Handling Your Own Property Damage Claim After An Auto Accident in Texas

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1 Handling Your Own Property Damage Claim After An Auto Accident in Texas

2 Table of Contents Handling Your Own Property Damage Claim after an Auto Accident in Texas... 1 Introduction... 3 Chapter Important Information for Handling Your Claim... 4 Immediately Following the Accident... 4 After Leaving the Scene... 5 Chapter Contacting the Insurance Company... 6 Who is Responsible for the Damage... 6 Know Your Options... 6 Understanding Third-Party Claims... 7 Your Rights under Third-Party Claims... 7 Chapter Repairs, Total Losses, and Diminished Value... 8 Repairs... 8 Total Loss Claims... 9 Diminished Value Claims... 9 Chapter Settling Your Property Damage Claim Conclusion

3 Introduction If you have been involved in an auto accident, your main goal is to ensure that any damage to your vehicle is repaired in a timely manner. While this can be a stressful time, it is possible to handle your own property damage claim in a manner that will have the situation resolved as quickly as possible. While there are a variety of factors involved in car accidents, this ebook will focus on providing you with the information you need to handle your own property damage claims. While you can choose to hire an attorney to assist you with the process, this is not a cost effective option in cases that only involve property damage. However, there may be times when you have no other alternative, especially if the other driver s insurance company is refusing to address your claim, or they are delaying the claim needlessly to avoid paying for the damage. It is also important that you are aware of the Texas laws and regulations governing property damage claims, as well as your own rights and responsibilities. Failing to follow these laws and requirements can have a serious impact on your claim, even resulting in you being responsible for paying for the physical damage out of your own pocket. This ebook is designed to assist you in the property claims process to ensure a swift resolution to your case. Keep reading to find out everything you need to do to handle your own property damage claim in Texas. The information contained in this booklet is offered for educational purposes and does not create an attorney client relationship. 3

4 Chapter 1 Important Information for Handling Your Claim If you are interested in handling your own property damage claim, there are several considerations that you need to keep in mind. What you do immediately following the accident, the type of damage incurred, your own insurance, and the type of accident you are involved in, are all key considerations that can affect the outcome. Immediately Following the Accident The following information concerns everything you need to do right after an accident. Handling your own property damage claim does not change the steps that you need to follow if an accident occurs, and all of these steps are crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome. Reporting the Accident If anyone is injured, make sure to contact emergency services as quickly as possible. While it is not necessary to contact the police if there is only minor damage to the vehicles, having an officer on-site to write an accident report can be beneficial to your claim. If you were the victim of a hit and run, you should always call the police. The officer will be able to investigate the cause of the accident, and this documentation is important. You will need to make sure that you write down the officer s name and badge number, so you can obtain a copy of the accident report if it is required by the either your insurance carrier, or the other driver s insurance provider. In cases where there is minor damage that does not affect your ability to drive the vehicle safely, the police may tell you to collect the other driver s information rather than waiting for an officer. If this occurs, there are several pieces of information that you need to get. 4

5 Collect Information You will need to ensure that you obtain the proper information from the other driver immediately following the accident, including his or her name, address, phone number, license and plate numbers, the insurance company name, and the driver s policy number. If possible, you should also request contact information from anyone who witnessed the accident, as this will provide you with valuable leverage in the event the third-party insurance company refuses to work with you on your property damage claim. You should always ask for copies of the other driver s license and insurance card so that you can copy the information directly from the source. This will ensure accurate information, and protect you from receiving false information from an uninsured motorist. If the other driver refuses to provide this information, make sure to notify the police, even if you have already been told to exchange information. You will also want to write down the details of the accident, including the make and model of the other driver s car, accident details, and any scene-specific information such as weather and road conditions. If possible, you should also use your cell phone s camera to take photos of the vehicle positions (prior to moving them), any damage that is visible on both vehicles, and any skid marks or debris remaining in the road. After Leaving the Scene After you have collected all required and pertinent information, and any police officers have completed their investigation, you will be permitted to leave the scene. If it is possible to drive your vehicle safely without causing more damage, you may do so. If your vehicle has to be towed, make sure to obtain contact and address information from the towing company. After the accident, you will need to contact the appropriate insurance companies to get the property damage claim started. It is important that you follow the requirements of your insurance company to make sure that your claim is handled in the proper way, with the least amount of stress possible. 5

