AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS, PROPERTY DAMAGE AND YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
May 5, 2018
You’ve just been involved in a car accident: Your new Mercedes now has a dented fender and your brand new Bulgari watch was smashed when during the impact your wrist struck the steering wheel. You’ve suffered extensive property damage and now need to negotiate with your insurance company to ensure you receive fair compensation for your damaged property.
First you need to decide what type of claim to file. Filed claims for property damage take three forms:
- A claim against the liability insurance of another person involved in the accident. This is called a third-party claim.
- A claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage if your uninsured motorist coverage includes property damage, and the other motorist was not insured but was at least partly at fault.
- A claim under your own car insurance, even if you were 100 percent at fault.
If the accident did not involve another vehicle, then you can only file a third-party claim to receive compensation for any property damage caused by the car accident. Keep in mind that property damage claims are not part of the damages formula for determining injury compensation. Rather, property damage claims are calculated separately and, in the case of vehicle damage, are usually settled far more quickly than the attendant injuries from an automobile accident.
PROCESSING A CLAIM OF PROPERTY DAMAGE TO A VEHICLE
The process of filing a claim will vary depending on whether you need to file a third-party claim, an uninsured motorist claim or a claim under your own car insurance. Regardless of the type of claim filed, property-damage negotiations are usually carried out soon after the accident, and are usually conducted over the phone. The insurance adjuster will request from the property damage claimant copies of written repair, reports on the inspections of damage and proof of an item’s market value.
When it comes time to deal with your insurance adjuster, be reasonably wary of any offers during the period immediately following your accident. Insurance companies will try to engage you in conversation about your accident. Do not admit, sign or reveal anything to your insurance company unless you are represented by an attorney trained in property damage and automobile accidents. Your own interests and those of your insurance company will always conflict, especially in cases involving uninsured motorists.
The investigation conducted by your insurer will only be undertaken with the goal of reducing the insurer’s financial obligation. Therefore, it is important that you seek legal counsel if you become involved in an automobile accident. One of insurance companies’ more devious tricks is to misrepresent the amount of their policy limits in order to settle cases for far less than the nature of the accident-related personal actually merit. Insurance companies might also advise their client not to seek the services of an attorney, threatening that the attorney’s fees would consume any settlement doled out to the victim. And some insurance agents attempt to coerce their clients into signing documents under false pretenses, thus ensuring their clients forfeit their right to a just settlement. However, remember that, with the exception of certain ones assigned to large and complex cases, insurance adjusters usually have no specialized legal or medical training.
WHAT TO DO WHEN INVOLVED IN AN CAR ACCIDENT INVOLVING PROPERTY DAMAGE: SIX ACTIONS
It is important that you follow certain steps when involved in a vehicle accident involving property damage. If you find yourself involved in an automobile accident, make sure that you:
- File a police report.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine, consult with a medical professional, or visit an emergency room, so that there may be documentation of any injuries.
- Remain at the scene of the accident.
- Exchange information with the other motorists involved in the accident. Exchange driver’s license and vehicle registration information. Make sure to write down the motorist’s name, address, telephone number, date of birth, driver’s license number and expiration date, and make sure you write a description of the other vehicle (make, model, license plate number, expiration date and vehicle identification number). Last, make sure you copy down the name and contact information of the other motorist’s insurance company.
- Take as many pictures as you can of the crash scene and any additional property damage.
- Take down the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- Never admit fault at the scene of an accident.
Because it is often hard to retain accurate memories of an accident, keep a running log of details related to your accident. Write down such details as the time of day and week the accident occurred, the name and badge number of the attending police officer, the purpose of your trip and details about the accident location. These details will come in helpful when settling a claim with your insurance company.
CONSULT AN ATTORNEY TRAINED IN PROPERTY DAMAGE
You should pursue cases of extensive property damage to your vehicle and other belongings with the aid of an attorney trained in the laws and regulations governing property damage. Conduct research and find an attorney that can best handle your case and aid you in negotiating with your insurance company. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney how many years’ experience he or she has had handling cases similar to your property damage claim.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the often complex process of filing a property damage claim with your insurance company. Seek the aid of a lawyer experienced in property damage claims instead. A lawyer trained in property damage can help you win adequate compensation from your insurance company, because he or she will be able to secure access to documents concerning your accident that you otherwise would not be able to access. They can also aid in negotiations with claims adjusters. Most importantly, a property damage attorney can ensure you receive suitable compensation for property damage sustained in an automobile accident from your insurance company.
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