Tips For Settling Your Property Damage Claim With the Insurance Company
Working with insurance companies after a car accident can be a complicated and frustrating process. When a car is badly damaged, many insurance adjustors will consider it a “total loss” and begin the settlement process. Often times, adjustors will try to settle on a replacement vehicle that the accident victim feels is an unfair substitute. If your car is damaged, but repairable, you have certain rights and privileges the adjustor might fail to mention.
If you have been in an accident and are working with the insurance company, it is important to have proper knowledge of the situation to avoid an unfair settlement. The following tips could help ensure you receive a proper settlement:
This is a chapter from “7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Utah Accident Case” written by By Kenneth Christensen
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1. Insurance papers can be extremely technical and confusing. Before you sign any papers, make sure you fully understand the substance of the agreement. Research terminology or phrases that you do not understand. Also, do not be afraid to contact your insurance company and ask any questions you may have pertaining to the documents they want you to sign. If you sign the papers too soon, you may jeopardize your chances of receiving a fair property damage settlement.
2. If your car is no longer drivable after the accident, your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company can provide you with a rental car. (We recommend against purchasing the rental company’s car insurance coverage. Most insurance companies will not pay for this additional coverage). The insurance company may try to put you in a smaller rental car in an attempt to save money. However, they are obligated to provide a rental car that is the same size as the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident. In addition, if you do not use a rental car for a period of time after the accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from the insurance company ranging from $15 to $25 dollars for each day you went without a rental car.
3. Research the value of your car at the time of the accident using your local classifieds or websites such as ksl.com or autotrader.com. Insurance companies tend to value your car by finding similar vehicles as close to your home as possible. It is important that you take the time to properly research the value of your vehicle at the time of the accident.
Browse the internet and contact local auto dealers to compare the year, make, model, and condition of your vehicle with other cars on the market. The insurance company will give greatest weight to the vehicles that are closest to the city in which you live. You are not required to accept the adjustor’s first settlement offer, especially if you think it is less valuable than your previous vehicle. If this happens, simply counter-offer with vehicles you have found in your own research.
You can also ask the insurance company to provide documentation with details on how they valued the vehicle. Do not hesitate to request this information, as the insurance company is obligated to provide this information under Utah State law. The law states that an insurance company must provide documentation for low offers that deviate from the market price of the original vehicle. By obtaining this information, you will also be able to ensure that the adjustor gave you credit for every upgrade or after-market feature in your vehicle.
4. Do not keep the rental car longer than the insurance company permits. You will be held responsible for additional charges. The insurance company will provide a rental vehicle from the date of the accident until they make a reasonable offer for your replacement car. Return the rental the moment the adjustor tells you to do so, even if your settlement check has not arrived.
5. Know your rights. Utah State law provides detailed rules and guidelines by which insurance companies must abide when handling property damage claims. These rules, established in the Utah Administrative Code, can provide you with necessary support as you work with the adjustor. The Code specifies which driver’s insurance company must provide a settlement, how the insurance company must value the property damage claim, and what rights you have to defend your claim. These rules are available to the public at www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r590r590-190.htm
6. Should I have my own insurance company handle the property damage? Even though the accident was not your fault, your own insurance company may offer to handle the property damage claim. This has pros and cons. Typically your own insurance company can handle the claim much faster than the at-fault driver’s insurance company. While the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not provide you with a rental car or work on the body damage until they’ve spoken with their insured or obtained a copy of the full police report, your own insurance company is able to move forward without this information. However, your own insurance company may require you to pay your deductible when you pick up your car.
This can be hard for some people while trying to pay for medical treatment after the accident. Rest assured that once the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts responsibility for the accident, they will reimburse your insurance company for the property damage claim and your deductible will be returned.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company is required by Utah law to provide you with a rental car from the date of the accident until the car has been repaired, or until a fair settlement offer has been made for the replacement of a totaled vehicle. However, if you choose to have your own insurance company handle the property damage claim, you can only receive a rental car for the amount permitted in your insurance contract. If your contract only allows for 20 days of rental car coverage and it takes 30 days to repair the car, you will be responsible for the extra 10 days in rental fees.
7. What can I do when the insurance company wants to repair my vehicle with used parts? If your car was not new at the time of the accident, the insurance company has a right to repair the vehicle with used parts. However, the used parts must be comparable in quality and age. Even though the part is used, the repair shop will use a part from the same manufacturer, the same year, and of the same quality as the original part. Used parts come from a nationally based locating system and can arrive in 1-2 business days. On the other hand, new parts come from the manufacturer or dealerships and typically take weeks before they can be delivered.
8. Many times throughout the repair process, the body shop will discover additional damage that was not initially approved by the insurance company. When this happens the body shop will document the additional damage by taking photographs or asking the insurance adjustor to come to the body shop and inspect the damage. Unless the insurance company can prove that the additional damage is not accident-related, they will be obligated to repair it. If the insurance company refuses to repair the additional damage, you should take the car to other body shops and have them document in writing their opinion that the additional damage must be accident-related because it is not the type of damage that is normally caused by regular wear and tear.
9. If you are unhappy with the repair work done on the vehicle, it is best to return to the original body shop and explain why you are unhappy. Most body shops will do everything in their power to make the customer happy. If the body shop refuses to address your concerns, take the vehicle to other local body shops and have them document what should have been done by the shop. You can then provide the insurance company with this information.
10. Finally, many people wonder if they can take the property damage claim to small claims court. While this may be an option, be extremely careful and consult with an attorney before pursuing this course of action, as it has the potential to completely wipe out your ability to make an injury claim if you were hurt in the accident!