When you are involved in a car accident, there are specific steps that you must take to make sure that your property damage and any injuries are taken care of. Sometimes the road to recovery is straightforward, but at other times, it isn’t at all. If you are in an accident, these are the most frequently asked questions and answers to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.
What is the first thing that you should do?
When you are in a car accident, the first thing that you should do is to determine who is at fault. “At fault” means who legally holds the responsibility for the accident. If the other party is at fault, then you will want to contact their insurance carrier immediately to make a claim. If you are the at-fault party, you will want to consult your own car insurance company immediately.
If the other driver is at fault, you will want to have the damages to your vehicle accessed. If it is not drivable, then you will want to request a rental car. If you want to expedite the process, then getting a copy of the police report is a good idea. You can pick one up at your local police department, or sometimes a copy can be made available online.
What am I entitled to?
When it comes to property damage, if you are not the at-fault driver, you are entitled to recover the difference between what the vehicle is worth after the accident versus what it was worth before. That means you are either entitled to the cost of repairing the car to make it what it was before the accident, or you are entitled to the market value of the car if the car cannot be repaired.
Who will make the determination of repair or replacement cost?
The insurance carrier responsible for the accident will determine whether it is less expensive to repair the car or to pay you the market value of the car. Typically, if the repairs are more than 75% of the car’s Blue Book value, an insurance company will “total” your car. When an insurance company labels your car as “totaled,” that means that it is a total loss, and they will pay you the fair market price to replace the car according to the Blue Book value.
Is getting more than one estimate a good idea?
In the past, car owners used to be required to submit estimates to the insurance company. It is common practice now, however, for the insurance company to send out an “adjuster” to estimate the total cost of repairs. If the company does decide that it is more cost effective to repair your car, then you can find a service center to have it repaired. If the repair center finds additional damage, then they will contact the insurance carrier directly to make them aware of the additional cost.
Can the insurance carrier insist that aftermarket parts be used?
If the aftermarket parts can be proven to be just as good as the original, then, yes, they can insist that you use aftermarket or non-manufacturer parts.
What if my car is considered “totaled” but I want to keep it?
You can choose to keep a car that has been declared “totaled.” If you do, however, then the insurance carrier will probably pay you less for a salvaged car then they would if you decided to accept the total loss amount. Also, they might send a letter to the DMV to record that the car was estimated as “totaled,” which could mean that your title will become a “salvage” title. So, even if you fix your car, being labeled as “totaled” will devalue it if you intend ever to sell or trade it in.
What if you put additional money into upgrades?
If you invested in upgrading your car, then you are entitled to recover for those additional upgrades. If you have receipts that can help you to get reimbursed. If not, then they will typically offer you replacement costs.
Being in an accident is no fun. The process of recovering for your property damage is even less so. If you take the right steps, however, it can go much more smoothly than if you don’t. Know what you need to do so you don’t find yourself unable to recover what is rightfully yours.