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  • Andrew Littlejohn Johnson

How to Handle a Property Damage Claim From a Car Accident

You were in a car wreck in South Carolina. You just want your car fixed. Now, the insurance company is delaying, telling you your car does need a certain repair, and you are car-less but need to get to work or pick up kids. Frustrated is probably the calmest emotion you feel.

Property damage claims don't have to be difficult, but sometimes, insurance companies frustrate the process. Here are some tips on handling your South Carolina car accident claim.

Post-Wreck Actions

  • call the proper authorities to document the wreck

  • obtain the FR-10 (preliminary accident report) and send to your insurance company

  • notify your insurance company of the wreck and set up a claim

  • call the at-fault driver's insurance company to set up a claim

  • take pictures of both cars

  • get your car to a repair shop permitted by your insurance company or the at-fault driver's company

Note: if the at-fault driver's insurance company is not moving quickly enough or is denying liability, tell your car insurance company. They should help you. Why? Because if the other driver's insurance isn't paying, guess who is: your insurance company. They don't want that.

Sometimes, your insurance company will pay for the repairs and then "subrogate" the claim (step into your shoes and tell the at-fault driver's insurance company to reimburse them). This facilitates the repair process. Also, you should obtain your deductible back from your insurance company; however, if you don't have the money to pay your deductible, this may not be the best option. Instead, you may have to wait for the at-fault driver's insurance company to act.

Additional Coverages

Other property damage coverages may exist on your car insurance policy. These are helpful in certain situations.

  • Gap Insurance: this is insurance that helps pay amounts owed on your car loan; for example, if your car is totaled and worth $15,000 but your outstanding loan is $16,000, Gap coverage may pay that $1,000 difference.

  • Rental Reimbursement: this reimburses victims of car wrecks for certain car rentals

  • Loss of Use: this is the value to you of not being able to use your vehicle; this typically occurs when (1) a comparable rental is unavailable, or (2) the damaged vehicle is used for business.

Some of these coverages may not be on your policy. You may have to pay out of pocket (e.g., for a rental car) and then later request reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurance company. Know that they will not reimburse you for some things (e.g., if you were driving a 2000 Toyota and then rented a new top-of-the-line Mercedes, that's not a comparable rental; or, if you delayed for one month to get your car to a repair shop, the insurance company may not pay for that month of a rental vehicle).

Diminution Claim

If your car was involved in a wreck due to the fault of another driver (and your car is not totaled), you likely have a diminution of value claim. This claim pays you for the lost value of your vehicle. For example, if prior to the wreck your car would sell for $15,000, but after the wreck and repairs it is valued at $10,000, then the diminution value is $5,000. This is a loss you incurred and should recover.

How it works: Set up a diminution claim with the at-fault driver's property damage adjuster. Using multiple valuation platforms (e.g., Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, NADA), determine your car's value. Multiply it by a cap percentage depending on the insurance company (normally 10%). Multiply that number by a damage multiplier (100% for structural damage, and down to 10% for minor scratches). Multiply that number by a mileage multiplier (100% typically for anything under 20,000 miles, and down to 10% if approaching 100,000 miles). Notate any additions to your vehicle, as these may add value (e.g., premium tires or a sound system). This becomes the number you may demand for your diminution claim.

Note that insurance companies use differing calculations in determining the diminished value. It's always best to see if they will give you their calculations and research first, then go from there in countering their offer of payment.

If you have questions about property damage, or if you were injured in a car wreck and want to talk, attorney Andrew Johnson is available to speak. Email or call him today.


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