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Frequently Asked Questions - Auto Damage: Holland & Lamoureux Personal Injury Trial Lawyers

Auto Damage FAQ

If you have been involved in an automobile accident, the first step is to report the claim to the insurance company of the driver who caused the wreck. Next, essential measures must be taken promptly to preserve evidence, and the accident must be investigated thoroughly and injuries evaluated. If a loved one or you are a victim of an automobile accident, call Holland & Lamoureux, P.A. now at (866) 225-4907. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay. You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. Below are some commonly asked questions.

How long can my insurance company take to settle my claim?

Your insurance company is allowed 30 calendar days to settle your first party claim from the time they receive notice of the loss. If you fail to cooperate with them or they need to conduct additional investigation, the time may be extended, but the company must provide you with written notice explaining the reason if the claim settlement process takes longer than 30 days.

Who decides whether my car is repaired or replaced?

Normally, the insurance company has the sole option to either repair, replace or reimburse you for your car’s actual cash value (ACV). Actual cash value is the amount your vehicle would have sold for on the date of the accident. It is usually a question of cost efficiency. In the instances where the vehicle is economically impractical to repair, your insurance company will elect to replace your vehicle or reimburse you for the ACV. If the cost to repair the vehicle equals or exceeds the vehicle’s ACV on the date of the loss, the vehicle is considered economically impractical to repair, or a total loss. In many instances an insurance company will total a vehicle if the appraised damages equal 80% of the vehicle’s ACV because often, once repairs are begun, additional damages or “hidden damages” are found which would render the vehicle a total loss by definition.

How is the fair market value of my car calculated?

You are entitled to recover the “fair market value” or the “actual cash value” of your vehicle immediately before the accident. Insurance companies usually determine fair market value by referring to the “Blue Book” or a similar publication. Other sources of information are the local newspaper or the Auto Trader, which may list the for-sale price of cars of the same make, model and years as yours. Occasionally, an expert vehicle appraiser is used to help prove the value of your vehicle.

If you owe more money on the loan for the car than the fair market value of the car, you are “upside down” on the loan. Unfortunately, if your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company will not pay more money to you simply because you are “upside down” with your car loan. They are only obligated to pay the “fair market value” of your car.

What other damages can I expect the adjuster to pay?

Besides the price of the vehicle, you had to pay sales tax, a tag fee and registration fees. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the prorated amount of these costs that are unused. The insurance company should reimburse you for the tag transfer fees and in some cases a prorated amount of sales tax on the actual cash value of the car at the time of the accident.

Who is responsible for towing and storage fees?

Normally, the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident will pay the reasonable towing and storage costs of your car. They will continue to pay the storage costs while determining whether your car is a “total loss.” If the insurance company declares the car a “total loss,” they will move the car from the repair shop to a wrecking yard or a free storage area. You will be called before your car is moved. If you refuse to allow the insurance company to move your car, you will have to pay the storage costs from the day of your refusal forward. If you want to keep the vehicle, you can pay to have it towed to your home.

Can I choose my own repair shop?

If the insurance company chooses to repair the car, you have the absolute right to decide who will repair your vehicle, provided the repair shop is licensed. Many insurance companies will evaluate the cost of repairing your car separately and independently from any repair shop. The insurance company will then work with the repair shop of your choice, to get your car repaired.

How do I prove what damage was caused by the accident?

Sometimes, the insurance company will claim that some damage to your car existed before the accident. Similarly, accidents often generate mechanical malfunctions. It can be difficult to determine if a mechanical problem was caused by the wreck or by normal wear and tear. Therefore, it is important that you prove the connection between the auto accident and the damage you are claiming. Ordinarily, mechanics and body repair persons can help you determine the age of body damage or the cause of a mechanical failure. They can help you convince the insurance company that the auto accident caused the damage.

Does my insurance company have to use new parts to repair my car?

The insurance company is obligated to restore your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the accident. Because your car was probably not new, the mechanic may use refurbished or reconditioned parts. Sometimes this requires the use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and sometimes after-market parts can be used. After-market parts are parts made by a manufacturer other than the original manufacturer. If your vehicle is being repaired with newer parts, your company doesn’t have to pay for this “betterment.” For example, if your vehicle’s transmission is five years old and is damaged due to a covered loss, your insurer would only have to replace it with a five-year-old transmission. If a five-year-old transmission can’t be found, the repair shop could use a new transmission but you’d have to pay the difference between the value of a five-year-old transmission and a new transmission.

Who pays for a rental car while my car is being repaired?

If you caused the accident, most policies don’t provide coverage for a rental vehicle unless you buy this additional coverage. If another party was responsible for the accident, the insurance company for the person who caused the wreck is required to provide you with a rental car. If the other driver is at fault, we will demand that the insurance company for the person who caused the accident provide you with a rental car for the time needed to repair your vehicle. Sometimes, you must pay the rental car bill first, with reimbursement coming from the insurance company later.

Do I have to purchase any extra insurance on the rental car?

The insurance company will not pay for extra insurance you purchase from the car rental company. Your own insurance carrier should cover you while driving the rental car. Call your insurance agent to be sure you are covered while driving the rental car.

Related Information

If you have a question that was not covered in the above Frequently Asked Questions or if your question was not fully answered, call or contact us today for additional information.

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