6 Chapter 2 Contacting the Insurance Company Your first contact should be with your own insurance carrier, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Failing to do so, could result in penalties from your insurance company depending on their requirements under the policy. Who is Responsible for the Damage If you are the driver that caused the accident, the property damage to your own vehicle will be covered under your collision coverage. If you do not have this coverage on your policy, you will be responsible for paying for the repairs on your own. If the driver of the other vehicle was responsible for causing the accident, his or her insurance company pays to have the damage repaired. If the other driver does not have the appropriate coverages, he or she will be responsible for paying to repair the damage. Know Your Options If you are involved in an accident that was not your fault, you can choose which insurance carrier pays for the property damage in some cases. If you carry collision coverage on your vehicle, you can use this coverage to pay for the repairs. While it may seem counterintuitive to involve your personal insurance company after an accident that was not your fault, this can be the easiest route even though you will be responsible for paying the deductible. 6

7 Dealing with your insurance company can make handling your own property damage claim easier. In addition to the fact that your automobile insurance has your best interests in mind, they can also ensure that your claim is handled as quickly as possible. Your insurance provider will also be able to handle the other driver s insurance carrier for you, alleviating some of the stress for you. If you opt to have your insurance carrier handle the property damage, they will go after the at-fault driver s insurance company to collect your deductible, any monies spent on repairs, or the amount required to replace your vehicle if it is considered a total loss. Understanding Third-Party Claims If you are dealing with the other party s insurance carrier, this is referred to as a thirdparty claim. It is important to realize that dealing with the other driver s insurance can be difficult, as they do not have your best interests in mind. In fact, third-party insurance claims can often be stressful, as the insurance company will attempt to minimize the amount they pay for the accident. This means they will do their own investigation of the accident to determine whether you were at fault in any way. You will typically be required to give a recorded statement about the accident as a part of the investigation. It is very important that you consider your answers carefully during this statement, as the insurance company will use this information to lessen the amount of what they must pay. Just keep in mind that the adjusters you speak to want to make you admit some kind of fault, even if the accident was due entirely to the other driver s negligent behavior. As long as you make sure to give honest, concise answers about your claim, and cooperate fully with their investigation, you should have no problems. Your Rights under Third-Party Claims When you are dealing with a third-party insurance carrier, they are required to pay for the damage incurred during the accident to return your car to its pre-accident condition if their insured was at fault. While the carrier may recommend that repairs be taken care of at a particular shop, you have the right to have your vehicle repaired at a shop of your choosing, even though the carrier may require you to obtain at least two estimates from different repair shops prior to accepting responsibility. In many cases, you can choose 7

8 the repair shop on your own, and have the shop open their own lines of communication with the third-party insurance to eliminate the need for you to be in the middle. Rental Vehicles After accepting liability, the at-fault party s insurance company must also provide you with a rental car to use while your vehicle is undergoing repairs. The insurance company must pay for a vehicle that is comparable to the one you were driving during the accident. If they do not provide the actual rental vehicle, they should pay a designated amount per day until your vehicle is repaired. It is important to understand that the other driver s insurance will not provide a rental vehicle until they have accepted liability for the accident, so you may need to plan accordingly. Chapter 3 Repairs, Total Losses, and Diminished Value Regardless of whether you have your own insurance company pay for the damage to your vehicle, or you request it directly through a third-party claim, there are two potential outcomes of which you should be aware. Your vehicle will either be repaired, or listed as a total loss. Repairs The insurance company, whether your own or a third-party carrier, is responsible for paying for all repairs needed to address the damage that resulted from the accident. This will not include any pre-existing damage, or those that were incurred due to driving the vehicle after the accident. It is important to understand that the cost of repairing your vehicle must be less than the amount that the vehicle is worth, in order for the insurance company to pay for the repairs. For example, if your vehicle is worth $15,000, and the cost of the damage amounts to $5,000, the insurance company will pay to have it repaired. If the cost of the repairs is over the fair market value of your vehicle, it will be listed as a total loss. 8

