Serious damage to your vehicle can stop life in its tracks, leaving you displaced and without the ability to get to and from work for the foreseeable future. To say this is a frustrating experience is a tremendous understatement.
Report the Accident to Insurance Immediately
You should understand what coverage you have on your auto policy before an accident happens. With full coverage insurance, both collision and property are covered. After an accident, you must contact your insurance company to set up a claim. This will start the process that will result in an agent inspecting your vehicle to “appraise” the damage. Insurance companies handle this different. Some companies have employees that write damage appraisals and some companies send you to the body shop to have them write the damage appraisal. Depending on who was at fault in the accident and what coverage you have on your policy you might have options on how to proceed with the repairs to your vehicle.
If you do not have full coverage insurance, you may speak with the other driver’s insurance company about your vehicle’s damage. However, you should not talk to them about your accident, your injuries, your opinion, or doubts about how the accident played out.
Assess Your Vehicle
The insurance company may try to underpay or deny paying your claim. If your vehicle is repairable the insurance company is required to pay to repair your vehicle back to its pre-accident condition. Many times, when the damage is extensive the initial appraisal will not cover all of the damage on the vehicle. This will require the body shop to submit a supplemental appraisal to the insurance company. This will also extend the time you will need a rental vehicle. As soon as you know there is additional damage make sure the body shop and the insurance company are communicating to get the difference resolved. You get to pick the body shop that does the repairs.
If your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company is required to either pay you the actual cash value of your vehicle. Insurance companies use the NADA or Kelly Blue Book, or other auto price guides to determine the current value of your vehicle. A fairly easy way to get a good idea of the value of your totaled vehicle is to use autotrader.com or another used automobile website.
Ideally, you want your vehicle to be adequately repaired at no cost to you and for the insurance company to provide you with a rental car or pay for “loss of use” while your vehicle is worked on. Rental coverage pays for a rental car.
If your vehicle is five years old or less, sustained significant property damage and was repaired, you may have a diminished value claim. You would need to speak with a licensed property damage and value appraiser to determine whether or not your vehicle sustained diminished value and if so, what amount.