Q: What should I do first?
The first thing you should do is contact the at-fault driver's insurance company to inform them of the accident. At this time you will want to make arrangements to have the damage to your car assessed. You should also ask about a rental car if you are going to need one. If the at-fault driver has not yet reported the accident, they may want to see the accident report before admitting liability. You may be able to speed up the process by getting a copy of the report yourself and furnishing it to them.
Q: What am I entitled to recover?
The basic rule is that you are entitled to recover the difference between what your car was worth immediately before the accident and what it was worth immediately after the accident. This is determined by either the cost of repairing the vehicle or the fair market value of the vehicle, which is usually determined by its Blue Book value.
Q: Who chooses which method is used?
The insurance company will make this decision based upon the estimated repair costs. If these are more than 75% of your car's Blue Book value, they will probably total your car and pay you that value.
Q: How many estimates should I get?
In most cases, none. The common practice today is for the insurance adjuster to make an estimate of the repair costs. If the company decides to repair the vehicle, you can then arrange with the repair shop of your choice to do the work. If the shop finds damage that the adjuster overlooked or underestimated, the shop will contact the adjuster to work out additional payment.
Q: Can the insurance company require use of after-market parts?
Yes, if those parts are equal in quality to manufacturer parts.
Q: Am I entitled to a rental car?
You are entitled to recover for the loss of use of your vehicle. This is usually determined by the cost of renting a reasonable replacement, but the insurance company is not required to arrange a rental car for you. In that case, if you rent one yourself, you are entitled to recover that cost. Even if you don't rent a car, you are still entitled to be compensated for loss of use.
Q: If my car is totaled but I want to keep it, can I?
Usually, but the insurance company may reduce what they pay by the car's salvage value. Also, the title may have to be sent to DMV so that the fact that the car was totaled can be noted. This may affect the cars future resale or trade-in value.
Q: If my car is totaled, which Blue Book value should be used?
Usually 3 values are given, loan value (the lowest), wholesale value, and retail value (the highest). As you will have to pay retail for a replacement, that’s the value you should ask for.
Q: What if they total my car and I owe more than it’s worth?
If you find yourself in this situation, you should discuss substitution of collateral with your lender. If the lender agrees, you can use the insurance money to purchase a replacement and have that vehicle stand as security for the loan.
Q: What if I’ve installed extras on the car?
You are entitled to be compensated for new stereos and other non-stock items you installed. The amount is the difference in the values of the non-stock and stock items.
Q: What if the other person's insurance refuses to pay for the damage?
This sometimes happens because of questions about liability or for other reasons. If you have collision insurance, contact your own company about getting the repairs done, and let them deal with the other company about payment. You will have to pay a deductible, but if the other company eventually pays, this will be reimbursed. If you don't have collision coverage, you will have to sue the other person.
Q: What if the other person doesn't have insurance?
Talk with your insurer about using your uninsured motorist coverage. Unless you rejected it in writing, you should have this coverage. While it may not cover the property damage in your situation, if it does, your insurance steps in to cover the other driver's liability to you, less a deductible.
Q: Should I contact an attorney?
Dealing with a car accident can sometimes be quite simple, particularly in situations where there is little debate about the facts or where the insurance companies sort things out. But occasionally you will need the help of an experienced car accident attorney, who will know how to deal with insurance companies and other parties involved in the process. Even if you're just confused and need some advice, attorneys often will meet with you for a free consultation. Have your claim evaluated today at no cost to you.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.