PROPERTY DAMAGE ATTORNEY
Because insurance is regulated on a state-by-state basis, the following information is generalized. To determine your rights in your state, please refer to your contract of insurance or give us a call (toll-free and without obligation) at (877) 572-4143 to discuss Property Damage issues.
Contract of insurance (“policy”):
It is essential to know that your insurance “policy” is actually a legally binding contract with specific terms and conditions governing you and the insurer. As it relates to property damage, there are two important parts of the insurance contract – liability coverage and collision coverage (damage to your automobile).
Liability coverage pertains to damage done to someone else’s property in the event YOU are at fault in an accident. Under the liability coverage portion of your insurance contract, your insurer promises to either PAY for the damage on your behalf or DEFEND you (the policyholder). In the event of an accident where you are at fault, the insurer’s obligation is to YOU (the policyholder) – they have no direct responsibility to the “victim” of the accident. Worth noting is that the same rules apply when YOU are the victim of an accident – if someone else was at fault and damages your vehicle and/or injures you, the other person’s insurance company has no direct obligation to you.
Collision coverage is additional coverage and must be purchased separately. This coverage is typically mandatory if there is a loan on the vehicle or if it is a lease. Collision coverage (sometimes referred to as “full coverage” because it often includes comprehensive coverage for fire, theft, glass, etc.) covers damage to your automobile. If you have this coverage, your insurance company is directly responsible to you and must either replace, repair, or pay for damages to your covered vehicle.
THIRD-PARTY PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIMS (when you are the victim of an accident)
Some aspects of a third party claim:
You were not at fault.
There is no deductible.
You are typically entitled to a rental car or loss-of-use compensation.
The other person’s insurance company is NOT directly responsible to you.
The insurance company technically owes $0
The insurer has no right to control the claim or repairs.
You are entitled to compensation for diminished value.
Third-party claims are governed by tort law.
The basic concept of a tort is that the negligence of one individual has led to loss or damages to another. It is a general rule that the law of torts attempts primarily to restore the injured party to as good a position as he held prior to the tort.
Since the insurance company most likely wasn’t driving the vehicle that caused the damage, the insurance company is NOT directly responsible to you – their duty is to their insured, as discussed above. Because they know they are not directly responsible, sometimes the insurer will attempt to take liberties to which they are not entitled. Knowing what your legal rights are is imperative to making sure you don’t get taken advantage of.
FIRST-PARTY PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIMS (coverage afforded by YOUR contact of insurance)
Some aspects of a first-party claim:
- You were at fault, hit by an uninsured motorist, it is a comprehensive claim, or you wish to assert the rights afforded you by the contract of insurance
- Your deductible may apply.
- Depending on additional riders, you may not be entitled to a rental
- The insurance company is directly responsible to you.
- The insurance company owes $$$
- With a few exceptions, you are usually not entitled to diminished value compensation.
- First-party claims are governed by insurance regulations and contract laws.
Because of the power of the (legally binding) contract, it is our position that consumers should ALWAYS file a claim with their insurer whenever coverage is available for property damage.
Some consumers might question the logic of using their own coverage when they are not at fault. Questions like “Why should I have to pay my deductible if I wasn’t at fault?” “Will my insurance go up?” “How do I get a rental car if I don’t have coverage on my policy?,” “I can’t collect for the loss of value if I use my coverage, can I?” and more make filing a claim with your own insurance company seem like the wrong decision. But, rest assured, we know what we’re saying – we’ve been doing this for well over a decade, and we fully understand the claim process as well as the laws surrounding property damage claims.
If you were not at fault, it is often possible to get the other person’s insurance to pay for the rental even if you file to have the repairs done under your own coverage – and if the accident was verifiably someone else’s fault, you would get your deductible back. Having your damaged automobile repaired under your coverage doesn’t prevent you from presenting a claim for diminishment to the adverse carrier. Worth noting is that it is illegal in most states for an insurer to raise your rates if you were not at fault, and the negligent party is known.
As with third party claims regarding property damage, knowing your legal rights is imperative to ensure you get everything you are entitled to. CALL US TODAY FOR A FREE, NO-OBLIGATION CONSULTATION AT (877) 572-4143. IF YOU HAVE A PROPERTY DAMAGE QUESTION – ASK DAVE & MIKE at Wattel & York.com. Visit us on Facebook or Instagram for more information. If you have questions regarding Diminished Value call 877-572-4143.