Car Accident Property Damage & When to Get a Lawyer
After a car accident, there is one thing almost all crash victims do. They get out and look at the damage to their cars. Why? Because everyone is worried about their property damage. Fixing a car that has been in an accident can be expensive and can take a long time. During that time, it is difficult to get to work, run errands, and attend appointments. As such, crash victims often want to get their car repaired quickly, so they can get back to their lives.
What is Property Damage?
In simplest terms, property damage refers to any physical damage to the property of another person. In a car accident, the damage most likely occurs to the vehicle itself. However, most crash victims fail to consider other types of property damage in a car crash. That can include damage to personal belongings, as well as to physical property or businesses.
What Property Damage Can Be Claimed?
In a car accident, accident victims can claim any monetary loss to their personal property. Property damage claims cover the cost of the damage to your vehicle, as well as other personal property that suffered damage. This can include:
- Car seats or child safety seats
- Home damage (such as mailboxes etc)
- Repairs to your vehicle
- Replacing your car
- Towing expenses
- Rental car expenses
In most cases, the at-fault party is responsible for covering the costs associated with property damages. However, the cost of property damage can quickly exhaust even the best insurance policies. No matter what though, you only have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim to collect compensation for your property damage. This is known as the statute of limitations and if you miss this deadline, you will be prevented from ever filing a claim.
Steps to Take After a Property Damage Car Accident
There are several important things to remember when handling your property damage after an accident.
First, it is important to get the name and insurance information of the other driver, especially if the accident is their fault. If the accident is their fault it will be their insurance company that will be paying for repairs. Along with that, it is important to take pictures of the damage at the scene of the accident. The photographs will be helpful in resolving your property damage, and often the photographs can be used to help illustrate how the accident occurred.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Next, you will need to notify your own insurance company of the car accident. Even if you are not to blame for the crash, your insurance company needs to know. By reporting your crash to your own insurance company, they can help you get your car repaired without waiting for your claim to reach a settlement.
It is a requirement to notify your insurance company. When you purchased your car insurance policy, you agreed to notify them in the case of an accident. This is known as a notification clause. Failure to notify them after an accident could result in hefty penalties and the denial of future coverage. It is important to know that notifying your insurance company is not the same thing as filing a claim.
Your insurance company will be there to help you through the crash, however, the “at-fault” driver’s insurance company will ultimately bear responsibility. Your insurer has a duty to defend you after a car accident. If the other driver is not insured, you will need your own UM/UIM insurance policy to kick in.
Notify the “At Fault” Driver’s Insurance Company
Once you notify your insurer, you must contact the “at fault” driver’s insurance company. A claims adjuster will handle your claim and evaluate how damaged your car truly is. It is important to remember that their job is to pay you as little as possible. This may mean that they want you to get your car repaired at their repair shop or accept after-market parts. It may also mean that they undervalue your claim and the amount you need to have your vehicle repaired or called a total loss.
If your vehicle is damaged badly enough that it needs to be towed, time can become a factor. Unless you specify a repair shop, the wrecker service will tow your vehicle to a storage facility that charges fees for each day your vehicle is there. If your vehicle is towed and is at a storage facility, it is important to determine as quickly as possible whether your vehicle is a “total loss” or is “repairable.” The insurance company will make that determination.
If your vehicle is repairable find a repair shop that is willing to repair vehicles that have been in an accident. You will need to tell the repair shop where your vehicle is being stored and ask the repair shop to have it towed to their shop. The bills for towing are usually paid by the repair shop and included in the repair shop bill. The sooner your vehicle is out of storage the sooner it will get fixed and you will not have to worry about extra storage fees.
If your vehicle is a “total loss,” you are entitled to the fair market value of the vehicle immediately prior to the accident. Once the insurance company has made you a reasonable fair market value offer, you have a reasonable time (on average less than a week) to accept the offer. After such time, you could be responsible for excess storage fees.
Lastly, you may find that the liability insurance company is not responding or not treating you right. When this occurs, you need an experienced car accident attorney on your side to help ensure that you get the compensation you need to have all property damaged repaired to your satisfaction.
Bringing Property Damage Claims to Court
If you do not believe that the insurance company is giving you a fair settlement, you could decide to take them to small claims court or file a personal injury claim against them. If you suffered an injury in the crash, as well as property damage, you would benefit from filing a personal injury lawsuit. This type of lawsuit allows you to seek compensation for a wide range of damages including lost wages and medical bills.
If you are filing a claim against the at-fault driver for just the property damage, you may be able to handle this in small claims court. This type of lawsuit generally seeks reimbursement for the property damage done and for any property expenses.
Sometimes, an insurance company acts in bad faith when settling a claim or during negotiations. They may refuse to pay you the benefits you are owed or they may deny your claim without cause.
Even if you do not believe you need to file a lawsuit, it is best to speak to an experienced attorney about your case. Personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and reviews so you can explore your legal options without any upfront costs. This is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way after a serious crash.
We Can Help
If you suffered an injury due to a car accident the team of personal injury lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton can help. Arkansas and Tennessee are our homes and we want to make sure our neighbors and friends are supported.
With seven offices conveniently located throughout Arkansas and Tennessee—Little Rock, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Jacksonville, Bryant, and Memphis —our personal injury lawyers are easily accessible when you need help. Our experienced car accident injury attorneys are here to help you through this difficult time.