9 After determining that the vehicle repairs are less than its fair market value, the insurance company will pay to have your car repaired. However, it is up to you to make sure that the repairs are completed in a timely manner. This will require you to be in contact with the repair shop to check on the status of the vehicle, as well as the estimated time frame needed to complete the repairs. This is especially important if the insurance company is paying for a rental vehicle, as this will ensure there are no disputes concerning how long you require the use of it. It is also important that you remain in contact with the repair shop to determine if there are any repairs needed that the insurance company refuses to pay for. You should always advise the repair shop to contact you prior to doing the repairs so that you can give approval, especially if the amount will come out of your own pocket. Total Loss Claims If the insurance company determines that your vehicle is a total loss due to the amount of the repairs versus the value of the vehicle, you will only be able to recover the fair market value. This amount is what it would be worth if it was sold prior to incurring damage from the accident. In many cases, this amount will not cover the amount needed to purchase another vehicle. If your vehicle is listed as a total loss, you may decide to have your vehicle destroyed, or you can choose to pay the additional amount required for the repairs out of your own pocket. This is a personal decision, and one that you can make after receiving final payment from the insurance company. Diminished Value Claims If your vehicle is repaired after an accident, Texas allows you file a diminished value claim. This claim addresses the loss of value that occurs due to the accident. Due to the number of reporting agencies available, if you decide to sell a vehicle that has been involved in an accident, you will not receive the same value as a similar car in the same condition that has not been involved in a crash. This can be due to visible damage left behind due to improper repairs, the value loss due to the crash in general, or a combination of the two. It is up to you to file a diminished value claim, but be aware that 9

10 some insurance companies may claim that they do not pay this type of claim. However, they are required to do so under Texas law. In some cases, you may need to enlist the assistance of an appraiser or car dealer to determine the actual amount of value that was lost due to the accident. You should also keep in mind that this claim is only available when filing third-party insurance claims. Chapter 4 Settling Your Property Damage Claim The actual amount of your claim involves the amount required to pay for the damage, the fair market value of your vehicle, and/or the amount of your diminished value claim. It is important that you take the time to do your own research before accepting any settlement offers from a third-party insurance provider. This is especially important for total losses and diminished value claims, as the insurance adjuster is interested in paying the least amount possible. If your vehicle is listed as a total loss, you can visit sites such as KellyBlueBook.com, NADA.com, and Intellichoice.com to determine the market value. You will need to make sure you input the proper, truthful information to determine the value of your vehicle. You should also use sites such as AutoTrader.com to find out what similar vehicles are selling for in your area to make sure you are receiving a fair price. Signing the Release After repairs are completed, or you have received payment for your vehicle, you will be asked to sign a release for property damage from third-party insurance providers. You should never sign this release until you are happy with the amount being paid. In some cases, the insurance company may provide a check that includes language such as full and final settlement for property damage or the like. If the check does not include the 10

11 amount agreed upon for the claim, do not sign it. Once you sign the check or release, the insurance is under no obligation to pay any other costs associated with the property damage. If your claim includes personal injuries or pain and suffering, you should not sign a release until those agreements are paid. Conclusion While it is possible to handle your own property damage claim after an auto accident in Texas, you have to make sure to follow any laws and requirements to ensure everything is handled properly. If you have any problems handling your own claim, such as if the third-party insurance company refuses to pay for the damage, or needlessly drags out the payment process, you should contact an attorney to determine your rights. An attorney will be able to assist you with receiving payment, but be advised that you will have to pay their fees once a settlement is reached. In some cases, these fees can add up considerably, which will lessen the overall amount of money that you receive from your claim, and could result in you having to pay the difference for the repairs out of your own pocket. 11

12 Thank You So Much! I hope you ve found the information contained in this book helpful. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read it. Please do not hesitate to give me your feedback. You can send us a comment on our website at by clicking on the contact form and type ebook comment in the subject line. Lastly, if you haven t already you can follow me on twitter and join in on the conversations on my facebook fan page. Thanks again, and I wish you nothing less than success! Sharita Blacknall 12

13 Sources:

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