Ins and Outs of Handling Your Property Damage Claim

How To Handle Your Property Damage Claim

Not everyone involved in a car accident will be injured.  However everyone in an accident will have some sort of damage to their vehicle.  To add injury to insult, the simple fact that your vehicle has been involved in an accident will diminish its value after it is repaired. 

Before we jump into the different aspects of how to handle a property damage claim, lets discuss how our firm handles these claims for our clients.  We do not charge clients to handle their property damage claim.  Instead, we simply handle the property damage in conjunction with the personal injury case.  

The reason we do not charge our injury clients anything is because these claims are usually resolved relatively quickly and easily, leaving the more challenging personal injury claim to be handled. 

The Most Important Aspect Of The Property Damage Claim

The most important thing to do regarding your property damage claim is to quickly and thoroughly document all damage done to your vehicle.  Take lots of pictures!!  Pictures at the scene are very helpful. 

If you did not take good pictures at the scene, go to the tow yard or wherever your vehicle is at and take pictures.  You want detailed pictures of all damage inside and out.

Make sure you obtain pictures of the not so obvious damage as well.  Most people, including adjusters, naturally focus on the most noticeable damage which usually is the outside crush damage.  Don’t forget to capture any interior damage as well, such as a bent steering wheel or stick shift.  Maybe you have a damaged speaker or broken lever on your seat.  Capture it all.  

Contact Your Insurance Company Too

Make sure you not only contact the other driver’s insurance company but also your own immediately after the accident.  You always want to try to work your property damage claim out directly with the other driver’s insurance company instead of yours if possible.  However, there are times when it just makes sense to let your insurance company handle the claim, for instance when the other company is dragging its feet attending to your claim.  

If your insurance company handles the claim, the only downside to you is that you are out your deductible until your insurance company is reimbursed from the at-fault company’s insurance.  This is why it is better to try the other insurance company first and only use your if the need arises. 

Your next steps depend on whether your vehicle is considered totaled or repairable.  Lets start with the situation where the vehicle is totaled . . . .

Car Totaled—Get Estimates On Its Value

If your vehicle is totaled, the only question is what was the value of your vehicle right before it was damaged.  This means given its make, model, year, mileage and condition on the day of the accident, what was it worth.  This is what you are allowed to recover under Georgia law.  

In order to cheaply obtain a good value for your vehicle, we tell clients to get online quotes from at least three sources.  Most use Kelly Blue Book, Edmonds.com and Truecar.com.  There are others out there as well. 

Be careful here.  Insurance adjusters will tell you they do not use those quotes.  This is not true.  They don’t like you using them because it takes away their knowledge advantage.  Remember you are allowed to recover what your vehicle was worth in the marketplace at the time of the accident.  These sources give a picture of what your vehicle was worth.  They are absolutely reliable sources.

If after trying to negotiate a number for your vehicle has failed and based on your quotes you think the adjuster is being very unreasonable, the next step would be to hire an private vehicle appraiser to value the vehicle for you.   This is an expert in appraisals that can be used in court if the insurance company will not pay.

If you have gone all the way through an appraiser and still cannot get the insurance company to pay, your last resort is filing a small claims case and bring your pictures and appraisal to court.  

Car Repairable?  Get Own Estimate and Don’t Forget Diminished Value Claim

If your car is repairable, you have much more work to do to ensure proper repair and that you obtain everything you have a right too.  Here are a few tips on how to handle this claim. 

             Get Your Own Estimate

Don’t just take the insurance company’s estimate as the gospel truth.  They may have missed damaged areas or gone with someone who is using after market parts.  No matter what you need to obtain an estimate to repair all damaged areas of your vehicle from a repairman you trust and who will not be using after market parts.

If you do this and the numbers look the same, you can go with the insurance company’s estimate.  If not, demand that you use your repairman and the insurance company pay him directly.

If the vehicle is fixed by the insurance companies repairman, get it inspected by your guy after the repairs are done to ensure everything on the estimate was done and done correctly.   If anything was missed, make them fix it.

              Diminished Value Claim

After your vehicle is repaired and paid for, you still have one more claim—the diminished value claim.  This is for the lost value of your vehicle even after it is repaired because it has been in an accident.  This claim is fought hard by the insurance companies.  Like everything else, what you have the right to is what you actually lost in value due to the fact it has been in an accident and repaired.  

The only way to truly get the right value for this claim is to spend several hundred dollars having a vehicle appraiser tell you what your car was worth and what it is worth now that it has been in an accident and repaired.  

Without this appraisal, insurance companies typically offer you 10% of what it cost to repair the vehicle as you diminished value settlement.  This is often significantly below what you actually have the right to recover.   If you vehicle was only worth a few thousand dollars before the accident, it is probably not worth it to you to hire an appraiser.  However, if your vehicle was worth tens of thousands of dollars, an appraisal is likely warranted.  

If you need more information on how to handle your property damage situation, give one of our persona injury lawyers a call at (770) 887-3162.