There are a lot of pieces that all start moving at once after you’ve been involved in a car accident. The most important piece to pay attention to first is your health and well-being and ensuring you get the care and attention you need to start recovering from any injuries you suffer. And usually, that’s where our team comes in—we’re personal injury attorneys who focus on making sure you receive the fair settlement value you need to ensure that your medical needs are thoroughly met.

But what about those other moving pieces? What do they entail? A big one we get asked about all the time is property damage that’s also suffered due to your accident. If another driver caused your crash, who will pay for everything beyond your health that might have been damaged? And what does that process even look like?

We may not be property damage attorneys, but because car crashes can result in so much damage in so many different ways, we’ve seen and heard from our fair share of people who need help navigating the process of property damage claims. We can help you familiarize yourself with some of the most important things you need to know.

What is a Property Damage Claim?

A property damage claim is a case you would file with a car insurance company to have damages compensated from a car accident or other incident. Property damage consists of any items that were damaged or destroyed directly from being involved in that accident.

Note that this is an entirely different case and process from any potential personal injury claims you would file after that same accident. But the claim is often filed against the at-fault driver’s insurer, though that may not always be the case.

About Property Damage Claims

  • If the damage were caused by an accident in which another driver was at-fault, you would file a claim with that driver’s insurance company, and their liability insurance will cover the repairs you need.
  • Suppose the fault is shared or unclear in the accident. In that case, you will file a claim with your auto insurance company and the other driver so they can investigate the accident further to determine liability.
  • If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist or involved in a hit-and-run, filing a claim with your auto insurance provider can help you retrieve funds to fix or replace your damaged property.

What is Considered “Property” in Your Property Damage Claim

When filing your claim, consider everything that “property” may consist of in this case. While the vehicle is the most common piece of property to be damaged during a car accident and therefore compensated for, coverage may extend well beyond that.

Consider all the personal items in your car that sustained damage during the accident. You are entitled to reimbursement as long as you can establish the value of those damaged items.

Personal items can include:

  • Damaged items in or attached to your car’s truck, such as luggage if you’re on a road trip out of town, a stroller, a bicycle, or a wheelchair.
  • Laptop, cell phone, or other electronics you may have had in the car with you that were damaged due to the accident.
  • Children’s car seats or booster seats.

Many people don’t know that even your pets can be included in property damage compensation. Pets are legally considered your property, so if they are injured or killed during your accident, you are entitled to have their medical bills and other related expenses covered.

Steps to Filing a Property Damage Claim

Step 1: Call Your Insurance Company and Report the Damage

No matter how the accident occurred, if your car or other property inside it is damaged, you should always report the damage to your own insurance company. Even if you plan to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance, your provider can advise you on how best to file your resulting claim and even work with the other driver’s insurance company to do so.

Step 2: File your Claim with the Insurance Company

When you’re ready to file your claim, you will call the insurance provider’s specific claims department, and an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case. The adjuster will be your be in direct contact during the process.

When you speak with the adjustor, you’ll want to come ready with basic but vital information to start the property damage claims process.

This information may include the following:

  • Your personal data – name, phone number, address, Social Security Number, and insurance company information.
  • Policyholder’s (at-fault party) information – located on the insurance card or police report.
  • Make, model, and mileage of the damaged vehicle.
  • Details about when, where, and how the accident happened (be careful to avoid any speculation or opinions on the “how”).
  • What damaged property do you intend to file a claim for? – vehicle, child car seat or booster seat, broken personal items, etc.

Note: if injuries resulted from the accident and you plan to hire a personal injury lawyer, DO NOT provide the insurance adjustor with any information regarding your injuries. Your attorney will handle the injury portion of your claim.

Step 3: Finalizing Repair and Replacement Payout

Once you’ve reached a settlement agreement with the insurance adjuster that you’re comfortable with, they will ask you to make repairs to your car and replace your other items.

The insurance company will have relationships with repair shops and can recommend one to you. If you go to their preferred auto shop, they will pay the shop for the repairs directly.

There are some advantages to using their recommendation, as it tends to provide more coverage and get the process done faster. But where you go to get the damage assessed and repaired is up to you.

The insurance company typically approves using “after-market” parts for repair to minimize repair costs. You may request the use of Original Equipment Manufacturer parts, but you may be responsible for paying the price difference.

How you receive payment for any other damaged items with likely need to be otherwise specified ahead of time. Once everything is agreed upon, you will be asked to sign a release that says you accept their payment and will not pursue any further property damage claims related to the accident.

Proving the Value of Damaged Items

The key to receiving fair compensation is proving the value of damaged items. In this case, receipts and credit card statements are a great resource. If you don’t have those, then doing online or other market research to determine their current value or the cost it will take to repair the item thoroughly will benefit you.

If your car is “totaled,” meaning the repairs would cost more than the current value of the vehicle itself (considering its depreciation based on things like age, mileage, and condition). They will likely offer you a settlement amount for the value of the car prior to the accident.

Be sure only to make repairs to your car once your assigned insurance adjuster has assessed the damage. Otherwise, their estimates could be much lower because you’ve already paid money out of your own pocket to start on repairs.

Important Information about the Property Damage Claims Process and Settlement

The insurance adjuster assigned to your case will take some time to review all the different elements of the claim you’ve filed with them. They’ll consider the damage to the car and any other items you’ve included in your claim.

After they’ve reviewed all the evidence and crunched all their numbers, they’ll reach out to provide you with a settlement estimate. This is the dollar amount they are willing to provide to have your car and other property repaired. They may base their decision on who they find to be at fault and the perceived value of your property.

It’s important to know that you are not required to accept their first settlement offer if you don’t believe it’s a fair amount for all the property you lost. You have every right to make a counteroffer, pointing to the total value of all the properties you’ve listed in your claim and not just the value of your vehicle, which will be their primary focus. If an agreement is proving hard to reach, hiring a property damage lawyer can help you negotiate.

Though the process can seem daunting, if you know where to file a claim, what information will be expected from you, and are diligent about the compensation you deserve, you can navigate your way through it. And remember, legal experts, are always available to help you when you need it.

Do you have questions? The personal injury team at Finney Injury Law is here to help you. Call us at 314-293-4222 or complete the contact form and a member of our team will be in touch.

Posted Under: Property Damage

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