PROPERTY DAMAGE IN AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIMS

The period after a car accident can be very stressful. If you have recently been involved in an accident involving property damage to your vehicle, it is important understand the property damage-related compensation available.

When your car is damaged in an auto accident, and there is property damage coverage, your insurance company (or the at fault insurance company) will either pay for repairs or "total" your vehicle. When an insurance company totals a vehicle, the vehicle is considered a total loss and the insured is paid the actual cash value (ACV) for the vehicle.

The ACV of your vehicle is how much your vehicle is worth at the time of assessment. You may have bought your car for $38,000, but your vehicle is going to be worth a lot less than what you originally paid when assessing its ACV years, or even just months later.

Your car’s ACV falls immediately after it leaves the dealership by up to 30%, even though your car is still "brand-new" when you’re driving it away from the dealership, insurance adjusters will still count it as "used" once you drive it off the lot.

Knowing the ACV of your car is important, because insurance companies will be paying you that sum if you somehow end up totaling your vehicle. Understanding how ACV is calculated can help you negotiate a better ACV for your vehicle, thus increasing your insurance payout for your vehicle.

Factors used in determining ACV of your car:

1.The age of your vehicle – the older the vehicle, the lower the ACV because of wear-and-tear.

2.How well you maintained the car – regular dealer servicing, regular oil changes, etc

3.Vehicle Model – the model of your vehicle, including special trim packages, limited editions, classic cars, and vehicle recalls.

4.Mileage – the lower your mileage, the higher the ACV

5.Accidents – If your vehicle has never been in an accident your ACV will be much higher compared to a vehicle that has been involved in an accident.

6. Vehicle valuation guides including; Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or the NADA guide.

You may not believe that your car is a total loss, however this determination is made on the basis of the cost of repair versus the car’s worth. A car will be considered totaled if the repair costs exceed a certain percentage of the car’s worth. The percentage will differ from company to company, but usually ranges from 51% to 90%.

Once your car is deemed totaled and you are paid actual cash value for it, your car is taken to a salvage yard where it is auctioned off. If you are attached to your car, actual cash value may not seem like an equitable deal to you, however when you sign a contract with your insurer, it is understood that the insurer will not have to pay more than the car is worth. But the insurer also agrees to make you whole by placing you in the same position as you would have been without the accident, hence the ACV of a comparable make, model, year, and quality vehicle.

If you want to keep your car, you can accept the actual cash value minus your deductible, minus the salvage value (what the insurer would have gotten at a salvage yard). If you do decide to retain your vehicle, you must register the vehicle as a "salvage title" vehicle, which tells the world that your vehicle was deemed a total loss as a result of an accident. If you repair the vehicle, and try to resell it, you must disclose this to any potential buyer, and will find that it has much less value due to the salvage title.

In addition to the costs of repairing or replacing property damage to one’s vehicle caused by the wrongful conduct of another, you may also recover the cost of a rental car for a reasonable period of time while your car is being repaired or replaced. However, once an offer has been made by the insurance company to compensate one for the loss of a vehicle, the insurance company will normally terminate the rental car reimbursement period, because it is assumed that you could then obtain a replacement vehicle with the total loss payment. Similarly once repairs are completed, rental reimbursement will end.

A personal injury attorney can represent you for your vehicle repairs, or total loss negotiations with the insurance company, and this is normally a free service combined with representation for your bodily injuries. In a contingency case, the attorney normally receives a percentage of any bodily injury settlement, however the attorney does not receive a percentage of your vehicle repairs or total loss payment, and as such the lawyer is assisting you with your property damage for free. Many clients do not realize that the lawyer handling their injury claim is handling their property damage for free.

Problems may arise when repairs are not completed to the clients satisfaction, and these should be brought to the attention of the repair facility and your attorney immediately. In some cases, a supplement is paid by the insurance company in order to properly complete the repairs. Other problems arise when a client believes that his or her vehicle are worth much more than the ACV offer from the insurance company. In these cases, the client can assist their attorney by providing documentation, and comparable sales to bolster what the client believes the vehicle is worth.

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