If you've been injured in a car accident, your car has probably been damaged also. In addition to worrying about your injuries, you're probably worried about who will pay for the repair or replacement of your automobile. And if the at-fault driver is liable, how can you ensure they will compensate you for the damage to your property? Can a car accident lawyer help me?
Who Is Responsible For My Car Repair?
When your car is damaged in an accident that is no fault of your own, of course, you want to get it repaired and back on the road as soon as possible. And, you want to know who is responsible for paying for your repairs. You have two options for handling the damage to your car from an accident.
You can use your collision coverage for your car repairs. Collision coverage is separate coverage you purchase from your own insurance company. This type of coverage generally has a deductible, so you only pay your deductible amount when you have your car repaired. If the person who hit you or caused the accident is found at fault, your insurance company will contact the other party's insurance company and seek reimbursement for the amount of the deductible. By doing this, you will be repaired and back on the road faster.
However, if you choose to do so, you can go through the insurance of the person who hit you or caused the accident. According to Florida Statute 316.646, Florida law mandates that all drivers carry $10,000 in property damage coverage to be used for repairs to vehicles they damage if found at fault in an accident. This generally takes longer than if you go through your insurance, but if you do not carry collision coverage on your policy, it is the only way you can get your car fixed. Insurance companies have the right to investigate claims, so going through the at-fault driver's insurance can take a lot of time. Find out what your auto insurance covers here.
Property Claims In Car Accidents
Often, because Florida is a no-fault state, the insurance companies will “duke it out.” They will decide who gets what compensation. Just as often, you may not consider the provided compensation for your vehicle and any other property damage acceptable.
Types of Property Damage Claims
A car accident property damage claim may include:
- The cost of vehicle repair.
- Fair market value if your car is considered totaled.
- Cost of a rental car while your car is being repaired.
- The cost of replacing upgrades such as special wheel rims or a stereo system you have had installed.
Can I Make a Property Damage Claim for Items Other Than My Vehicle?
You can file a car accident property claim for any property you can prove was lost or damaged due to the accident. For instance, if you were on your way home and had a week's worth of groceries or other purchases in your trunk, you can claim them. Keep the receipts of any property damaged during the accident.
In addition, car property damage claims can include:
- Mobile phones
- Jewelry and smartwatches
- Prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses
Safety experts recommend the replacement of child car seats and booster seats after a severe or moderate automobile accident. You can also claim the replacement cost of these seats.
How Are Property Damage Claims Handled?
If you've been in a car accident and want to be reimbursed for property damages, the first thing you should do is contact the insurance company of the at-fault driver and let them know about the accident. You'll need to make arrangements for an assessment of the damage to your car. Have a copy of the accident report handy in case the insurance company wants to see it. Also, you should request a rental car if you need one.
In some instances, the insurance company may refuse to pay for the damages. If you have collision insurance, you can contact your insurance company about having the repairs done and leave it to them to deal with the other insurance company about payment. You'll have to pay the deductible but will be reimbursed if the other insurance company pays for the repairs.
Florida law requires all drivers to carry insurance that only includes set minimums for property damage liability and personal injury protection. The law does not require drivers to carry Collision and Comprehensive coverage. If you don't have collision insurance, you will have to sue the at-fault driver.
How Much Am I Entitled to Recover?
Under Florida law, the insurance company for the at-fault party is required to pay for your car repairs/ However, if the total amount for the repairs is more than a percentage of the fair market value of your car, they will likely declare your vehicle a total loss. That percentage varies per insurance company. If the insurance company must pay you a total loss settlement, it is generally a check for the fair market value of your vehicle at the time of the accident. Factors that influence the fair market value include age, mileage, condition, and any modifications and upgrades you've made.
How Is “Fair Market Value” Determined?
Often, fair market value is used to assess and determine your property damage claim. This can be confusing, as fair market value is often not how much you paid for your car, how much you've spent on your car, or even how much it will cost to replace your car.
When determining the fair market value of a totaled car, property damage adjusters use “like kind and quality” (LKQ) when referring to similar vehicles. LKQ is used to assess the fair market value of your car. The adjuster will contact local used car lots to find equivalent cars for sale to establish the value of your car.
However, these car values encompass a wide range and often include cars at the lower end of the price scale. These low prices pull down the average the adjuster uses to determine a settlement offer. But you don't have to settle for this low-ball offer. Ask for a copy of the valuation report. The report should include details about your exact model and how it was equipped, including any extras. Then, call each of the lots and ask about the vehicles on the list. This way, you can ferret out any discrepancies on the list.
When To Contact an Attorney
You are not required to contact an attorney after an accident that was not your fault. However, doing so can help you get the compensation you deserve and avoid liability for the crash. This includes reimbursement for any property damage caused by the accident. No one expects to get into an accident; however, being prepared is your best defense. Here is a quick guide on what to do after a car accident.
As soon as possible after your accident, contact an attorney. An experienced personal injury lawyer near me can protect your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Often, insurance companies try to deny liability for an accident, even if the evidence clearly suggests that their insured is responsible. That is just one reason why you need a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can give you advice on how to get them to pay what you are owed.
If you try to handle a car accident property claim on your own, you could run into many pitfalls. Property damage adjusters often try to get statements that will negatively affect your claim when your guard is down, so having representation or someone to turn to who has your interests in mind is crucial.
You have a number of options when deciding whether or not to repair or replace your damaged car. Insurance companies do not always tell you about all your options. Before making any decisions, contact Weinstein Legal for a free consultation about your case. For answers to your questions regarding car accidents in Florida, check out our car accident lawyer faqs.
Use our free car accident settlement calculator to determine the potential value of your auto accident injury claim.