Automobile Property Damage, Rental, Depreciation, Storage & Towing Claims
Property damage checks:
You should never cash a property damage check or endorse it over to a third party until your attorney has looked at it to make sure that acceptance of the property damage check does not bar your rights to make other claims such as compensation for your injuries and depreciation for your vehicle.
Most insurance companies prefer to write their own estimates for repair of your vehicle. Do not be concerned if the total price appears low. It is typical for the repair facility to fix your vehicle for the amount the insurance company allows. If hidden or unknown damage is found during the repair process, the repair facility will usually contact the insurance company directly and request additional money for supplemental repairs.
If your vehicle is not drivable, you should notify the insurance company immediately and ask for a rental. If your vehicle is drivable, wait until all necessary parts have been received by the repair facility before putting your car in the shop. Insurance companies are only required to pay for a rental during the reasonable period of time required to make repairs or, if your vehicle is totaled, during the reasonable period of time it takes to acquire a replacement. You should not not use your allowed rental days waiting for parts to come in, and you should stay on top of the repair facility to make sure that your vehicle repairs will be complete when your rental authorization expires. If additional repair time is needed, have the repair facility contact the insurance company directly and make sure that your rental car authorization is extended before it expires.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Claims:
If the at-fault driver is uninsured, or if you are involved in a hit and run accident in which either the at-fault driver or the vehicle he was driving has been identified, you may still have coverage for your vehicle repairs under the uninsured motorist property damage provisions of your own policy. Although collision coverage is primary, the insurance company will pay under uninsured motorist property damage coverage upon confirmation that the at-fault driver had no insurance at the time of the collision or that he left the scene and that either he or the vehicle he was driving has been identified. Even if you initially file on your collision coverage and pay your collision deductible, your insurance company must subsequently reimburse you for the difference in your collision and uninsured motorist deductibles. The uninsured motorist property damage deductible is always $100 pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 20-279.21(b)(3). Thus, if you pay a $500 collision deductible and then make an uninsured motorist property damage claim, you will be reimbursed the $400 difference between your collision and uninsured motorist property damage deductibles. Unlike collision coverage, you are entitled to make rental car and depreciation claims under the uninsured motorist property damage provisions of your policy.
Depreciation claims are also known a claims for diminution in value. If your vehicle is not totaled, it may lose value as a result of being involved in an accident in which substantial damage was sustained. North Carolina General Statute 20-71.4 makes it a misdemeanor to transfer title to a motor vehicle which is 5 model years old or less and to fail to disclose in writing to the transferee that such vehicle has been involved in a collision in which the cost of repairs, excluding airbag replacement, exceeded 25% of its fair market value at the time of the collision. This disclosure requirement makes your vehicle less valuable to potential purchasers.
Pursuant to North Carolina Administrative Code provision 11 NCAC 4.0418(5), the insurance company must total your vehicle when the cost of repairing it equals or exceeds 75% of its fair market value. As a general rule when your vehicle is totaled, you are entitled to be compensated for said fair market value, towing and storage fees, sales tax, and the cost of transferring or replacing your license plate as appropriate under the circumstances. Pursuant to North Carolina Administrative Code provision 11 NCAC 4.0418(1), if you are initially unable to reach an agreement on the fair market value of your vehicle and you present estimates from 2 qualified dealers regarding your vehicle's fair market value to the insurance company, the insurance company must consider those dealer quotes when making any additional offers. They can no longer rely solely on book value. In addition, the North Carolina Administrative Code requires the insurance company to give due consideration to the vehicle owner's representation that his or her vehicle was in better than average condition at the time of the collision. It is a good idea to submit receipts to the insurance company documenting all vehicle maintenance and improvements as well as photographs to show the condition of your vehicle before the accident.
Pursuant to North Carolina Administrative Code provision 11 NCAC 4.0418(6), the insurance company is responsible for paying for all reasonable storage fees until 3 days after both the storage facility and the vehicle owner are notified in writing that the insurance company will no longer reimburse the storage facility or the owner for the storage charges. Failure to give the required notice in writing results in the insurance company being obligated to continue paying storage charges until said notice is given.
Other Property Damage Issues:
Please contact Quinn Law Firm, PLLC if you need help with any other property damage matters. We will be happy to assist you.