Pursuing a Property Damage Claim After an Automobile Accident
In this episode of When Accidents Happen, we join our hosts Paige Pahlke and Jim Puritz, attorneys at Brown Moore and Associates, to talk about property damage claims in automobile accident cases.
In this episode of When Accidents Happen, we join our hosts Paige Pahlke and Jim Puritz to talk about property damage claims in automobile accident cases. Then we reveal how to value a vehicle with property damage and provide information for pursuing a diminished value claim.
Key Moments From The Episode:
- [1:05] – What is property damage, and who takes care of that claim?
- [2:00] – How does a property claim start, and what are the first steps to take?
- [3:11] – What is an estimate, and why is it important?
- [3:56] – How do I determine the value of my car?
- [4:45] – What happens if I have a loan on my car but it’s been totaled?
- [5:40] – What is a diminished value claim?
- [7:30] – How do I pursue a diminished value claim?
When Accidents Happen is a podcast by Brown Moore and Associates, a personal injury law firm based out of Charlotte, NC. This podcast is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for consulting an attorney. You should always consult an experienced personal injury attorney about your unique situation before making legal decisions. Visit our website for more online resources at brownmoorelaw.com, or better yet, call 704-335-1500 for a free initial intake interview so Brown Moore and Associates can evaluate your case.
|Chances are you're here because of an accident involving yourself or someone you love and, before the dust even settles, you're dealing with an insurance company that doesn't have your best interests at heart. You may be feeling overwhelmed, you may be feeling scared. Welcome to When Accidents Happen, a podcast brought to you by the attorneys of Brown Moore & Associates with more than five decades of experience. Our attorneys are here to guide you through these uncertain times and provide you with the information and answers you need today.
|All right. Hi, this is Jim Puritz here again today with Paige Pahlke. Paige, how are you?
|Doing well, Jim. Thanks for having me.
|And thanks for joining us on When Accidents Happen, the podcast from Brown Moore & Associates, and today we will be talking about property damage. So Paige, what is property damage claim?
|A property damage claim is a claim that you will have against the other driver and the other driver's insurance company for the damage to your car as a result of the collision.
|So who handles a property damage claim?
|So you can handle your own property damage claim or, if need be, your lawyer can also help you with a property damage claim.
|So who are you going to be talking to? Who’s the person that you’ll be negotiating with?
|The person you’ll be talking to is known as a property damage adjuster, and that’s separate from the person who will be handling your personal injury claim. They’re two separate departments in a sense.
|So if let’s say my car gets rear-ended and my car gets pretty damaged, there are two different adjusters assigned to that case?
|If you’re in a collision and you’re rear-ended and you’re injured, there’s going to be a bodily injury adjuster, which we will talk to them because we don’t want you talking directly to them as we talked about in an earlier episode. They are not on your side. They’re not there to help you out. So we’ll take care of talking to them. But there’s also going to be a property damage adjuster assigned, and that adjuster, we’re fine with you talking with them and working with them. They will be handling just the property damage to your vehicle and nothing to do with your injuries from the vehicle.
|Okay, so let’s say your car-
|… From the collision.
|From the collision, okay. So let’s say your car is damaged, what are the next steps? Where do you go?
|So if your car is damaged, the property damage adjuster is going to ask you to take your car to get a repair estimate.
|And where do you go to get that? Do you pick the repair shop?
|Generally, the first place you’re going to go is where they recommend and require you to go, but then you can also take it to a second repair shop for a second opinion, to a repair shop that you know and trust.
|Now, I know if I lost my car for a week or two, I’d be in trouble and be walking everywhere and be very unhappy about it. Is that something that can be avoided?
|It is, Jim, yes. No one wants to be in that position. And if your car, if it’s unavailable to you because you’re having an estimate done or the repairs are being made to your vehicle, the other driver’s insurance company should provide you with a rental car so that you’re not walking around or without a car during that timeframe.
|Okay, so let’s say I dropped my car off at the repair shop, they gave me the loner, the other insurance company, and then I get my estimate back. What is that information going to tell me?
|That’s going to tell you what it’s going to cost to repair your car and get it back to the condition that it was in before the collision happened. And now, you can never make the car exactly what it was before, but you can repair it and get it up to safety standards and get it back into working order. And that’s what the estimate is going to set forth is what all needs to be done to get that car back into working order.
|What do I do with that estimate?
|So that estimate is going to be going to the property damage adjuster. They are going to be the ones who will ultimately be paying for that bill.
|So what happens if the estimate is greater than the value of my car? I guess, first, how do I determine the value of the car?
|So a great way to determine the value of your car is to go online to kellybluebook.com and that will tell you the fair market value for your vehicle in the moments before the collision happened. And so that’s what you can expect as far as the value of your vehicle, that’s what you can expect to receive from the insurance company. So if that value is less than the repair estimate, most likely what’s going to happen is the insurance company is going to pay you the value of your vehicle and total your vehicle.
