Property Damage 101

Whether you just got a scratch or your vehicle was destroyed, 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. Larrick Law Firm PC can assist with these claims.

Avoid Answering Questions About Your Injuries

A property damage claim is typically the first claim started after you have been in a collision of any kind. When you file a property damage claim, the insurance company may try to gather information about your injuries. It may appear to be in your best interest to answer all the questions you are asked when you call into an insurance company; however, it could work against you in the long run.

Due to the wide range of injuries that can occur in a collision, your injuries may not appear immediately or may become worse with time. Because your call to the insurance company is probably being recorded, any statements you make about your injuries can set the tone for your bodily injury claim. These statements 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 questions about your bodily injuries and stick to answering questions about 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 choose the at-fault party’s insurance company, you may run into difficulties, as many companies require that they speak to their own client 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.

Where Can I Take My Vehicle for Repairs?

You may go to any body shop of your choice for repairs. Insurance companies often have associations with certain automotive body shops and recommend you use those specific body shops, but you are under no obligation to do so. 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. You will have to 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.

What If Your Vehicle Is a Total Loss?

Your vehicle or motorcycle may be deemed a total loss if the cost to repair is 60 to 70 percent 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 the 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, 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, you are not eligible for 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, but 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 a trial lawyer to assess your case further.

Who Can Handle the Property Damage Claim?

The property damage claim can be handled by you or a personal injury trial lawyer. A trial lawyer may offer to handle a property damage claim if they are also representing you for your bodily injury claim. In this instance, there should be no additional fee for handling your property damage claim. But if a trial lawyer isn’t representing you for an injury claim, you will have to pay an hourly rate for their work on the property damage claim involving auto insurance policies and motor vehicle collisions.

Quick Tips for Your Property Damage Claim

We recommend doing the following before filing a 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 motor vehicle accident injuries or damage claim, please do not hesitate to call us and set up a free consultation.

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