How Do I Get My Car Fixed After an Auto Accident?
Do You Need Help With Your Car Accident Claim?
1. Which Insurance Company Should I Use to Handle My Claim?
Going Through Your Own Insurance
You could go through your own insurance company. You are paying for that insurance and they have a contract to provide you with coverage. If you have comprehensive and collision coverage on your vehicle, you have been paying for that every month.
However if you only have liability coverage on your vehicle, you will not have the choice. You will have to go through the at-fault driver’s insurance.
If you go through your own, they owe you through what is outlined in your insurance policy. This means that your deductible will apply.
Most people have a $500 deductible on their policy which means that your insurance will pay the total cost of repair to your vehicle minus the deductible amount.
The deductible amount of $500 would be your responsibility.
So, the pro of going through your own insurance: it’s a little quicker and little easier because there is no question about liability before the claim is paid.
The con of going through your own insurance: you have to pay the deductible.
Going Through the Other Parties Insurance
When you go through the other parties insurance, they will need to make a liability determination first.
If their insured admits that they were at fault, it make things a little quicker, but if they don’t then you have to wait for a police report and a recorded statement.
This process may take a week or two for the other insurance company to admit that they are at fault for the accident. Once they do though the advantage is that now you don’t have to come up with the deductible.
They owe you money to fix your car through tort. A tort is a civil wrong that means when we don’t have a contractual relationship but one person owes a legal duty to another, that is a tort.
So, the con of going through the at-fault insurance: it takes longer.
The pro of going through the at-fault insurance: there is no deductible.
However if you do go through your own insurance, when it is determined that you are not at-fault, your insurance company will reimburse you the amount of your deductible.
This happens because the at-fault insurance company has paid your insurance company back the amount that they paid for your expenses.
Will Going Through My Own Insurance Cause my Premium to go up?
Some people might ask, “Why would I go through my own insurance company? This will cause my premiums to go up.”
Premiums go up based on fault. The insurance company is trying to assess future risk. They don’t go up based on claims.
If you make a claim and you are not at fault for the accident, your insurance will likely not to go up.
That’s because your insurance company is going to get back all of the money they paid out for you from the other company.
If you have a good insurance company often times you can ask them to front the deductible.
In other words, you would not be “loaning” the amount of the deductible for the repairs because they will get that money back anyway.
Car accident attorneys can explain this idea fully.
2. Can I Choose Which Auto Shop to Use?
You can choose to use their suggestion, but you don’t have to.
It may be the quick and easy thing to do because the shop is used to working with your insurance and they are familiar with their way of doing business.
For this reason, this shop is motivated to keep costs down to please the insurance company.
Often these shops are reputable companies and they do good enough work because the insurance company doesn’t want shoddy work but they are definitely motivated to give the lowest bids possible to keep getting future work coming from that insurance company.
You do have the right to take your car to the shop of your choice.
However, the insurance company may require that the repairs are fixed for the same amount that their shop bid or that their adjuster bid.
Some insurance companies may require that you obtain bids from three different shops for the repairs and then they will approve the median amount. If this is the case, once you have the bids, you can take the car to the shop you choose but they will need to complete the repairs for the approved amount.
The insurance company owes you more than just the cost of repair. They also owe you cash for the amount that your car has depreciated due to the accident. In Utah, this is called diminution in value damages.
3. Do I Absolutely Need to Fix My Car After an Accident?
You can actually choose to fix your car or not. If your car is not totaled but it is damaged, but you prefer the cash rather than the repair, you have that option.
Let’s say your car has $2,000 worth of damage but it is still drivable and the cosmetic issue isn’t something that bothers you. You can opt to take the money and not have the repair done.
They owe you that money whether you get the car repaired or not.
You could also have a bid from a shop that is high and then take the car to a friend or someone that will do the work for much less and then pocket the difference.
That is your choice. If you do decide to take the money and not get the repairs done, the insurance company may exclude that portion of your car from any future repair in case another accident were to occur and damage the same area of the car.
Another fact to be aware of if that if you have a lienholder, or lender, on your auto then you will probably need to get the repairs done.
If you do not, you may encounter a problem when you try to sell the car. Body damage causes the value to go down and may actually cause you to be “upside down” on your auto loan. Meaning you owe more than the car is worth.
If you own the car free and clear you certainly do not have to make the repairs as long as the car is safe and can pass inspection. If the car is older and the damage incurred is minimal, you may consider not even turning a claim in.
If the amount of damage is below your deductible amount anyway and the accident is your fault, there is no need to contact your insurance company to get your own car fixed.
However if you caused damage to another car, you will definitely need to make a report to your own insurance.
Related Content: Car Accident Damage Estimates: What Are My Options?
4. Do I Have to Keep My Car if It’s Totaled?
They can do that, it is their option. If they do choose to do that, they will run an evaluation, or a fair market analysis, and come back with a value and make you an offer.
How Much Money Will The Insurance Company Pay Me?
They may or may not be low on that offer and you may have to negotiate with them as well and prove that the car is worth more.
For instance they may not have considered that your car has very low miles or you had made special upgrades to it that made its value go up. But that’s not the point, the point is whether or not you want to keep the car.
Let’s say your car is worth five grand. They are going to pay you five grand but maybe that car can still run.
Even though it is totaled and even though it has major damage it can still get around. Or maybe you want to take the tires off of it or salvage the parts.
Whatever that reason might be, you have the right to keep it.
You can have the insurance company deduct their salvage value from their offer.
So if their offer is $5,000 and their salvage value is $500, they would give you a check for $4,500 and instead of them picking the car up, you would keep the car.
Keep in mind that if you plan on driving the car, it will need to be able to pass inspection and be insurable.
Your own insurance company would probable exclude the existing damage from future comprehensive or collision coverage unless the repairs are made at some point.
Personal Injury lawyers in Cedar City can provide more information.
5. Do I Have to Accept The Offer on My Vehicle?
This goes back to a total loss of your vehicle. Just because they say they figured out your car is worth $4,000 and they will send you a check in the mail, doesn’t mean that you have to accept that amount.
That is not the end of the discussion. You have to agree. You are making a deal where both sides need to agree on what your car is worth.
If they are offering you $4,000 and you think your car is worth more then you will have to go through the effort of proving how much your car is worth.
Facts that could affect the value of your car would be details like:
- extremely low mileage
- upgrades by the manufacturer or yourself
- custom paint jobs
- limited edition automobiles
Any of these factors could increase the value of your car and the insurance company needs to be aware of them.
If you have brought these details to the insurance adjusters attention and the final bid is still too low, then you could contact a local attorney and they could help you figure out how to provide proof of the value of your car.
We’re here to help
You can choose to use your own insurance company or the at-fault drivers.
You can choose an auto repair shop that you feel comfortable with.
You have the option to fix the damage to your car or keep the money and not fix it as long as it is safe to do so.
If you car is totaled, you can keep the car if you want to.
And finally if the offer for the repairs or total price of the auto replacement comes back too low, you don’t have to accept it. If you can prove that the settlement amounts are too low, they can be adjusted.
If you need counsel in any of these areas, a qualified personal injury attorney can answer your questions. And the good news about that is that most PI attorneys offer an initial consultation for free. This makes it easy for you to get your questions answered.
Related Content: Auto Accident Legal Guide