|Okay, so if I have $5,000 in repairs, but my very, very old car is worth only $3,000, is my car going to be totaled?
|Your car is most likely going to be totaled and you will be paid $3,000 for that car.
|Okay. Now, what if I had a loan? Let’s say it was a loan car and then I had some debt that I still had to pay off on the car. How does that work?
|So if you’re in that position where the value of your vehicle, what they pay you… Let’s use your example where you said your car is worth $3,000, say you owe $5,000 on the car, what you’d be looking for is to see if you have something called gap insurance. And gap insurance is a type of coverage that is offered either through the dealership or through your own auto insurance policy. If you’ve got that, that will cover the difference. So that would cover the $2,000 difference so that you aren’t personally responsible for paying that on your own. So that’s important coverage that if you don’t have it, check your policy, add it to your policy. If you do have it and you find yourself in this position, make sure you access it so that you’re not coming out of pocket if you don’t have to.
|Now, is that something that I would find on the declaration page we’ve talked about in earlier episodes?
|Yes. If you got it through your own insurance company, you’d find it on the declaration page. If you got it through the dealership, it would likely be a separate policy.
|And how does this affect what’s sometimes called the diminished value claim?
|So diminished value claim, if your car has been damaged but not totaled, you might have a diminished value claim. And that’s the difference in the value of your vehicle the moments before the collision happened and the value of your vehicle after it’s been in a collision and the repairs have been made.
|And is that something that’s also negotiated with the property adjuster?
|Yes, so same department, but a lot of times it’s an adjuster who deals maybe specifically with diminished value. So it’s going to be the property damage department, but it may be a different adjuster within that department.
|And what determines whether or not you actually have a diminished value claim is the age and condition of your vehicle before the collision happened.
|And how do I go about determining that? Is that Kelly Blue Book as well?
|Yes, Kelly Blue Book is a good resource, as well as the NADA guides. And those are both available online and they will give you a good feel for what the fair market value was for your vehicle in the moments before the collision happened.
|And then obviously, when your car has been in a wreck, that goes on your auto fax report and that’s going to be something that stays with that car. So that will impact the resale value of that vehicle and that’s where the diminished value claim comes into play.
|So that’s how I find out the value of my car before the crash. How do I find the value after the crash to determine what’s been diminished?
|So a lot of times, you can do some research online, you can look at the estimate that you received for the repairs to your vehicle and get a good feel for what that difference in value is.
|Another way to do it is to hire an appraiser to help you with that. They are professionals, they’re experts who do this, but because they are experts and professionals, they obviously charge for their time and so that can be an expensive undertaking. And so it doesn’t always make sense to retain an appraiser to help you with your diminished value claim. And so in determining whether or not you want to pursue a diminished value claim, you really need to think about the age and condition of the vehicle before the collision and the actual damage to the vehicle.
|Let’s say you have a new Mercedes Benz that you just drove off the lot, and as you’re driving off you get T-boned and there’s $20,000 worth of damage to your vehicle. In that situation, you’re most definitely going to want to consider a diminished value claim. And if the offer made by the diminished value adjuster isn’t fair or if it meets the criteria, and the criteria saying that the diminished value adjuster offers you $2,000 to settle your diminished value claim, but you have to value it as $10,000. In that situation, because of the large discrepancy between where you are on the diminished value and where the adjuster is, it makes sense to hire a neutral and licensed and certified appraiser to appraise that vehicle. And then also in doing that, if you invoke what’s known as the appraisal clause, the insurance company will also have to hire an appraiser whose neutral and licensed. You’ll pay for your own appraiser. The insurance company will pay for theirs. Those two appraisers will work together to come to an agreement on the diminished value of your vehicle.
|Okay, and that’s for new Mercedes Benz off the lot. If someone has, hypothetically, a 2005 Toyota Highlander with 170,000 miles on it, is that also an option for them, or maybe it doesn’t make financial sense?
|So it may not make… Well, in that situation most likely it’s not going to make financial sense to pay to invoke what’s known as the appraisal clause under North Carolina law, which allows you to hire a licensed and certified appraiser and requires the insurance company to hire a licensed and certified appraiser. Probably not going to make sense from a financial perspective because what you’re paying for that appraiser may actually be more than what you could potentially recover on a diminished value claim.
|Now, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a diminished value claim and in that situation, you might want to work directly with a diminished value adjuster and try to resolve that without the need for hiring an appraiser because it just probably is not going to make financial sense for you.
|All right, well thank you very much, Paige. It’s been very informative. Thanks for joining us today.
|Thanks for having me.
|We appreciate you joining us on this episode of When Accidents Happen. To learn more about today’s discussion or to tell us your story, visit our website brownmoorelaw.com. That’s B-R-O-W-N-M-O-O-R-E-L-A-W.com. Or call 704-335-1500.
|The insights and views presented in When Accidents Happen are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney, nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for the personal attention you deserve, contact Brown Moore & Associates today.