When you’re in a car accident, even when there are no injuries, you are probably going to be left with big bills. That’s because even a simple low-speed fender bender can result in thousands of dollars in vehicle repair costs.
When you can’t afford an unexpected repair bill, or the added cost of finding alternative transportation while your car is in the shop, you need money. And when the other driver was at fault for the crash, you have the right to demand they or their insurance company pay for your repair costs.
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we help injured victims of car crashes and other accidents, but that doesn’t mean other victims of car accidents don’t need help, too.
That’s why we’ve prepared these tips to help you handle a property damage claim without needing to hire a lawyer.
What Compensation Are You Owed?
If you plan to file a property damage claim to get compensation for your losses after a car crash, it’s important to know what you can get compensation for.
Compensation can and should include:
- If the car is repairable, the costs of the repair – Always request OEM parts, and don’t allow them to use aftermarket parts in your repair!
- If the car is totaled, the fair market value of your vehicle before the crash
- The cost to rent a car to replace yours while it is being repaired
- The cost to replace any upgrades you made to your vehicle, such as special rims or a high-end stereo system
- The cost to replace children’s car seats or booster seats (if applicable)
- The cost to replace any personal property in the vehicle that was also damaged in the crash, such as a cell phone, laptop, sunglasses, etc.
Follow These 6 Steps for Compensation
Most minor car accident claims that don’t result in injuries can be negotiated and settled out of court quickly with the insurance adjuster. Here’s what you need to know to improve your claim’s chances of settling quickly:
- Contact the police at the scene: Do this even if you think the damage is minor. Some damage may not be visible or immediately obvious. Furthermore, Oklahoma law requires filing a police report for any accident that causes property damage.
The police report will be important evidence in proving the other driver was at fault, especially if the responding officer issues a ticket. Make sure to tell the officer any admissions of fault the other driver might have made to you, such as “I didn’t see you,” or “It’s my fault.”
Note: If the responding officer writes YOU a ticket, YOU MUST CONTEST IT! Paying the ticket means legally admitting fault.
- Get the other driver’s contact and insurance information. If you fail to do this, you are essentially giving up your chance to get compensation. It can be very difficult to impossible to get this information later if you don’t get it at the scene, especially if you didn’t file a police report.
- Take pictures. This is especially important in proving the damage happened at the scene and not later. Get pictures of both vehicles, the position of the vehicles, the area around the vehicles (including skid marks and any pieces that fell off the vehicle), and any damaged personal property.
- Contact your insurance. Even if the damage is minor, your insurance provider needs to know about the crash. Auto insurers require notification of all crashes within a relatively short timeframe—often 48 hours or less.If the other driver tries to file a lawsuit against YOU, this will help protect you as your insurance will be required to hire a lawyer to defend you. Furthermore, if the other driver is uninsured, you may need to use your own uninsured driver coverage to get compensation.
NOTE: If you are having difficulty reaching your own insurer, you can also file the claim through the at-fault driver’s insurance.
If you file through your own insurer, and receive a call from the other driver’s insurance, you are NOT required to talk to them. In most cases, it’s better to avoid speaking with the other insurer altogether.
- Gather receipts for any personal property that was damaged. This will help establish the value of the damaged items and how much you will need to replace them. If you have photos that show the condition of the item before the crash, gather those as well.
- Keep a record of important crash-related information. This should include dates and times, contact information for the other driver and any witnesses, the responding officers’ names, the police report number, the name of any insurance adjuster you speak with, a summary of what was discussed on any call, and the claim number.
Most of the paperwork of property damage claims is handled by the insurance companies. Once the property damage claim process begins, your insurance will negotiate with the other driver’s insurance. Likely all you will be responsible for is dropping off your car at a repair shop and informing the insurance company which shop you used after providing the police report and any other evidence you collected such as receipts or photos.
An insurance adjuster will visit the shop to inspect your vehicle and determine the extent of the damage. Once the value you are owed is calculated, the insurance company will send you a check (if the vehicle repair costs are the only thing owed, they may send this directly to the repair facility). You may also be required to sign a release before receiving your check.
When Car Accidents Cause Injuries, We’re Here to Help
Unfortunately, not all car accidents are lucky enough not to cause injuries. If you are injured in a crash, it will be much harder to calculate the true value you may be owed, and even harder to get the insurance company to agree to pay it. In these circumstances, it is best not to go it alone.
After an injury caused by a reckless driver, contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers. There is no charge to speak to our team for a case review, and if you decide to hire us, you’ll pay no fees unless we win.