Resolving Property Damage Claims

By George M. Stark, P.A.

It should come as no surprise that automobile accident victims are often more concerned with the damage to or loss of their vehicles than their own physical wellbeing. Some people develop an emotional attachment to their vehicles. They grieve as though their vehicle was an old friend. Others experience economic hardship due to repairs to or replacement of the vehicle.
The following recommendations are made in the hope of helping you make the best out of what can be a difficult situation in securing the repair or replacement value of your automobile.

  1. PURCHASE COLLISON INSURANCE: The only reason not to buy collision insurance is if you fully own your vehicle and the replacement will cause no financial hardship. If you’re struck by a driver who has no insurance or insufficient coverage for the repairs, you will have the burden of repairing or replacing it yourself unless you purchase this coverage.
  2. PUCHASE GAP INSURANCE IF YOUR VEHICLE IS FINANCED. If you don’t purchase this coverage and your vehicle is declared a total loss, you will be paid the fair market value (FMV). If FMV is less than the amount financed, then you will owe the lender the difference unless you purchase Gap insurance.
  3. REPAIRS ARE TO BE MADE AT A BODY SHOP OF YOUR CHOICE. Just because your vehicle is towed by the wrecker service to a body shop does not mean that is where it should be repaired. Recommendations made by an insurance company can be considered; however, generally it is best to find a body shop that is affiliated with an automobile dealership to repair your vehicle.
  4. REPAIR ESTIMATES MUST SPECIFY “LIKE KIND” PARTS. Insist that repairs to your vehicle be made using replacement parts, new or used, from the same vehicle rather than aftermarket parts that may be less expensive but not fit as well.
  5. IF OPERABLE, DON’T LEAVE VEHICLE WITH BODY SHOP UNTIL TIME OF REPAIR. Sometimes it can take a week or two before the ordered parts are received and the shop is able to commence repairs. You don’t want your operable vehicle to be gathering dust at the body shop while you incur rental car expenses.
  6. DON’T SURRENDER INSURANCE CHECK TO BODY SHOP UNTIL SATISFIED COMPLETION OF WORK. Just like any other business transaction, your leverage is gone once you pay. So, resist the temptation to be nice and part with the insurance check until you pick-up the vehicle and are satisfied with the work.
  7. IF INITIAL ESTIMATE OF REPAIR SEEMS LOW, IT PROBABLY IS: At the time of appraisal, the insurance company representative will estimate the repair cost based upon visible damage. Once the vehicle is dismantled for repair, additional damage is often discovered that requires the issuance of a “supplement” and additional check for the repair cost.
  8. IF REPAIRS EXCEED 80% OF VEHICLE VALUE, MOST INSURERS WILL CONSIDER IT A TOTAL LOSS. The FMV of your vehicle will be determined by the insurance company using either a computerized local market search or the NADA guide. Most insurance companies are fair, but due diligence is required to keep them honest. Your settlement check should include tax, title, and, if inoperable, payment for the loss of your vehicle from the date of the accident to settlement. If you have questions about these tips, contact our firm. We specialize in assisting injured clients in the resolution of property damage claims.