Property Damage in an Automobile Collision

Responding to an automobile collision can be quite a headache. The sooner an individual who has been in an accident seeks advice from an auto accident attorney in Los Angeles, the better. Not having a reliable vehicle can be very disruptive, which is why sending the damaged vehicle for repair or renting a car is often the first thing that comes to mind. For those who rely on their car as their primary means of transportation, getting back on the road as quickly as possible is crucial to continue their normal routine.

Those who have been in a car collision should know that a property damage claim is distinct from an injury claim. While the attorneys at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen specialize in injury law, vehicle damage is a common concern initially raised by clients when pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. This article outlines legal information for individuals looking to receive compensation for their damaged vehicle. For more detailed information, call us at (626) 914-9806 or fill out our free case evaluation form.

Categories of Property Damage Claims That Arise in an Auto Accident

Vehicle Repair and Total Loss

Two scenarios can arise in this situation.

  1. The damaged vehicle is repairable, and the repairs cost less than the open market value of the vehicle.
  2. The repairs cost more than the value of the vehicle, resulting in the total loss of the vehicle.

According to the law concerning the total loss, individuals are entitled to the fair market value for the lost vehicle in their locale. Insurance companies will review documented sales of similar vehicles in the area, which they use to calculate the loss valuation. Insurance companies will then add in extra for the tax, title, and license that victims have lost.

In a scenario where an individual has been financing a car that gets totaled and the balance owed on their loan is more than the car’s value on the open market, gap insurance becomes critically important. In fact, most financing companies require it. Gap insurance covers the difference between the total loss value and the remaining balance on the car loan.

Rental/Loss of Use

In addition to the cost of repair or total loss, vehicle collision victims are also entitled to recover for the loss of use of their vehicle (often referred to as rental reimbursement). This recovery is designed to cover the cost of a replacement vehicle while the damaged vehicle is being repaired or replaced. However, the law requires that claimants “mitigate their damages,” meaning that the rental vehicle should be returned as soon as reasonably possible to prevent unreasonably high fees.

Diminished Value

This scenario only applies when a vehicle can be repaired. In some cases, even if the vehicle is repaired, the resale value is diminished by sheer virtue of the fact that the vehicle has been in an accident. Pursuing a diminished value claim allows the driver not responsible for the accident to recoup the difference between their car's worth before and after a car accident. If a client disagrees with the insurance company’s estimated valuation, the auto accident attorneys at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen will get that diminished value claim to an appraiser to determine the additional amount the client is owed by the insurance company. Making a diminished value claim is usually only advisable for high-value vehicles.

Personal Property

If items were damaged in the automobile collision, consider pursuing a personal property claim. For example, items inside a vehicle are often lost or damaged during a car accident (e.g. cell phones, laptop computers, etc.).

In California, insurance companies take note if there were children’s car seats during the time of the collision. California law requires children’s car seats to be replaced after an accident and the insurance company is required to pay to replace the seat as part of your property damage claim.

Receive Compensation for Property Damage Claims

Provided you have first-party coverage available (collision, rental, etc.), do not be afraid to file a claim through your insurance rather than waiting for the at-fault party’s insurance company. Your insurance company will work to make things right because they have a contractual obligation with you to do so. The other party’s insurance company is less likely to make things easy because their obligation is to their insured, not you. Do not let the fear of higher insurance rates be a deterrent. Your insurance rates only increase if you commit a moving violation or if the collision was proven to be your fault.

The downside is that your insurance company may charge a deductible in connection with the repair or apply your deductible to your total loss payout. In this case, your insurance will go to the other party’s insurance company and ask to be paid back for repairs on your car. When your insurance company receives the money from the other party’s insurance, your insurance will refund your deductible. They may even waive your deductible if the facts of the accident are clearly in your favor.

In some cases, people have liability-only policies rather than collision coverage. In this situation, going through the other person’s insurance company becomes necessary. The good news is that the property damage claim is separate from the personal injury claim. Property damage claims tend to resolve quickly to the benefit of all parties involved. For individuals searching for an auto accident lawyer located in Los Angeles, consider Belgum, Fry & Van Allen.