After any car accident, the most important thing to consider is the health and wellbeing of the occupants. Things can be replaced. People cannot.
However, that doesn’t mean that any property damage you sustained should be ignored, whether or not you were also injured in the accident. Having to repair or replace a vehicle, or even use a rental car in the meantime, can be an expensive endeavor. You might have even lost valuable property inside the car.
If the accident wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t be left on the hook due to the reckless or careless actions of an at-fault driver. But what counts as property damage in an auto accident, and how much can you claim? Let’s take a closer look below.
When you file a property damage claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you may seek compensation for any real or personal property damaged, destroyed, or lost as a direct result of the accident.
Most obviously, this includes your car itself. But it also includes any personal property that was inside the vehicle that was also damaged. For example:
Other costs that are directly related to damage to the vehicle may also be covered, such as towing costs or the necessary and reasonable cost of a rental car (as well as taxi fares, public transportation costs, etc.) while you wait to receive your settlement check or while your car is being repaired.
To determine the value of your property damage claim for the vehicle itself, several important valuations must be made:
If the estimated cost of vehicle repairs is less than 75% of the full market value of the vehicle, the insurance company must pay the repair costs. If the repairs were substantial enough to lower the car’s fair market value, you should also negotiate for the diminished value.
If the estimated cost of vehicle repairs is more than 75% of the fair market value of the vehicle, the insurance provider must pay either the full fair market value (and buy the car from you outright) or the full fair market value minus the salvage value (which means you keep the car).
In both Kentucky and Indiana, drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 in property damage liability insurance as part of their car insurance policy. You won’t be able to recover compensation beyond the coverage limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, meaning if your car is worth more than $25,000 you could easily end up getting much less than fair compensation. And if the driver is uninsured, you may not be able to collect anything from them.
We strongly recommend purchasing uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as part of your own auto insurance policy to protect you against these kinds of scenarios, particularly if you have a vehicle that would be especially expensive to replace.
If you only have a property damage claim, but not a personal injury claim, you should be able to handle your insurance claim on your own in most cases. Because property-only car accident claims tend to have relatively straightforward damage calculations and low insurance coverage limits, hiring an attorney usually isn’t worth it.
A car accident attorney might be helpful in some circumstances, for example if there was significant property damage involving valuable or irreplaceable items, and the insurance company is refusing to pay.
The situation may be different if you were also injured in the car crash. Personal injury claims are much more complex than property damage claims, and car insurance companies fight them much harder. We strongly recommend that you hire a personal injury attorney if you are seeking financial compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and other damages as the result of a bodily injury.
Once you’ve hired a personal injury attorney to handle your car accident claim, they may be willing to help you reach a fair settlement for the property damage component of your case, too. This is something we are happy to do for our clients as we work on their injury claims.
While we usually recommend against hiring an attorney for claims that only involve property damage, we also understand that the process can still be confusing and frustrating, with many important factors to consider. That’s why attorney Karl Truman put together a free guide to help crash victims avoid the headaches and stress, save money, and negotiate a fair settlement offer on their own.
In Property Damage After a Car Accident: Your Legal Survival Guide to Handling a Property Damage Claim Without a Lawyer, you’ll learn about things like:
Request your free copy today! You can choose to receive a physical copy by mail, or have the digital version emailed right to your inbox.
If you’re simply looking for guidance on settling a property damage only claim after your car accident, we’re confident that our free guide will be very useful to you as you consider your next steps.
But if you still have questions, or if you need help with a personal injury claim as well, don’t hesitate to give Truman Law Office a call to request a free consultation. Our law firm represents individuals and families of those who were injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents, helping them recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and damages arising from serious injuries. If we believe we can help you with your personal injury case, we’d be happy to handle the property damages portion of your claim as well.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.