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Whether you got a scratch or wheels are knocked off, you will have to deal with a property damage claim in the event you are in a car wreck, motorcycle collision or bicycle crash. The property damage claim is separate from any claim you have for injuries, medical bills and lost wages. A property damage claim is typically the first claim started after you have been in a collision of any kind. When you are starting a property damage claim the insurance companies will try to gather information about your injuries. This may appear to be in your best interest to answer all the questions you are asked when you call into an insurance company. However, due to the wide range of injuries that can occur in a collision, you injuries may not appear immediately or may become worse with time. Generally, all calls to insurance companies are recorded and statements made about your injuries in the first call set the tone for your bodily injury claim and can be used later to deny or de-value your claim for injuries, medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Therefore, be aware of the questions about your bodily injuries and be sure to stick to the questions about the property damage.

Whose insurance covers my property damage?
A claim for property damage can be processed through your own auto insurance policy, if you have purchased the proper insurance coverage, or can be processed through the at-fault party’s insurance policy. If you choose your auto insurance policy, a deductible may be applicable. The deductible is recoverable from the at-fault party’s insurance company and your own insurance company will handle seeking reimbursement. If you chose the at-fault party’s insurance company, you may run into difficulties as many companies require they speak to their customer before providing a rental car or starting any kind of property estimate.

How can I get a rental car?
A rental car comes under the property damage claim, and is provided in the event your vehicle is determined to be repairable. Be sure to request a rental car when speaking with the insurance company. If your vehicle is deemed a ‘total loss’, you can only recover the value of the vehicle under Texas law. You may be able to recover ‘loss of use’ under certain circumstances, see below under Total Loss.

Where can I take my vehicle for repairs?
You can pick a body shop of your choice for repairs. Many insurance companies have associations with certain automotive body shops and recommend you use those specific body shops. Once the vehicle is at the body shop of your choice, you can communicate directly with the body shop as to when and how long the repairs will take. The payment for the repairs may be mailed to you or may be mailed to the body shop, you must ask the insurance company how payment will occur. Generally, you can specify if you want payment to be made to you or to the body shop. Due to delays in receiving the necessary parts or the addition of more repairs, the body shop may need more time to complete your vehicle. In the event this occurs, be aware you may need to call the insurance company and ask them to extend the rental car to cover this time.

Total Loss
Your vehicle or motorcycle may be deemed a ‘total loss’ if the cost to repair is 60-70% of the total value. Each insurance company has a different formula for determining whether to declare a vehicle a ‘total loss.’ The total loss offer should equal the fair market value of your vehicle or motorcycle on the day of the collision. A typical total loss evaluation will include a detailed inspection of your vehicle to assess the condition of interior seating, inspection of tire tread, accessories and mileage. Then your vehicle will be compared to vehicles of the same or similar make, model, mileage and accessories in the area and surrounding cities. A fair market value is then determined by the insurance company based upon this comparison.

It is important to carefully review the total loss evaluation of your vehicle and make sure the assessment is correct. There are times when special accessories or additions, like GPS systems or DVD players, to vehicle are not listed and therefore the value is decreased. Also the comparable vehicles may not be equivalent to your vehicle, which can change the value given to your vehicle.

As mentioned above, if your vehicle is a total loss then you are not eligible to a rental car from the at-fault party insurance company. You may be able to recover ‘loss of use’ damages if the insurance company unreasonably delays payment of the claim under Texas law – those situations are fact dependent and usually involve a delay of months or longer. If you believe you may be entitled to loss of use damages and your vehicle was a Total Loss, you should contact an attorney to further assess your case.

Who can handle the property damage claim?
The property damage claim can be handled by you or an attorney. An attorney’s office may offer to handle a property damage claim if they are also representing you for your bodily injury claim. In this instance there is no additional attorney fee for handling your property damage claim. Typically, you do not have attorneys only taking property damage claims in motor vehicle/motorcycle collisions cases because the work can not be on a contingency-based attorney fee like a bodily injury claim. Meaning you will have to pay an attorney their hourly rate for their work on the property damage claim. Please keep in mind this section is regarding property damage claims involving auto insurance policies, motor vehicle and motorcycle collisions, and not property damage claims involving other type of insurance policies, like your business or homeowners insurance policy.

Quick Tips for your Property Damage Claim:
Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle.
Do not sign any property damage release until you are satisfied.
Make sure the property damage release does not include releases for bodily injury claims.

If you have questions about your property damage claim, please do not hesitate to contact Larrick Law Firm (512)893-5700 for a free consultation.

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