Have you recently been involved in an auto accident and found yourself with your vehicle damaged, towed to an unfamiliar location and no rental vehicle or other means of transportation? There are many personal injury firms that are interested in talking to you about your injuries, but few that have the interest and ability to help you with your property damage claim! You should be concerned with a personal injury law firm that wants to represent you for your bodily injury claim (because they can make money) but will not help you with your property damage claim (because they will not make any money). Sure, all businesses need to make a profit but when someone is injured in a wreck then an injury attorney, that cares about helping the victim, will also help them, free of charge, with their property damage claim.
We have a dedicated person that handles all property damage claims and concerns and will guide you through this unfamiliar and often frustrating process. Clint Crabtree has been handling all our client’s property damage claims here at Craig Kelley & Faultless since 2011. Over the past 11 years, Clint has helped hundreds of clients from start to finish with their property damage claims and knows how to work with insurance inspectors, appraisers, adjusters, tow facilities, repair shops, and anyone else that may or may not have your best interest in mind. It is Clint’s goal to not only quickly get your property damage claim resolved, but to get you everything you deserve. Below are some things to keep in mind.
When the police are called to the scene of an automobile accident, they handle contacting a local tow facility to come clean up the roadway and tow your vehicle from the scene if it is no longer drivable due to disabling damage. Every day that your damaged vehicle sits at the tow facility it is accruing storage fees. Depending on the location and size of the vehicle, storage fees range from $30 – $50.00. You might be asking at this stage, who is responsible for these charges? The at-fault driver’s insurance carrier is responsible to pay the tow and storage fees. If they are a good insurance company, they will make arrangements to have the vehicle moved to one of their storage free facilities early on. However, there are certain situations where if downloads or inspections need to be done, we would not want the vehicles moved or otherwise altered. Contact us early so we can guide you through this whole process.
Rental/Loss of Use
Many insurance policies that you obtain on your own vehicle have a rental included in the policy up to a certain number of days or dollar amount. There are policies though that do not provide a rental vehicle. If you are in an accident caused by someone else, providing their insurance policy was in effect at the time of the accident and they accept liability, they typically will authorize a rental vehicle for you while they determine whether your vehicle is totaled or repairable. If it is repairable, they should continue to pay for your rental while the repairs are being completed. If your vehicle is deemed a total loss and they make you an offer on your vehicle they will terminate the rental within 3-7 days. It is important to have a firm guiding you through all these steps because while the insurance company pays for the daily rate of the rental vehicle, they do not cover the $50 security deposit that the rental company will require, they also do not cover the gas or the insurance for the rental.
If your vehicle is inspected and the insurance inspector and Bodyshop determine that your vehicle is repairable there are some very important things to consider. First, it is your choice which shop and which location you want to have your vehicle repaired at. While many insurance companies have preferred Bodyshops that they work with and recommend, many of which are fine Bodyshops, you are not required to use one of their preferred shops. It is your vehicle, and you should have it repaired at the shop that you are most comfortable with and trust will do a good job repairing your vehicle. Second, depending on the year of the vehicle, you have a choice as to whether you want new OEM, new aftermarket or used parts used when repairing your vehicle. This only applies when having the vehicle repaired under your own policy and if the vehicle is 6 or fewer years old. Lastly, once you get your vehicle back from the repair shop, you should look it over good and make sure everything meets your expectations, you should drive it for a week or two and make sure it drives good, sounds good, etc. If you find something that is not the way it was before the collision; you should take it back to the same Bodyshop and inform them of your concern(s) so that they can take care of it.
Diminished value claims are not often discussed. They certainly will not be mentioned by the insurance company. The inherent diminished value claim is one that we assist our clients with. Not every collision warrants a diminished value claim. There are many considerations and factors that go into a diminished value. Well, what is a diminished value claim? A diminished value claim is a claim that because your vehicle was involved in a collision and now has a documented accident history (Carfax, Edmunds, etc.), it is not worth as much as it was prior to the accident. Insurance company’s hate when these claims are presented, but we have successfully recovered many diminished value claims for our clients over the years. Again, not every collision warrants pursuing a diminished value claim. We often consider diminished value claims on those vehicles that are newer at the time of the accident, sustain frame damage, and are costly. A 10-15-year-old daily driver vehicle with typical mileage on it likely will not have sustained a diminishment in value. In an inherent diminished value claim, the argument we present to the insurance company is that because your vehicle had no previous accident history and does now because of the collision caused by their insured it is worth less than an exact comparable vehicle that does not have an accident history.
Total Loss/ACV/Personal Property
What should you expect if the insurance company inspects your vehicles and determines that it would not be cost or time effective to repair your vehicle and they deem it a total loss? In the situation of a total loss, the insurance company is required by law to pay you the actual cash value of your vehicle. The ACV is determined by what a vehicle like yours is selling for at the time of the accident. This can be determined by looking up online listings for similar vehicles as well as online valuation sources. Many insurance companies have their own valuation companies and software that they use, and it is important to have someone on your side making sure that they compensate you fairly for your vehicle. It should also be pointed out that Indiana is NOT a “replacement” state. Meaning, the insurance companies are not required to replace your vehicle for you and likewise, they are not required to pay you what you owe on the vehicle. They are simply required to pay you the actual cash value of the vehicle at the time of the accident. If you find yourself in a situation where you owe more on the vehicle than it is worth, hopefully, you purchased GAP insurance on the vehicle at the time you purchased the vehicle. If you did, the GAP policy should cover the difference between the ACV the insurance company is offering and what is owed. GAP claims are sometimes hard to handle and the GAP company requires a lot of documentation and we are here to help you through the entire process. You absolutely should consult with us or another law firm before settling the property damage claim with the at-fault insurance company when GAP insurance is available because you do not want to jeopardize the coverage by accepting an amount that does not take into consideration all the options and features that your vehicle had. Lastly, if you have personal items in the car at the time of the accident you should take pictures of the damaged items, do not throw them away, and let us help you with that claim as well.
David Craig is the managing partner as well as one of the founding partners of the law firm of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. Since he began practicing law more than 26 years ago, he has been fighting to obtain justice for ordinary people against insurance companies, trucking companies, large corporations and others.