A personal injury claim most often stems from injuries received during a car accident. An individual will have to file a claim to get compensation for their medical bills and may also need to file a property damage claim to recover the damages for their vehicle. It is always best to get qualified legal advice from a personal injury attorney rather than attempting to handle the claims on your own. This is due partly to your need to prove fault in a personal injury case. It is also a good idea because of the tactics often used by the insurance company to keep from paying you a fair settlement.
If you are like most people, your vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you have ever made. It is also one of the most important tools that you rely on almost every day. You need your car to go to work, to go buy groceries, and to get the kids to school. If your vehicle is damaged in a car accident, it may require expensive repairs before you can drive it again. If the damage exceeds the value of the car, it will be totaled and the insurance company will not pay for repairs. Instead, they should pay you the entire value of the car so you can buy a new one of equal value. You could also be out for a rental vehicle to use until your vehicle is repaired or replaced.
How Insurance Companies Fight a Property Damage Claim
Have you ever wondered why your insurance company advises you to contact them immediately after an accident? It isn’t because they want to make sure they chip in and do their part! They want to make sure you don’t take any blame for the other driver’s injuries or damage to their property. They want to get control of the situation so that they can pay as little as possible.
When your car is the only one involved or the injuries are minimal, you may be better off not to contact your insurance company at all. If your deductible is higher than the cost of damage to your car, you could end up with points on your driving record and the possibility of increased premiums for having an accident even though you didn’t collect.
Any time there are personal injuries involved or enough damage that you can’t afford to pay it on your own, you will need to let your insurance company know right away. Most insurance companies require you to report accidents “promptly.” If you don’t, they can disclaim yours or the other driver’s claim and they won’t pay out any benefits.
If another driver caused the accident, it is their insurance that will pay for your injuries and for property damages. If the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, your car insurance company may pay for your vehicle damage. This is only true if you have collision coverage and not just liability.
If the other driver has liability and not collision coverage, they will likely also have property damage coverage. In most states, drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in liability for property damage but the minimum is $5,000 in California. That means that a driver must have a minimum of $5,000 in coverage, but they can opt to carry more. Having more coverage protects drivers from accountability when they are at fault for damages that occur in an accident.
Do not get confused between the amount of time the insurance company allows you to report the accident and the statute of limitations. In California, you have three years to file a claim for loss of personal or real property. If you miss this deadline, the courts will dismiss your case.
Best Case Scenario
Ideally, the at-fault driver has collision insurance with adequate coverage to pay for your injuries and your property damage. The insurance company will consider your claim valid and pay you the money you need to pay your medical bills and compensate for any lost income. You have no financial worries and are free to focus on getting better and driving to work in your new car.
Why This Never Happens
Many drivers limit their property damage liability to $5,000 so they can save money on their premiums. If you have ever had any repairs made to your vehicle, you know that $5,000 is just a drop in the bucket in any case where major damage has occurred. The odds of needing extensive repairs are even greater if an accident was serious enough to cause you serious injuries.
The insurance company is also unlikely to step up and give you the money you need without challenging your claim. As much as they enjoy collecting premiums each month, they are far less enthused about having to pay out. They will try every option available to them to keep from paying and they have a number of tactics they won’t hesitate to use. Nothing makes an insurance adjuster happier than going up against a claimant who hasn’t got a personal injury lawyer to advise them.
It can be surprising when an insurance adjuster calls you at home and makes you an offer on your claim. What you probably won’t realize is that the amount of the offer is already far below the amount of your damages. The claims adjuster works for the insurance company; not for you. They will assess the damage to your vehicle and ask questions about the accidents. They know how to use anything you say, do, or fail to do against you.
Another common tactic used by insurance companies is to under-value your property. The estimate the adjuster gives you is not carved in stone. The insurance company can request that you get multiple estimates but they can’t dictate where you go to get them.
If you bought your car a long time ago or are unfamiliar with how vehicles depreciate, the value the insurance company places on your car may seem like a fair one. To make sure you get the full value for your car’s repair or replacement, use a guide like Kelly Blue Book or the National Association of Automobile Dealers’ NADA Guides for a reference.
If you do your research and determine that the amount the insurance company offers isn’t enough to cover the amount of your property damage claim, you can negotiate. Keep in mind that the insurance company may ask you to provide or sign documents that they will use against you. You should never talk to the insurance adjuster without legal representation.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney to File Your Property Damage Claim
You have rights, not the least of which is to receive adequate compensation for the loss of your property. Attempting to file a claim on your own could result in your discrediting and de-valuing your case. The insurance company relies on your lack of knowledge to help them keep from paying you. An experienced personal injury attorney has the knowledge of the law and will understand the factors of your case that require special care. They can protect your rights and ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies and their tactics on a regular basis. They know how to take advantage of you with the single goal of paying you less than you deserve. Even their attitude toward you can be carefully considered to put you off-guard or make you feel guilty for trying to get something that isn’t yours.
Many people who file a property damage claim after an accident are also fighting to heal from injuries. They must work to get the compensation they need for medical bills and for the loss of their vehicle in spite of their current medical condition.
The most important thing you can do after an accident is to get the proper medical treatment for your injuries. Put your property damage and personal injury claims into the hands of a trusted personal injury attorney so you can focus on getting well.
The laws of personal injury are complex and vary from state to state. There are exceptions to many of the rules that could make a difference in the outcome of your claim. For example, the law may extend the statute of limitations under certain circumstances, giving you more time to file your claim. The insurance company that represents the at-fault driver is never going to share this information with you.
Most people lack the knowledge of the law that they need to negotiate successfully with the insurance company. A personal injury attorney has the knowledge of the law and exceptional negotiation skills on their side. They know what a fair deal is for you and they won’t back down until they know they have gotten the best possible settlement for you.
Batta Fulkerson is San Diego’s premier boutique personal injury law firm. We understand the challenges you face and the frustration of trying to get the compensation you need from a property damage claim. Our team of personal injury lawyers can take care of all the legal details and reduce the stress you face from your car accident injuries. Contact us today at 619-333-5555 and let us help you get the compensation you deserve for your damaged vehicle.