Property Damage Info
By Lawrence E. Mittin, Esq.
1. WHO IS GOING TO REPAIR MY CAR?
A. The at-fault driver’s insurance company
There are always two options for who will repair your car. The first option is to have the car repaired by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Please note that even though the other driver may have been cited for the accident, his insurance company is not required to repair your vehicle if the insurance company disputes liability. More and more insurance companies are questioning fault even where their driver has been cited. While the primary goal is try to have the at-fault driver’s insurance company accept the property damage claim, you need to be aware that the company has the right to refuse to accept liability and thus, to not pay your property damage claim. If there is a denial of liability and a refusal to pay the property damage claim, you can have your property damage claim processed through your insurance or you can file a lawsuit.
Sometimes the other driver’s insurance company is listed on the police report and we can contact them and get the process moving faster. If the company is not on the police report or there is no police report, then it will take longer to process the claim, as the identity of the other driver’s insurance company has to be located. Once the other driver’s insurance company has been contacted, it could take upwards of 30 days before the insurance company has the vehicle inspected. During this time period, you must not attempt to repair the car yourself or to trade the vehicle in or sell it, as the other insurance company must be allowed to first look at the vehicle. Any alteration or disposal of the vehicle prior to an inspection by the other insurance company or your own insurance company could result in the denial of both your property damage claim and your bodily injury claim. Thus, it is very important that your vehicle be preserved during this time period. It is very beneficial to your property damage claim if there are photos of the property damage and/or an estimate of the damage. These items can be forwarded to the insurance company on your behalf and it usually helps in the processing of your claim.
Even if an estimate is provided to the insurance company, the company will most likely require that one of its adjusters examine your vehicle for an estimate. Sometimes the adjuster will inspect the vehicle at their office, your home, or at the tow yard. Other times, you will be required to bring the vehicle to a dealership for the inspection. Once the insurance company has its own estimate, it will then be in a position to discuss repair of your vehicle. If your vehicle is going to be repaired, you will arrange with the insurance company the date for when the car will be taken to the repair shop in order to obtain a rental. The insurance company will then send you a check for the repairs. You are to take this check to the repair shop and give it to them in order to receive your car back. If the car requires more repairs than the initial estimate, the repair shop will contact the insurance company regarding these additional repairs. You will not be responsible for supplemental repairs if they are related to the accident. Please note that the check sent to you is so that you can pay the repair shop. If you spend the check on something other than your vehicle, you will still need to pay the repair shop for the vehicle in order to receive your vehicle back. Otherwise, the repair shop is allowed to retain the vehicle until its bill is paid in full. Thus, it is very important that you only use the check from the insurance company to pay the repair shop.
You may choose not to repair your vehicle and to just keep the property damage check if you own the vehicle and have title. Please note that if you are still making payments on the vehicle, you must use the check to fix your car. When you own the title to the vehicle and just want to keep the check, you do not take the car to a repair shop. Instead, once the insurance company has performed the estimate, you just ask the insurance company to send you the property damage check. The check is just made payable to you, as we have no involvement with the check. Please note that the acceptance of the check constitutes full and final settlement of your property damage claim. Further, in these instances the insurance company will not pay for any rental charges nor any loss of use charges. Thus, all you will be receiving is the property damage check. Your car will not be repaired and you will not be compensated for a rental or for loss of use of your vehicle.
B. Your insurance company
If you have collision or comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, you can process your property damage claim through your own insurance company. It is always important that you provide our office with all of your insurance information regarding your vehicle so we can contact your insurance company. Normally, if you process the claim through your own company, you will have to pay the deductible. You may be able to be reimbursed for this deductible. If your insurance company is able to receive reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance for the amount it paid on the claim, you might then receive your deductible back. Also, you might be able to receive your deductible back directly from the at-fault insurance company if you prevail in litigation or receive a successful settlement.
Since you would have to pay a deductible, you would not want to process the claim through your insurance company unless it was under the following circumstances: (1) the at-fault driver had no insurance or it was a hit-and-run accident; (2) the at-fault driver’s insurance company has denied liability and refused to pay the claim; (3) the adverse driver does not have enough property damage insurance to pay the full value of your claim; or (4) the at-fault driver’s insurance company has made an unfair offer to settle the property damage claim. Nevada drivers are only required to carry a minimum of $10,000 total for property damage coverage. Frequently, this is not enough coverage, especially in a multi-car accident. In these instances, you will need to process some of your property damage claim through your own company. Also, if the at-fault driver’s insurance company makes an unfair offer on the property damage claim, you can either proceed through your own company or file a lawsuit.
2. WHERE IS MY CAR GOING TO BE REPAIRED?
Regardless of which insurance company processes the claim, you will want to take the vehicle to a repair shop which will work from the estimate. Most repair shops will work from the insurance company estimate. However, some shops charge more for labor than the insurance company will allow. In these instances, you will be responsible for the additional labor charges. Thus, it is normally in your best interest to go to a repair shop that has performed repairs for the insurance company in the past or who will work from the insurance company’s estimate. The insurance company can give you a list of such repair shops.
3. WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THE TOW TRUCK AND THE STORAGE CHARGES?
If your car has been towed from the accident scene and it is now at a tow yard, there are charges which will need to be paid. If the at-fault driver’s insurance agrees to accept liability, we will submit the bills for towing and storage to that company. However, since it may take some time before the at-fault driver’s insurance company either accepts liability and/or processes the claim, if you can pay the storage charges and have the car released from the tow yard, you should do so. The tow yards have the right to auction the vehicle off if the storage charges are not paid within a certain time period. The tow yards are required to give you notice prior to having an auction. If you receive a notice of auction in the mail, you are advised to immediately make arrangements to pay the storage charges. This means that you may have to process the claim through your own insurance company or you may just have to pay the storage charges from your own pocket and you can then seek reimbursement later from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
4. WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CAR IS A TOTAL LOSS?
Under the law, any insurance company has the right to declare a vehicle a total loss if the cost of repairing the vehicle is greater than the fair market value of the vehicle. The fair market value of the vehicle is based on both local and national statistics for comparable values of vehicles of your model, make, mileage, condition, and age. The decision to total the vehicle is the insurance company’s to make. If you are in disagreement with this decision or the insurance company’s value for the totaled vehicle, you can process the claim through your own company and apply the deductible.
The insurance company will send you a check for the total loss. If there is a lienholder or bank through which you had a loan for the car, the insurance company will make the check payable to both you and the insurance company. It is important to remember that any insurance company, even your own, only has to pay the fair market value of the vehicle if the car is totaled. An insurance company is not required to give you replacement value for your vehicle. Very often, especially if the car is brand new, a person will owe more on the car than the fair market value of the car. For example, the loan on a car is $15,000 but the fair market value of the vehicle is only $10,000. You, not the other driver nor his insurance company, are responsible for the payment of the $5,000 difference between the loan amount and the fair market value. Thus, if your vehicle is totaled and the fair market value of the vehicle is lower than the loan amount, you will have to pay the remainder of the loan from your own pocket. We realize that this is an unfortunate occurrence and as such, we will make every effort to get your money back on the bodily injury part of your claim.
If you are placed into a rental car while the insurance company is evaluating whether or not to total your vehicle, you must return the rental immediately once you have received an offer to settle your property damage claim. When you receive the offer to settle, the insurance company will tell you when you need to be out of your rental. You must return the rental when the insurance company tells you to, as you will be responsible for any additional days in which you are in the rental. Please note that you may need to return the rental prior to receiving your property damage settlement check.
5. WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR MY RENTAL CAR?
A. When your car is not driveable
When your car is not driveable, you will most likely need a rental as soon as possible. Since it may take some time for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to process your claim, you are advised to go through your own insurance company if you have rental coverage. Most companies have 30 day rentals on their policies. If the rental needs to go beyond this time period, it would be anticipated that the other company will be ready to process your claim and it will assume the rental. The insurance companies will normally only place you into a vehicle with a daily rental charge of between $15-$25 a day. If you are not happy with the size and model of the rental and would like a more expensive rental, then you will have to pay any of the additional rental charges for the daily rate.
Please note that while you are in the rental, your car insurance policy applies. Thus, you do not have to purchase any additional rental coverage unless you do not have sufficient collision coverage. Before purchasing this coverage, please consult either your insurance agent or our office as to whether or not you need such additional coverage. Please note that this additional coverage is a cost which you, not the insurance company, will be paying for out of your own pocket. It is not a reimbursable cost.
The insurance companies will normally not place you in a rental unless you have a credit card. This is because the rental agency requires a credit card in order to rent the vehicle. Sometimes a person can get into a rental without a credit card but this occurs only with certain insurance companies and their car rental agencies. Thus, if you do not have a credit card, you may not be able to rent a vehicle.
The insurance company will only rent the vehicle to the owner of the damaged vehicle. For example, if you are in a friend’s car or your parent’s car, the insurance company will only pay for a rental for your friend or parent, not for you.
You must return the rental vehicle when your car has been repaired. If you continue to drive the rental after the insurance company has been informed that the car has been repaired, you will be responsible for payment for all additional rental days.
B. When your car is driveable
If your car is damaged, but driveable, then you are only entitled to a rental vehicle when your vehicle is taken to the shop for repairs. You must make sure that the parts are in the repair facility to fix your car. You will not be paid for a rental car while your own vehicle sits waiting for parts to come in. When you arrange to take your vehicle to the shop, the rental vehicle will be arranged. You must return the rental vehicle when your car has been repaired. If you continue to drive the rental after the insurance company has been informed that the car has been repaired, you will be responsible for payment for all additional rental days.
6. AM I ENTITLED TO LOSS OF USE DAMAGES?
You are entitled to loss of use of your vehicle. This only applies when you are not in a rental/replacement vehicle. The amount which you may be entitled to receive is very nominal (between $10 to $15 per day). It is advisable that you make arrangements to get alternate transportation as soon as possible.
Hopefully, the above information has been helpful in answering any questions you might have regarding the property damage part of your case. Please do not hesitate to contact us immediately if you have any other question or if you are not sure of something. Again, we appreciate your trust in us and we pledge to be here for you in every way.
The attorneys at Craig P. Kenny & Associates handle all types of car accident, work accident, criminal defense, and DUI cases in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, and throughout the state of Nevada. Our aggressive injury attorney Las Vegas and accident attorneys will fight to get your full compensation for your car accident or workplace accident injuries. If you have been charged with DUI or any other crime, call our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys at (702) 380-2800for a free consultation regarding your case.