Whether you got a scratch or wheels are knocked off, dealing with vehicle repairs is frustrating. You need to be able to get to work, doctors appointments and family obligations. In the event you are in a car accident, motorcycle crash or bicycle crash, you will need to figure out repairs immediately.
The insurance industry calls this your “property damage claim.” 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 because you need to be able to get around. Here is some basic information on property damage claims.
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. Your auto insurance may act quicker to take care of your needs and get your car repaired quicker. Good news is the deductible can be reimbursed from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Your own insurance company will handle seeking reimbursement of the deductible and any money paid for repairs. 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 do I start repairs for my car damage?
You will need to call your insurance company or the at-fault insurance company and ask to open a new claim. Do not wait for someone to call you.
Typically, when you are starting any claim the insurance companies will try to gather information about your vehicle damages and 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 reduce the value your claim for injuries.
Therefore, be aware of the questions about your bodily injuries and be sure to stick to the questions about the property damage. The insurance company will take the next steps to inspect your vehicle.
Can I get a rental car?
A rental car can be provided by the at-fault insurance company. Be sure to request a rental car on your first call with the insurance company.
If your vehicle is deemed a ‘total loss’ (the repairs will cost more than the value of the vehicle), you can only recover the fair market value of the vehicle under Texas law, and may not be offered a rental car.
Some insurance companies will not provide a rental car if your vehicle is declared a total loss. Be sure to ask your insurance company if you have coverage for a rental car.
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.
The Texas Department of Insurance provides a Consumer Bill of Rights for personal automobile insurance that insurance companies must give you a copy when they issue you a policy:
- CHOICE OF REPAIR SHOP AND REPLACEMENT PARTS. You have the right to choose the repair shop and replacement parts for your vehicle. An insurance company may not specify the brand, type, kind, age, vendor, supplier, or condition of parts or products used to repair Your automobile. The insurance company must provide you notice of the above requirements as follows:
- claims submitted by telephone written notice within three business days or immediate verbal notice, followed by written notice within 15 days;
- claims submitted in person immediate written notice at the time you present your vehicle to an insurer or an insurance adjuster or other person in connection with a claim for damage repair: or
- claims submitted in writing — written notice must be provided within three business days of the insurance company’s receipt of the notice.
For the full Consumer Bill of Rights for your personal automobile insurance, please go to: Www.tdi.texas.gov
Yes, you can pick the automotive repair shop for your vehicle. But be sure the automotive repair shop gives you a lifetime warranty on all repairs.
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; however, 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.
What if the insurance says my car is a 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 insurance company will offer to pay you the fair market value of your vehicle or motorcycle on the day of the collision. A typical total loss evaluation is performed and provide 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. Be sure to ask if an attorney fee will be collected for handling this work.
Attorneys do not normally handle property damage claims in motor vehicle/motorcycle collisions cases because the work cannot be on a contingency fee basis and must be calculated on an hourly rate. 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 homeowner’s insurance policy.
3 Quick Tips for your Property Damage Claim:
- Take your own photographs of the damage to your vehicle.
- Be sure to remove any personal belongs or valuables before your vehicle is towed or left for repairs at a body shop.
- Do not sign any property damage release until you are satisfied with repairs to your vehicle.
If you have questions about your car repairs, please do not hesitate to contact Larrick Law Firm (512)893-5700 for a free consultation.