Every year, more than 6 million car accidents occur in the United States. Of these accidents, the greatest costs are those that you can’t assign a dollar amount to; the loss of human life, or pain and suffering that injuries can cause. But there are also plenty of costs that you can calculate, including damage to your vehicle, lost wages, medical bills, personal property claims, and more.
Maybe you’ve been in a car accident and are wondering how and where to submit claims to get compensation. Or you’re trying to figure out just how much you could be liable for if you were in an accident. This can help you make a smart decision about the amount of insurance coverage you need to purchase.
Either way, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about personal property claims and how to seek compensation from your insurance provider.
The Cost of Car Accidents
What do car accidents cost those involved? Across the U.S., accidents cost an average of $1 trillion in loss of life and loss of productivity alone. Damage to vehicles, medical bills, personal property claims, and other expenses greatly increases this total.
The average auto liability claim submitted for property damage is $3,231. This includes the cost of repairs to vehicles in any kind of accident. This is simply the average of all auto liability claims. Minor accidents and fender benders keep this average relatively low.
Major accidents may lead to auto liability claims that are several times higher than that total.
Medical bills directly related to injuries sustained in car accidents cost even more than the property damage. The average auto liability claim filed for bodily injury is $15,443.
Even these are far from the only costs that a car accident can cause.
It’s easy to overlook other items damaged or lost in a crash. Think about the items you have in your trunk or backseat right now. This could be an expensive car seat or booster seat. Maybe the laptop you use for work or your tablet is in your passenger seat right now. If you’re traveling, you might have fancy jewelry or clothes in your trunk. These might even be riding in that expensive suitcase you purchased.
These items are just as likely to be damaged in a crash as your car is. But can you seek compensation for these items? The answer is yes.
In order to seek compensation for damage to items that aren’t attached to your vehicle, you’ll need to submit a personal property claim.
What are Personal Property Claims?
In order to understand who pays personal property claims following a car accident, it’s first important to understand what counts as personal property.
What is Personal Property?
The definition is actually quite simple; personal property is anything that you own. When used in reference to your home or your apartment, this includes anything inside, such as:
- Computers and laptops
- Cell Phones
- Clothing and shoes
But personal property is not limited to items that you might keep inside your home. It also includes personal property that you take with you for your home. Whether your bag is packed for work or vacation, if it’s an item that belongs to you, it’s considered your personal property.
Some examples of personal property that frequently leave your home includes:
- Work bags
- Cell phones
What are Personal Property Claims?
Now that you know what is considered personal property, it’s time to learn what personal property claims are, and when you might need them.
A personal property claim is a claim that is submitted to an insurance company. The claim seeks reimbursement for damage to a piece of your personal property, or several pieces, or the replacement value of those pieces of personal property.
For instance, say that your kitchen appliances are damaged in a small kitchen fire. Or your laptop is destroyed in a car accident. In either case, items that are considered your personal property were damaged.
Much like health insurance helps offset the cost of unexpected medical bills, other types of insurance can be purchased to protect your personal property. From expensive items like jewelry and laptops to inexpensive items that can add up when you consider all that you own, like your clothes or furniture, personal property insurance can save you big when things go wrong.
Personal property insurance isn’t a separate type of insurance. Instead, it falls under the umbrella of other types of insurance. This includes your homeowner's or renter's insurance and your car insurance. In some cases, travel insurance policies may also kick in to replace or repair damage to your personal property that you had with you while traveling away from home.
Who Pays Personal Property Claims?
Your personal property is likely covered under more than one of the types of insurance coverage that you carry. So when something goes wrong and your belongings are damaged or destroyed, you might question which insurance company will cover your claims.
Who you need to file your personal property claims with depends on the circumstances. The most important thing to consider is where your property was located when it was damaged.
For instance, if your computer was damaged after storm damage caused a leak in your roof, you can’t submit a claim to your car insurance company. However, you might be able to submit a claim to your homeowner’s insurance if your laptop is stolen out of your vehicle. But if your laptop was damaged after you were t-boned in an auto accident, this personal property claim would instead need to be filed with your auto insurance provider.
What are Insurance Riders?
