Tips for Handling the Damage to Your Car after an Accident

People often have questions and concerns about their car after they have been involved in an accident. If the accident is your fault, your only hope of getting paid for the value of the car or having it repaired is through your own insurance company. Your insurance company only pays if you have collision, or full, coverage on you your car. If you have only liability coverage and the accident is your fault, the only way the car will be repaired is if you pay for it out of your pocket.

If the collision is not your fault, getting your car repaired or replaced can be difficult.

1. What should I do first?

Make sure you notify your own insurance company. They can help getting the other driver’s insurance to accept responsibility and pay you for your car. Immediately remove your personal items from your car. Often the car is towed quickly. Take pictures of your car, particularly if you are injured. Some insurance companies try to dispose of vehicles as quickly as possible if the car is totaled.

2. Who pays for my car?

What if the other driver’s insurance is stalling? As long as the other driver has insurance and is at fault for the accident, his insurance company will ultimately be responsible for paying for your car. The process of accepting fault for the accident may take some time. The insurance company is entitled to investigate the collision for a reasonable amount of time prior to determining fault and paying a claim. If the other driver’s company does not pay after a reasonable period of time, you can elect to have your own company pay for the car if you have collision coverage. You will be responsible for the deductible, which will be reimbursed when the other carrier accepts fault. If the other insurance company does not accept fault, you will have to file a lawsuit against the driver who hit you to recover the property damages.

3. What about storage and towing costs?

Be sure you keep receipts for towing and any storage. You may need to pay to have your vehicle moved if it is incurring storage costs. You are responsible for minimizing cost if possible and you could be responsible for excessive storage costs if you do not move the vehicle.

4. Is my car repairable or is it a total loss? Who decides?

Whether a car is “totaled” depends on both the value of the car as well as the amount of damage. If the damage to the car is more than the car is worth, it is a total loss, even if the car still can be driven. Most insurance companies consider a car totaled if the cost to repair the car exceeds 70% to 80% of the value of the car. If the insurance company determines that your car is a total loss, you may keep your car but will have to deduct the salvage value from your proceeds.

5. What if I think the car is worth more than they have offered to pay?

The value of a particular car is determined according to industry standards. N.A.D.A and Kelly’s Blue Book will give you accurate values of your car. The insurance company may be willing to negotiate some if you have good documentation to support your valuation.

6. What happens if I owe more on my car than the insurance company will pay?

Unfortunately, the insurance company is only required to pay you the value of the car. If you have purchased gap insurance, that policy will make up the difference. What you owe on the car does not change the value of the car.

7. Can I choose where to have my car repaired?

Yes, you do not have to use the shop suggested by the insurance company. If your body shop charges more to fix the car than what the insurance company estimated the repair costs to be, the insurance carrier still has to pay for the repairs. Make sure your body shop has the name of the responsible insurance company before doing the work.

8. When am I entitled to a rental car?

If your car is a total loss and not able to be d rive, the insurance company is required to provide you a rental car (comparable to your car) for a reasonable time after they pay you for the value of your car. A reasonable time usually means one or two days for you to purchase another car. You must give the rental back or pay for it yourself after this time. If your car can be repaired, you are entitled to a rental car while your car is being repaired.

9. What if the person who hit me does not have insurance?

You insurance company should pay for the damages to your car through your uninsured motorist coverage. In this case, you do not have to pay a deductible and it will not affect your insurance rates. Even if you only have liability insurance on your vehicle, you can get paid for the damage to your car in this situation. You only need to rely on your collision coverage when an accident is your fault. Getting your car repaired after a collision can be frustrating and time consuming. If you have any questions we will be glad to try to answer them.