Monday, January 28, 2008

Car Insurance Property Damage Claims

1.Car Insurance Property Damage Claims

When you are involved in a car accident and the other driver is at fault, you may choose to go through your own insurance company to have your vehicle repaired or the negligent driver’s insurance company. So what’s the difference? If you make a car accident claim with your own insurance company, you will likely be charged a deductible. If you have rental car coverage on your policy, you will have access to a rental car while your car is in the shop, up to a daily or weekly limit set out in your policy. When the claim is settled, your insurer will subrogate against the responsible party’s insurance company and get the money back. This may or may not include your deductible. If it does, you will eventually be reimbursed. If it doesn’t, you’ll be out the amount of your deductible (typically, $200-$500).

If, instead, you go through the other driver’s insurance, as long as liability is clear, they will pay for your car repairs and a rental car and you will not be charged a deductible. Either way, an adjuster will likely question you about the accident and then arrange for photos to be taken of your vehicle.

What if liability is unclear?
If you are partially at fault for the accident or it’s not clear who was at fault, it’s best to go through your own insurance company and then let the two insurance companies duke it out in subrogation. Your insurance company may get some of their money back that they paid out to repair your car, and you may get a percentage of your deductible back if the companies agree on how fault should be apportioned.

Where it will make more of a difference to you is with regard to your injuries (if you were injured) in the accident. If you were partially at fault, you will only collect a percentage of your damages, including your pain and suffering damages (compensation for the physical and mental distress suffered as a result of an injury). If it’s not clear who was responsible, it may have to be decided in court or by an arbitrator. If you were injured, and liability is not clear, even if the insurance companies decide on a percentage with regard to the property damage, you should hire a personal injury lawyer who will advocate for your position and get you a larger percentage of your damages for your injury.
How about if your car is a total loss?
If your car was a total loss (it would cost more to repair than the value of the vehicle), and you are making a property damage claim for it with the other driver’s insurance, don’t be surprised if you wind up having to negotiate with them regarding the value of your vehicle.

What if you also have an injury?
If you are injured, when you talk to the other insurance company about property damage, be careful what information you give them. The adjuster may try to get you to state that you have no personal injury claim or try to have you minimize your claim. Talk to a personal injury lawyer so you avoid saying or signing the wrong thing and hurt your chances of making an injury claim down the road.

Fault vs. No-Fault state
The relationship between fault and who ultimately pays for damages and injuries determines the outcome in car insurance claims and car accident cases across most states. There are some states, however, that operate under no-fault laws. Essentially, under no-fault laws, it doesn’t matter who was at fault. Each person’s own insurance company pays for his or her expenses, depending on that state’s specific laws and rules. No-fault does not usually apply to property damage. Even in a no-fault state, you may either go through your own insurance or the other party’s insurance if the other party is at fault. Only Michigan requires a PPI policy—Property Protection Insurance—which pays for damage to your vehicle no matter who was at fault. It is similar to collision, but you will pay no deductible.

Note: Although the adjuster will likely take photos of your damaged vehicle, you should take your own pictures if you can in case there are any questions later on about the damage.