Who will pay for my property damage?
Before we talk about vehicle repairs, I must remind you again that these posts are not a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney and do not create an attorney/client relationship between us. You should not rely on this post, or the ones that follow in this series, for legal advice in handling a personal injury claim on your own. Each accident has its own unique set of circumstances and it would be improper to give out legal advice via blog without knowing the specific circumstances of your case. There is no substitute for speaking directly with an attorney about your specific situation. I recommend you contact us if you'd like to discuss your case with an attorney. Now, on to this week's discussion: Property Damage.
One of the biggest concerns clients have, and rightfully so, is how their vehicle is going to get repaired after an accident. More specifically, people worry about who is going to pay for the repairs. The simple answer is, you or them. Either you will pay for the repairs, out of pocket or with applicable insurance coverage, or the other driver will. This depends on several factors, including fault for the accident, available coverage and your ability to be without your vehicle for a certain period of time.
If You're Hit By an Uninsured Driver
If an uninsured driver hits you and they pay for your vehicle repairs out of their pocket, you are very very lucky. This does not happen often. The more likely scenario is that you're going to have to make a claim on the other driver's insurance policy to get your vehicle repaired.
Something to be aware of up front is that the other driver's insurance is not going to pay for anything (property damage, rental car, medical treatment, pain & suffering, etc.) until they accept liability. That is, they are not going to pay on a claim until they've investigated the accident and are sure their insured is at fault. This process can sometimes take up to 30 days, depending on the circumstances. Until then, you must mitigate your damages. This part of the claims process can be very frustrating for many people, and it's completely understandable why. Someone hit you, and you have to wait until their insurance company completes an investigation in order to get a rental or repairs from them? Unfortunately, yes. Insurance companies will do their due diligence before making any payments.
If the other driver's insurance company accepts liability they will then begin the process of getting you a rental and repairing your vehicle. They usually approve rental cars for 30-days at a time but extend that time period if your vehicle is still in the shop. It's a good idea to check in with the property damage adjuster handling your claim and the body shop periodically during this time, especially if you know you'll need the rental extended.
The insurance company may present you with a list of “preferred” body shops at which to repair your vehicle, but you are not required to use them. You are free to choose your own repair shop. The parts used in repairing your vehicle are required to be “comparable” to the damaged parts. There is not a requirement to put new parts on a used car.
Property Damage Coverage
If you are unable to wait until the liability decision is made by the other driver's insurance, you may begin this process yourself and you or your insurance company can present a claim to be reimbursed for what you've spent.
If you have the right insurance coverage, you may not have to come out of pocket for a rental car or to get your vehicle fixed. Adding rental coverage on your own insurance policy does not increase premiums by much and can be a lifesaver when you're waiting on the other driver's insurance to accept liability. If you have rental coverage, your insurance will provide a rental car for you. This is normally for 30-days and can sometimes be extended depending on the company. Your insurance company will make a claim with the other driver's insurance to be reimbursed for their expenses related to the rental.
The same goes for property damage coverage. Your collision coverage will pay for the repairs to your vehicle; however, you will have to pay your deductible. In many cases, a deductible amount is a fraction of what and total property damage is. Your insurance company will also make a reimbursement claim with the other driver's insurance to recover your deductible and repay you.
Lienholders require vehicles to have Comprehensive and Collision coverage on vehicles, however rental coverage is not required. You must elect that coverage when buying a policy.
Some people don't like to use their own coverage for a rental or repairs when they were not at fault for an accident. If you're already paying for this coverage in your insurance premium, why not use it? That's what it is there for. You can use your coverage immediately without having to wait for the other driver's insurance to complete the investigation. It's understandable to feel like you shouldn't have to use your own coverage – but you may only be hurting yourself. Every situation is different, but it's something to consider if you're ever in an accident.
If you were hit by someone without any auto insurance you may still be able to have your insurance company pay your vehicle repairs. This is possible if you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) Coverage. Having Property Damage UM/UIM coverage provides you with repairs and a rental car if someone with no coverage hit you. There is a $250 deductible that comes with using this coverage.
In summary, while it can be very inconvenient to be without a vehicle after an auto accident. By taking some proactive steps and ensuring you have the right coverage on your vehicle, you could save yourself a lot of headache in the future. With a little patience and the right insurance you can minimize the amount of frustration after an auto accident and focus on getting yourself back to 100% physically.
If you have any questions about what coverage you have, or what the other driver's insurance company should be doing for you during this stage of your claim contact us immediately and we'd be happy to provide you with a free case evaluation.