Frequently Asked Questions - What About Damage to my Vehicle?
Being involved in an accident is stressful and tying to figure out how to handle your vehicle repairs can be frustrating. We’re here to inform you about the various options available to you when it comes to repairing your vehicle following an auto accident. One of the most important things to remember is no matter who is at fault for the incident you are still entitled to having your vehicle repairs covered by at least one of the insurance companies involved.
Most people assume that damages to their vehicle should always be handled by the at fault parties insurance company. Although this seems to be the most logical process it is always beneficial to understand that you have other options as well. Once the collision occurs an investigation will take place with each involved parties insurance company. The two insurance companies will ultimately come to a consensus of who they deem at fault for the collision. Typically this liability determination is what will decide who will be responsible for the damages to your vehicle.
In the event that the other party involved is deemed 100% liable for the collision you have a few more options to cover your vehicle repairs. You can choose to handle the damage repairs with your own insurance or the insurance of the at fault parties. This decision is only ever this open assuming the other person is deemed fully at fault for the incident. In the event that you are deemed at fault your only option would be to handle the repairs through your insurance company. In other instances when liability is shared either insurance company would only be responsible for damages in the amount of the percentage of fault they have accepted.
The biggest thing to point out when choosing to handle repairs through your own insurance company is deductibles. Regardless of who is at fault for the incident, if you chose to handle repairs through your insurance company you will be responsible for paying your deductible out of pocket. Your insurance will likely go after the other party for this deductible later but it is important to know that this initially will come out of your own pocket to start.
Once the process has started your insurance company will assign a property damage adjuster to your claim. This adjuster will likely come out to the scene of where the vehicle is and inspect the vehicle. Once the estimate is prepared the insurance company will inform you of what they deemed the cost of the damages to be. Then they will likely have you either chose a collision center to handle the repairs or they will inform you of collision centers in your area that they recommend you handle the repairs through. The time frame for repairs is not a set standard. Typically insurance companies will do all that they can to execute all the repairs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if the damage is intricate or extensive this process could take a bit longer.
Once the insurance company estimates the value of the vehicle, assuming it is deemed repairable, they will send a check to you directly or to the collision center where the repairs will take place. If given to you directly you would simply take it to the collision center to pay for the cost of the repairs. Often times this process can be fairly simple and the vehicle is repaired and returned to you without incident. This of course is not always the case.
In the event that you feel the vehicle is undervalued you can provide the insurance company with different estimates of the value of the vehicle from third party sources. The insurance company will likely take this information into consideration when estimating the damages to the vehicle.
In addition to covering the repairs your insurance may also cover to put you into a rental car during the time your vehicle is being repaired. This is not mandatory unless you have paid for this premium through your insurance company. If you did not the cost to get a rental car during the time your vehicle repairs are underway will be your responsibility. I know this is not what we all want to hear but this is inevitably the way this would end up assuming you do not carry the necessary coverage’s on your policy.
The process if you chose to repair your vehicle through the insurance company of the at fault parties insurance is very similar with a few exceptions. Once liability is determined and fully accepted they will assign and send out an insurance adjuster to inspect the vehicle much like your insurance would. When it comes time to do the repairs you have a higher likelihood of getting into a rental car that will be fully covered by the at fault parties insurance company. The time frames for covered rental vehicles are usually set forth by the policy the insured person has they can range from 7-30 days but will vary depending on the policy and coverages elected.
The rest of the repair process is fairly identical through either party. If the vehicle however is deemed total loss things can at times become a little more intricate. Typically if the vehicle is deemed “total loss” it means it is un-repairable or that the value of the repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle, hence deeming it a total loss. Handling the total loss will be different depending on whether you are actively paying for a vehicle loan or leasing a vehicle or if you own a vehicle that is paid off.
If the vehicle is paid off the process is much simpler. The insurance company would simply prepare an estimate for the value of the vehicle and pay you directly for the amount they decide on. Again if there are ever any discrepancies with the values of the vehicle that the insurance deems just remember you can always provide outside sources to help aide in their estimate determination. Once they pay you for the value of the vehicle they will likely have you sign what is called a release and take ownership of the vehicle.
If the vehicle is deemed a total loss but you are actively leasing the vehicle or paying off a loan on the vehicle there is just a slight difference in the process. The insurance company will still estimate the value of the vehicle and pay that estimated amount. However, the insurance company will likely pay the loan or leasing company directly for the value of the vehicle since you still owe an outstanding loan/lease. The downside is if you still owe money after they pay what the value of the car was deemed, you will still be responsible for paying the remaining balance left on that lien or loan. The good news is you can take proactive steps when purchasing insurance to avoid this outcome. Purchasing “GAP” insurance will help to avoid being left with a loan or leis on a vehicle that is no longer in your possession.
GAP insurance essentially covers the difference if the total loss value of the vehicle does not fully cover what the insured owes on their lien or loan. This coverage is extremely important for clients that are paying for outstanding loans and liens on their vehicles and in the state of Florida can only be purchased within the first 30 days of purchasing a new vehicle.
This process can range from being a simple process to a very intricate one. Always remember you can contact Trial Pro and discuss all of your options with one of our dedicated, experienced attorneys that are always available and willing to guide you through every step of the process.