Not all belongings are automatically covered by your homeowner’s insurance. In most cases, your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy will have a limit on the amount of personal property that it covers. This means that high-dollar items, like wedding rings, expensive computers, or heirloom items may not be covered if they are damaged during a fire or storm.
If you have these types of items and want to protect them, you have a few options. One is to speak to your insurance agent about increasing your coverage. You can also purchase an additional insurance rider that will cover these items specifically.
Insurance riders are sometimes referred to as endorsements or amendments. When you cover things like laptops or wedding rings with an insurance rider, this often covers these items no matter where they are.
This means that if your rings or your pricey laptop are stolen while traveling or while eating lunch around the corner from your office, this rider will cover them.
How to Be Compensated By Insurance When Personal Items are Damaged in a Car Accident
In the moments after a car accident, you’ll have a lot on your mind. You might be dealing with your own injuries or injuries that your passengers suffered. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may need to spend time in the hospital, visit your doctor frequently, or attend physical therapy sessions.
You’ll also need to deal with the damage to your vehicle. If your car isn’t driveable, you might need to get a rental car in order to get to work. You’ll need to schedule repairs, or even start shopping for a new vehicle if your old car was totaled.
There’s also lost work, additional childcare, and other disruptions to your daily life that you’ll need to consider.
The belongings that you had with you in your car at the time of the accident are likely the last thing on your mind. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be replaced. Before you spend your own out-of-pocket money to replace these items, think twice. Instead, submit a claim to your car insurance provider. This is the process you’ll need in order to do just that.
Start By Making a List of Damaged Personal Property
Before you file your claim, it’s important to take a close look at all of the damages that you incurred during the accident.
Your personal property claim will actually be filed alongside your property damage claim. This means you’ll need to calculate your damages to both your vehicle and your personal property.
Damage to your vehicle and related costs you’ll need to put in your claim include:
- Cost of repairs to your vehicle
- If your vehicle was a total loss, the fair market value of your car prior to the crash
- Replacement costs of any upgrades you made to your car, like aftermarket stereos or bike racks
- The cost of a rental car while your vehicle was receiving repairs
In addition to damages to your vehicle, you’ll also need to compile the cost of your personal property damage. Items you can include in your claim if they were damaged or destroyed include:
- Cell phones
- Smart Watches and traditional watches
- Prescription eyeglasses
This list of items that you can include in your claims is not exhaustive. Any items that you owned that were damaged in your car can be included. For example, parents can include car seats or booster seats, or even diaper bags if these items were destroyed. If you were transporting a new washer and dryer to your home in the back of your car, this is considered personal property and can be included as well.
Proving Damage to Your Personal Property
In addition to listing your damages, you’ll also need to provide proof of the damage that they have suffered. There are a number of ways that you can do this.
Take photos of the damage, and of the items before they are removed from your car, if possible. If you had photos of your items before the crash, you can include these in your claim as well for comparison.
Receipts from your purchases can help you prove the value of items like laptops or jewelry. For heirloom items, appraisals can also be included. In some cases, eyewitness testimony may also be included when filing your personal property claim.
Proving the value of your personal property can be a challenge. It’s up to you to do so, and up to you to convince insurance providers that you deserve compensation. If you lost a lot of personal property or any high-dollar items in a crash, it’s even more important to get help from an attorney. A car accident lawyer can help you prove your losses and get compensation.
Submit Your Claims
After making a list of personal property that was damaged or destroyed in a crash, and compiled proof of the damage, it’s time to submit your claims.
If your accident took place in a state that does not have no-fault laws in place and someone else caused your accident, you’ll submit your claim to their insurance company. However, if the accident occurred in Utah, this isn’t the case. Utah has a no-fault law. This means that you’ll submit your personal property claims and other insurance claims to your own provider, even if you weren’t at fault for the crash.
Dealing with insurance companies can be yet another pain to deal with after a car accident. Most insurance providers will look for any way possible to pay the minimum necessary. This may mean that your personal property claims will be rejected, or that they will ask for more proof of damage or proof of the value of your items.
Do not expect to submit a claim for a $2,000 laptop without providing some form of proof that it is was really worth that, and that it was destroyed in the crash.
Having an attorney on your side will help relieve some of this burden. It can also help you increase the chances of having your personal property claims paid, and in a timely manner. That way you can replace your damaged or destroyed belongings right away.
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