How to Get More Compensation for Your Vehicle After An Accident
How to Get More Compensation for Your Vehicle After An Accident
By Parag P. Bhosale
As a personal injury lawyer, I get many calls from people following an accident. Usually, I work with them on a personal injury claim for injuries sustained in the incident. But I also get calls from people asking for my help after they have been undercompensated for their automobile, especially when it has been completely destroyed or rendered undriveable in the collision.
Unfortunately, drivers usually have little control over the amount that they receive, mainly because of the natural, rapid depreciation of automobiles and the unknowns surrounding the insurance companies involved. Let’s explore the factors that affect what and how much money you will get for your car:
Whose fault is it? If the accident is deemed your fault, your only option is to have your insurance company cover all repairs. But if you are not covered for total collision, I hope you have a friend or family member that can fix it because you’re stuck with the damaged car. You’re going to have to pay the full cost of repair out-of-pocket.
If the other driver was at fault, their insurance company will be liable for the repair or replacement of the vehicle. Their insurance will want a repair estimate done… but beware of companies that send you to their own selected body shops. They often use cheap, unprofessional, inexperienced mechanics who use recycled parts or parts from different model cars.
If fault is in dispute, the insurance companies may go to court over the property damage. In this case, it is best to go ahead and get your car fixed through your own insurance company. You will still have to pay your deductible, but at least you won’t have to wait until the dispute works its way through the courts before you get your car fixed or receive compensation for it. If the other driver is determined to be at fault, you will eventually be repaid your deductible. This situation often arises in the case of drivers who have cut-rate, irreputable insurance companies who will never admit that their drivers were at-fault.
Repair or replace? If after your damaged car is taken for an estimate and it is revealed that the cost of repair will be 75-80% of the book value of your car, the insurance company will probably choose to replace, rather than repair your car. They do this with the assumption that once they start repairing and tearing down damaged parts, they will find more underlying problems, so it makes financial sense for them to just compensate the full book value.
The book value is determined by the year, make, model, mileage, and general pre-accident condition of the vehicle. There’s not a lot that can be done get an insurance company to change the book value if you feel it is too low.
Will the car be replaced in full? You can bury your dream of the other driver’s insurance company rolling up to your door with an identical, shiny new car to replace the one you just lost. They will check the book value of your car and write you a check for that amount. It will be up to you to pay off your car note (if you have one) and figure out what to do with the rest of the money to replace your car. Nothing is taken into consideration about the car such as sentimental value or how clean you kept it. If you added expensive upgrades, you better find your receipts because no insurance company will take your word for it when you ask about the $5,000 stereo you put in on your own.
Unfortunately, this is a huge disappointment to many people. A new car depreciates approximately 10% when it rolls off the lot. After that, an owner has little control except to slow depreciation by taking care of the car as much as possible. So yes, you do generally get the short stick when your lovely car is damaged in a wreck.
So, are there any ways to recover more for your vehicle than the book value, or what the insurance companies are offering? Here are a few things you can try:
Conduct a Market Value Search.
If you feel the book value is not fair for your car, a market value search can help you prove it. Basically, it is an internet search for recent sales of cars with the same make, model and year as the lost one. It will not be easy to determine a higher value for your car, but you can try to present your findings to the insurance company and request a reassessment. If you do not want to conduct the search yourself, you can retain a private adjuster service to do it for you, but sometimes their fee is not worth the result.
Obtain a Diminished Value Estimate.
If the insurance company decides to repair your car, the car will decrease in resale value because it was in an accident. A Diminished Value Estimate is a market analysis of the value of your car (identical make, model, year) that has not been in an accident. You can attempt to recover the difference in market value from the insurance company based on this information. Our office can assist you in finding a qualified diminished value estimator so that you can make this claim.
Buy Back Your Car at Salvage Value.
The insurance company actually keeps your totaled car and sells it to a junkyard for salvage value in an attempt to recover some of the money paid out to you. If the car is still driveable and you still want it, you can ask that the insurance company sell it to you instead at the cost of salvage. If you can get it running again yourself, you may come out ahead!
Hire or don’t hire a lawyer?
It is sometimes cost prohibitive to hire your own lawyer to attempt recovery of the full cost of your vehicle. The insurance companies will do their best to get full compensation from the other insurance company or they will immediately compensate you with the policy maximum. It is unadvisable to sue an insurance company on your own.
However, an accident that destroys a car will probably injure a driver, and that’s where we’re equipped to help you the most. Gardi & Haught can advise you in any personal injury case you may have and will fight to secure fair compensation for any and all pain and suffering you may experience after an accident.
We are a trustworthy, experienced legal team for your personal injury case and are available to you for consultation. Our fee is based on your final settlement amount, and you pay nothing until your case is resolved or won. Call us today to discuss your needs or fill out our free case evaluation form below.