How to Handle Your Property Damage
The following should not be considered legal advice on your property damage claim. For questions about your specific property damage claim, you should consult an attorney. The following information is based on the current common or case law for the State of Texas. Please note that the laws for motor vehicle accident claims vary from state to state and are subject to change. You need to consult with an attorney licensed in the state where your accident happened for advice and information regarding your claim.
We generally find that most of our clients can handle their own property damage claim. The following instructions should help you settle your property damage claim directly with the insurance company.
- You need to obtain 2 or 3 estimates from different places and to take photographs showing the damage to your vehicle. If your vehicle is not drive able, then you should have it towed to a body shop or repair facility (unless there is any reason to believe it is a total loss) to have the estimate done. You need to contact the insurance company and let them know where the vehicle is located so they can inspect it.
- You need to submit two to three estimates to the insurance company. The insurance company may also require you to go to one of their drive-thru centers (if your vehicle is drive able) so they can obtain their own estimate.
- If your vehicle is in the pound, then you will need to have it towed as soon as possible to either your home or to a body shop of your choice. You should send a copy of all storage and towing receipts to the insurance company so you can be reimbursed.
- Once the insurance company has made a decision on liability, then you will need to take your car to the body shop of your choice to be repaired. If you are given a property damage check and estimate from the insurance company, you will need to take these documents to the body shop. Please note, if the body shop should find additional damage, they will need to contact the insurance company and request a supplemental estimate for the additional damages.
- If your car has declared a total loss, then the insurance carrier owes you the fair market value (FMV) of your vehicle plus tax, title, and license. If you do not agree with the amount the insurance company is offering you, then you need to find out the FMV of your vehicle by referring to the Kelly Blue Book which is available on line at www.kbb.com. Additionally, you should check in the classified section of your newspaper and with local dealerships to see what similar vehicles (make/model, mileage, options, and condition) are selling for in your area. This information should help you negotiate a fair price for your vehicle. The insurance company should pay you amount greater than the loan value and equal to or slightly less or more than the average retail price shown in the Kelly Blue Book. You can also refer to the NADA at www.nada.com. PLEASE Note that some insurance companies do not use the NADA but it may help you determine whether the amount they are offering you is fair. Be sure to use the Private Party Value when looking up the value of your vehicle and have your mileage available. If you want to keep your vehicle, let the insurance company know and they will let you do so but they will usually deduct the salvage value from the amount that they offered you.
- PLEASE NOTE, IF THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE EXCEEDS THE VALUE OF YOUR VEHICLE, THEN IT WILL BE DECLARED A TOTAL LOSS. Insurance companies are only obligated to pay the owner of the vehicle the Fair Marker Value for your vehicle plus tax, title and license fees - NOT WHAT YOU OWE ON IT. You should instruct the insurance company in writing to include your name on the property damage check. You or your attorney should then contact the lien holder to negotiate full and final payment of your loan based upon the amount being offered by the insurance company. See paragraph 5 above about how to determine the replacement value of your vehicle.
- If your vehicle is drive able, then you need to contact the insurance company regarding a rental before you put your vehicle into the body shop to be repaired. Most insurance companies have direct billing where they refer you to a specific rental car company to obtain your rental and pay this company directly for your rental bill. PLEASE NOTE, THE INSURANCE COMPANY IS ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THE “INSURANCE RATE” WHICH VARIES FROM POLICY TO POLICY BUT IS USUALLY BETWEEN $21.00 - $30.00 PER DAY (NOT INCLUDING TAX) FOR THE NUMBER OF DAYS IT TAKES TO REPAIR YOUR VEHICLE. Some insurance companies do not offer direct billing but will reimburse you for your rental bill not to exceed the “insurance rate”. YOU WILL NEED HOW THE INSURANCE CARRIER HANLDES RENTALS AND WHAT THE INSURANCE RATE IS AT THE TIME YOU SET UP YOUR RENTAL. Be sure to ask the rental car company to give you the insurance rate.
- If your vehicle is not drive able, then you need to contact the insurance company immediately to arrange a rental. Please note the insurance company will not pay for the rental for any period during which either you or the body shop caused delays in starting repairs or allowing the carrier to inspect your vehicle. The insurance company, however, may be responsible for rental bills while you wait for them to inspect the vehicle or investigate the claim. As indicated above, some insurance companies offer direct billing but this is not mandatory.
- What if I am unable to get a rental vehicle? If the insurance company does not offer direct billing and you are unable to rent a vehicle because you are either under 21 years of age and/or do not have a credit card, you may not be able to get a rental. The liability carrier (as opposed to your insurance company) is obligated to reimburse you for “loss of use” which is $20.00 per day for each day you were unable to rent a vehicle while your vehicle was being repaired.
- If your vehicle is declared a total loss, then the insurance company will not pay for the rental after they make you a reasonable offer to settle your property damage (assuming it is a fair offer). Most insurance companies, however, will give you a grace period of several days while the check is being mailed to you. You should ask the insurance company about how long they will continue to pay for the rental, when you accept their offer to pay your property damage claim.
- If your vehicle is used for business purposes, then you are entitled to a same or similar vehicle. This includes vehicles used to transport equipment, supplies, and other items used in your business. Same or similar does not mean that the insurance company has to give you an identical vehicle (same make and model), it means that they must give you a vehicle in the same class as your vehicle.
BE SURE THAT ANY CHECK AND/OR RELEASE THE LIABILITY CARRIER HAS YOU SIGN STATES THAT THE AMOUNT OFFERED IS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE ONLY. If the check or release says “any and all claims” do not sign it without contacting an attorney. The above information and instructions answer the most common questions we are asked. Your particular situation may be different so you should consult with an attorney if you have any questions or concerns.
Please feel free to call me at 1-800-275-6720
(in Texas only) or 214-739-3800, to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim. Or visit our Contact Us page for more information about
contacting our office.