The second reason is that in Texas, our civil justice system does not generally provide a remedy for claims handling abuses by the adjuster for the other party. Tort reform has exacerbated the attitude and treatment that many innocent families are subjected to by an adverse adjuster.
Pick Your Own Shop and Let Them Deal With the Insurer
If your vehicle is repairable, it is usually preferable to take it to a shop you are comfortable with and let the shop deal directly with the insurance carrier. Beginning in the middle between the repair shop and the insurance carrier is not usually a satisfactory position to be in for many people.
It is always a good idea to obtain photographs of the damage to your vehicle before it is repaired. This is especially true if you were injured in the accident and the property damage is significant.
If your car is repairable, the adverse at fault insurance company usually will pay for a rental vehicle subject to certain specified limits. Most insurance companies have preferred rental agencies and can quickly set up a rental vehicle through one of their companies.
If you go through your own insurance company for rental car coverage look at your insurance policy to see the limits of your coverage so there are no surprises at the end of the rental.
For newer vehicles that are wrecked in a manner that will reduce their value, you may consider making a diminished value claim in addition to repair costs. The burden to establish the diminished value will be upon you and getting written estimates from car dealers about the decrease in value to submit to the adjuster-can be helpful in that regard.
If your vehicle cannot be repaired and is “totaled” (which is when the repair costs exceed the value of the vehicle), then the insurer handling the claim will be responsible for the fair market value of the vehicle plus tax, title and license fees necessary to obtain a replacement vehicle of comparable value.
Expect an adverse insurance company to look to values that are the lowest they can find when looking to total a vehicle. You on the other hand should go online or to a dealer and obtain factual information regarding the value of your vehicle at the time of the accident.
Be wary of companies that appear to be “independent” of the insurance company that is hard to give a value for your vehicle. Those companies work for the insurance company that hired them and know where their bread is buttered. Be prepared to counter the lowball efforts with real facts from authoritative sources.
Obtaining rental car reimbursement from an adverse carrier when your car is totaled is very difficult as there is case law indicating that the adverse carrier does not owe rental car reimbursement when the vehicles totaled. Nevertheless, some of the more reputable insurance carriers do in fact pay for your loss of use until the time they tender an offer to you and settlement of the property damage claim.
If your vehicle is “totaled” you may want to look to your own auto policy for rental car coverage.