You’ve Been in a Car Wreck, Now What?
Dealing with the aftermath of a car wreck caused by someone else’s negligence is a difficult experience. Aside from dealing with your injuries, there is the problem of how to handle the damage to your vehicle.
Getting Your Vehicle Repaired
The damage to your vehicle caused by a wreck is a major inconvenience. It is important to get your car repaired as quickly as possible. However, it is also important to make sure that the repairs are complete and correct. Knowing a little about this process can help you to be sure that your claim is handled properly.
When the insurance company is informed of the wreck, one of the first things they will do is send an appraiser to inspect the damage to your vehicle. The appraiser will take pictures of the damage and will prepare a written estimate of the cost to repair the vehicle. If the insurance appraiser determines that the cost of the repairs does not render your car a total loss, the insurance company is responsible for paying to repair your car.
You can choose the repair shop you want to do the work to your car. Insurance companies will often try to direct you to one of their “preferred” auto repair shops. Georgia law does not required you to use the shop that the insurance company recommends.
It is important to be aware of the type of parts used to repair your vehicle. Insurance companies often try to keep the repair costs down by using aftermarket parts. These parts are made by a company other than the manufacturer of your car. Often these parts do not fit as well and are of lesser quality than parts made by the original equipment manufacturer. You should be sure to ask the repair shop if their estimate includes any aftermarket parts. Always insist that original equipment or “OE” parts be used to repair your vehicle.
In Georgia, property damage claims are separate from a claim for any injury you may have sustained in the wreck. However, the property damage claim can have an impact on your injury claim. Insurance companies will often try to relate the amount of the property damage to the severity of your injuries. The insurance company will do everything they can to keep the property damage to a minimum and then use this against you to say that the wreck was not severe enough to cause your injuries. Don’t let the insurance company use your property damage claim against you.
After Your Vehicle Has Been Repaired
Once your vehicle is repaired, you may think that your property damage claim is concluded. This is often not the case.
It is common knowledge that a car that has been involved in a wreck has a lower resale value than a similar car that has never been wrecked. In Georgia, this reduction in the resale value caused by a wreck is called diminished value.
An appropriate diminished value amount can vary greatly depending on several factors including the type of damage repaired, the type of vehicle that was repaired and the quality of the repairs. In order to determine what the diminished value amount should be, you will need to have your car evaluated after the repairs are complete.
Under Georgia law, you are entitled to be reimbursed for the diminished value of your car caused by the wreck. Insurance companies often fail to address the diminished value portion of your property damage claim unless you bring it to their attention.
Getting Your Vehicle Replaced
After a wreck, an appraiser for the insurance company will assess the damage to your car to determine how much it will cost to repair. If the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds a set percentage of the vehicle’s value, the vehicle will be deemed a total loss.
If the insurance company determines that your car is a total loss, you are entitled under Georgia law to receive an amount that would allow you to buy a replacement vehicle of the same make, model, mileage and condition as the vehicle that was totaled in the wreck.
People are often confused about how to calculate the correct replacement value for a vehicle. We have found that one of the most effective ways to find out the appropriate amount is to look for similar vehicles that are for sale in your local area. The selling price for these similar vehicles can give you a good idea of what your car is worth. Internet sites that provide listings of vehicles for sale are a good source for this information.
The insurance company will also look at the selling price of similar vehicles to determine how much they should pay to replace your vehicle. Obviously, they want to keep the replacement value as low as possible. The insurance company will look for similar vehicles with the lowest asking price to include in their estimate. These vehicles are often located hundreds of miles away and do not reflect the true market value of your vehicle.
Getting a fair value for your totaled vehicle is imperative to getting you back on the road. If the insurance company does not pay you a fair value, you may find that you have to buy a replacement that is older, has more miles, or is in a worse condition than the car that was wrecked.
Notifying Your Insurance Company
One question that you may be struggling with is whether you need to notify your insurance company of the car wreck. If it is not your fault, why does your insurance company need to know? The answer may surprise you.
It is very important that you notify your insurance carrier if you have been in a wreck, even if the wreck was not your fault. There are several reasons for this.
First, your insurance policy may include medical payments coverage. This is an extra coverage many people pay for as part of their auto policy. This coverage can be used to help with the cost of any medical bills you have from the wreck.
Second, your auto policy may contain uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage protects you if the person who caused the wreck does not have enough insurance, or does not have insurance at all. In Georgia, recent case law has held that if you do not inform your insurance carrier of the wreck in a timely manner, you may not be able to recover any uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits even though you paid the insurance premiums for this coverage.
People often don’t inform their insurance company because they are afraid the insurance company will increase the premium once they are notified of the wreck. However, Georgia law specifically prohibits an insurance company from raising your insurance premium for a wreck that was not your fault.
Handling your property damage claim can be a daunting task. If you have been in a wreck and have questions about any aspect of your claim, simply call Perkins Law Firm on the phone number at the upper right. We’ll give you a free phone consultation and help answer your questions.