Frequently Asked Questions - How Do I Pursue a Claim For Damages to my Vehicle?
If you have the misfortune of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, then in almost every situation, you are going to have to deal with this question: How do I pay for the property damage to my vehicle and who is responsible for paying it? The answer to this question depends upon a number of things, the first of which is, Who is at fault for the crash, you or the driver of another vehicle? If it is clear that you were responsible for the crash occurring, then you will be responsible for paying for the repair or replacement of your own vehicle. However, the good news in that situation is that if you have comprehensive and collision coverages under your motor vehicle liability insurance policy, then your own insurance company will pay for the repair or replacement of your motor vehicle, subject to the terms and conditions of your policy as well as any applicable policy limits contained within those types of coverages. If you do not have comprehensive and collision coverage under your vehicle and you are totally at fault for the motor vehicle crash, then you will have to pay for the repair or replacement of your vehicle out of your own pocket. Sorry.
If the fault for the crash lies on another driver/vehicle rather than on you, in that situation you can then demand that the other vehicle’s insurance company pay for the repair or replacement value of your vehicle. Please be aware that based on our many years of experience in this area of law, you should know that insurance companies inevitably will try to avoid or at least minimize the amount of money that they have to pay out, whether it is money that they are paying out to repair or replace vehicles or money that they are paying out on a personal injury claim. Accordingly, in many situations, the other vehicle’s insurance company will argue that fault for the crash is either completely on you or at a minimum is shared between you and their insured (the driver of the other vehicle) and as a result, you or your auto insurance company should be required to pay for either all of the damage to your vehicle or its replacement value or at least a portion of either of those expenses, with them paying a portion as well. As you can imagine, these types of disputes not only occur frequently but they also sometimes do not get resolved/compromised without litigation being required. Accordingly, if you find yourself in an argument with the other vehicle’s insurance company over this type of issue, we invite you to contact us as hopefully, we can help advise you in this type of claim in addition to representing you in your claim for personal injuries, medical expenses and lost wages, etc.
Although Florida does have a lot of uninsured motor vehicles utilizing its streets and highways, at least Florida law does require that every vehicle insured in Florida is required to have $10,000.00 in property damage liability insurance coverage. Therefore, if the other person’s vehicle does have insurance coverage and that policy was issued within the State of Florida, at a minimum that policy will contain $10,000.00 in property damage liability insurance coverage and this coverage is specifically designed to pay for the repair or replacement value of the other vehicle (your vehicle) that was involved in the crash with their insured.
Frequently, disputes arise as to the amount of money that you are entitled to receive for the repair or particularly the replacement of your vehicle. In a repair situation, frequently insurance companies try to utilize either used replacement parts (obtained from a junkyard or similar location) or non?OEM (original equipment manufacturers such as Ford, Chevrolet, etc.) replace parts in order to keep the repair cost as low as possible. This, as you can imagine, is also the subject of a fair amount of litigation, particularly when you own an expensive or high-end vehicle and therefore want your vehicle to be repaired with parts that are manufactured by the manufacturer of your own vehicle.
Other disputes that frequently arise occur in situations when your vehicle is declared to be a “total loss”. Typically speaking, auto insurance companies declare your vehicle to be a “total loss” if the cost of repairing the vehicle is close to exceeding the current FMV (fair market value) of the vehicle. Different insurance companies use different percentages, but in our experience, the “total loss” calculation typically comes into play if the cost of repair is between 70 and 80 percent of the current fair market value of the vehicle. What constitutes the fair market value of the vehicle? Generally speaking, this is what you would be required to pay a car dealer for your vehicle at full retail price if you had to go out and purchase the same type of vehicle you had, with the same equipment options, mileage, and condition as your vehicle was in at the time of the crash. As you can imagine, this is also the source of a significant amount of litigation or at least disagreement. We recommend that in order to determine for yourself what your vehicle is worth, you should go on various internets websites such as BlueBook.com, Edmunds.com, EBaymotors.com, or other similar Internet sites that provide you with both wholesale and retail valuations of all types of vehicles, regardless of the year, make and model. You may also be able to get written valuations from a local car dealership’s Used Car Manager. Please be sure that you accurately and fairly estimate the condition and mileage of your vehicle at the time of the crash in order to obtain a fair estimation of the value of your vehicle. For instance, if your vehicle was only in fair condition at the time of the crash, utilize that valuation within these web sites rather than “good” or “excellent” condition valuations. You also will want to input the accurate mileage on your vehicle, whatever options or other extras may be contained or not contained on your vehicle, and things of that nature in order to get a fair valuation of what your vehicle may be worth. We recommend that you obtain written valuations from multiple sources so that you can present these to the property damage adjuster of either your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company when you are haggling over what your vehicle is worth in the event that it is deemed a total loss.