After a devastating car or truck crash, many victims need to focus on recovering from life-changing injuries, loss of income, and the emotional stress of the accident. Many people don’t realize that they often need help recovering financial compensation for something else — their destroyed property.
A car accident can damage all kinds of valuables: your phone, laptop computer, tools in your trunk or truck bed, and your vehicle itself. When the crash wasn’t your fault, you deserve compensation for the cost of replacing or repairing these valuable items, in addition to your personal injury claims. However, the insurance company doesn’t always make this process easy.
In this blog, the team at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys explains the process of getting compensation for property damage claims, determining actual cash value, what “counts” as evidence, and how an experienced attorney can help.
What Happens When You’re Car Is “Totaled?”
After a serious car wreck, your vehicle might not be repairable. Other times, its actual cash value is less than it would cost to fix the damage. In these cases, the insurance company may consider your vehicle a “total loss.” However, calculating a vehicle’s value and deciding to total it is a complicated process.
First, the insurance adjuster must make a series of calculations:
- Actual cash value: An appraiser will look at your vehicle’s make, model, options, and mileage and determine its pre-accident fair market value
- Salvage value: The amount the insurer would get for your vehicle’s scrap metal and parts
- The cost of the repairs: Using the body shop’s estimate, the adjuster will consider how much it would cost to fix your vehicle, including parts, labor, and other factors
If your car or truck’s actual cash value is less than the cost of repairs and salvage value, the insurance adjuster will probably say it’s a total loss.
Next, the insurance company will notify you of its decision and how much it’s willing to pay for your vehicle. If you agree with the adjuster’s assessment, they will issue you a check and you can use the funds to purchase another car.
However, the insurance company doesn’t always get their calculations right. If you think your car or truck was undervalued, you should consult with your personal injury lawyer. They can help you negotiate a fair settlement for your totaled vehicle.
What If I Want to Keep My Totaled Car or Truck?
We get it. Sometimes, you don’t want to replace your vehicle. It may have sentimental value because you spent time working on it with your father as a teen. Or, you may think you can repair for less than the insurance company’s appraisal. If you want to keep your totaled car or truck, you may be able to negotiate a “buy-back” with the insurance company.
What Happens If I’m Still Paying on My Vehicle’s Loan or Lease?
When you have a loan or lease, the insurance company will issue payment to the bank, lender, or leasing company. However, you may get part of the vehicle settlement if your remaining loan payments are less than the car’s actual cash value. (If your vehicle is leased, the entire vehicle settlement may go to the leasing company.)
How to Protect Evidence in Your Car Insurance Claim
Insurance companies sometimes try to get out of paying claims by arguing that there was “not enough evidence” and undervaluing your lost property. Unfortunately, people often have to go above and beyond to prove their valuables were damaged in the crash in order to get the funds they need to replace them. Thankfully, there are some simple ways people in Mississippi and Alabama can protect their cases by preserving the evidence.
Make a List of Everything That Was Damaged
After a crash, you should quickly make a list of everything that was damaged, including your totaled vehicle. Include the cost of each item, if it had sentimental value, or was otherwise very important to you.
Take Photos of the Damage
We always recommend that victims take as many photos as they can at the crash site, and the same is true for protecting a property damage claim. Take clear pictures of your totaled vehicle from multiple angles; even a cell phone camera will be sufficient. And if anything else was broken or destroyed in the crash, like a laptop, other electronics, sports equipment, sentimental items, or work tools, take photos of those, too.
Wait to Repair Damaged Items
Sometimes, it’s possible to repair items that were damaged in the crash. When you can fix your car, laptop, or other things, wait to get them repaired until your lawyer tells you it’s alright to do so. They may need more photos or physical evidence to support your case.
If you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney who knows how to handle personal injury and property damage cases. The right attorney can help you organize your claim and evidence and correctly determine your damaged items’ value.
Strategies for Filing a Successful Claim With the Insurance Company
Staying organized after a crash isn’t always easy. You may be juggling family demands, school, a job, medical bills, and the stress of filing an insurance claim. However, staying organized is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you’re also in pain and trying to work with the insurance adjuster.
Here are a few tips for staying organized after an Alabama or Mississippi car crash.
Save Your Receipts
If you get anything repaired, make sure to save the receipt. If you still have the receipt from when you originally purchased the damaged item, give this to your lawyer, too. These costs can help them understand the value of your car and other items after a crash.
Get Estimate and Quotes
After a car crash, you may have the option to repair your vehicle or other items. If you can get a quote or two on the cost of the repair, this will also help your lawyer fight for a fair settlement offer on your behalf that includes the actual cost of repair, the salvage value, replacing your belongings, or buying a new car.
Understand Your Auto Insurance Coverage
In Alabama and Mississippi, all drivers should have at least $25,000 in property damage coverage. Additionally, many drivers purchase collision coverage and gap insurance that will help offset their losses when they’re in a crash. While we always advocate for Alabama and Mississippi drivers understanding their insurance policies before a collision occurs, it’s essential after a wreck. You’ll need to know whether a deductible applies to your claim and how much compensation you can get for your property losses.
Take the opportunity to review what’s covered after a crash with your car accident attorney. They can help you understand what’s covered by your collision coverage and identify other policies that may cover your losses. For example, you may be able to file claims with the at-fault driver’s policy, their employer’s insurance company, and others.
Call a Car Accident Attorney
Insurance companies and adjusters are notorious for denying valid claims, making insultingly low first offers, and making it challenging for victims to get fair compensation at market value for their injuries and damaged property. When you work with an attorney, you have someone on your side who understands the law and can help you get what you’re owed.
Have Damaged Property After a Car Crash? Don’t Wait to Call the Andy Citrin Team
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we have decades of experience fighting for victims like you in Alabama, Mississippi, and across the Gulf Coast. We know how to handle the most complex personal injury and property damage claims, and are ready to hear your case and help you decide what to do next. To schedule your free consultation with our team, contact us at 251-888-8888 or complete our online form.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.