1 The Do It Yourself Guide to Settling Your Property Damage Claim The information you need before talking to the insurance adjustor about your property damage. By Shelly M. Leeke, Attorney at Law North Area 103 Laurel Avenue Goose Creek, SC Phone: LeekeLaw.com Charleston & Mt. Pleasant 222 W. Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, SC (By Appointment) Fax:
2 Shelly Leeke Law Firm North Area Office 103 Laurel Avenue Goose Creek, SC Downtown & Mt. Pleasant 222 W. Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, SC Phone: Fax: Copyright 2010 by Shelly M. Leeke All rights reserved. No part of this report may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author. Printed in the United States of America. LeekeLaw.com
3 Page 1 INTRODUCTION Hopefully you have ordered this guide because you are a planner, and you know that that the unexpected CAN happen, so it is always best to be prepared. If you have had the unfortunate experience of being involved in a car accident before, you know that settling your property damage claim can be a real hassle and you don t want to take a chance on going through the experience empty handed ever again. Or perhaps you are finding yourself after the accident, calling attorneys to help you with the property damage and you consistently hear, sorry, but we don t handle property damage claims. If only your car has been injured and not your body, you may be swimming through the murky waters of the insurance company alone. That is why I have created this simple manual to assist you in settling your property damage claim. My name is Shelly Leeke, and I represent victims who have been injured in car accidents. I receive many calls from innocent people such as yourself who need some advice on how to deal with the insurance company when you are not hurt, but you need your car repaired or even replaced. Shelly Leeke Law Firm North Area Office 103 Laurel Avenue Goose Creek, SC Downtown & Mt. Pleasant 222 W. Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, SC I hope this guide will assist you if the unexpected accident happens. I welcome your feedback. If you would like to continue to receive my special reports and guides on accidents and injuries, please or call. Now, let s get started. Phone: Fax: LeekeLaw.com
4 Page 2 Negligence - the failure to take the sort of action a reasonable person would take under the same circumstances. Adjuster - someone who investigates insurance claims and/or property damage claims and negotiates an appropriate settlement. YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOUR VEHICLE IS DAMAGED When your vehicle is damaged because of the negligence of another, you have certain rights according to South Carolina law and the rules and regulations of the South Carolina Department of Insurance. If you are our client, in almost all instances our office will be dealing with the other person's liability insurance company through their adjuster. REMINDER: Always limit your conversation with the adjustor to property damage issues only. If you suffered injuries in the accident, do not give statements to anyone about your injuries! CAN I DO IT MYSELF? Because it is rarely cost effective for you to hire an attorney to pursue your property damage claim, this pamphlet has been prepared to assist you in negotiating your property damage claim with the adjuster. If you are a client of ours, we will help you handle your property damage claim as a courtesy. It is still always your duty to mitigate, or minimize your loss. For example, delaying settlement of the property damage can result in unnecessary storage fees, depreciating car values, and increasing repair costs which may give the insurance company an excuse not to pay for the entire vehicle damage claim. WHERE DO WE START? If your vehicle is damaged in a collision which was caused by someone else's negligence (fault), the first thing you will want to do is to contact your insurance company and report the accident. You will then want to contact the insurance company of the at fault party. Once the claim is reported, there is often a waiting period for the insurance company to set up your claim and assign an adjuster. This process may take 2-3 days from the date you first contact the liability company. If you were injured in the accident and we represent you for your injury claim, in our office, we will report the claim for you. Often there will be two adjusters, one to handle the property damage and one to deal with us on your bodily injury claim.
5 Page 3 FR the green sheet provided to you by the officer at the scene of a collision. It can be used to obtain liability insurance information and order the full accident report. Fair Market Value - the value a seller, not forced to sell, and a buyer, not forced to buy would agree upon for a specific item. You can often help our office obtain the name of the liability insurance company from the FR-10 (green sheet) provided to you by the investigating officer at the scene of the collision. After we contact the liability carrier by telephone, we always follow up with a written notice of your claim. Once insurance company has notice of the claim, the insurance company starts its investigation. The adjuster assigned to your property damage claim will have to complete their investigation of your claim before they accept or deny the claim. Unfortunately, you will have limited control over the amount of time involved before the insurance company makes a liability decision. In our office, if a client s claim is denied or it appears that the investigation phase is taking too long, we will often suggest that you handle the property damage portion of the claim through your insurance company if you carry collision coverage. If the liability company later accepts liability, your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the at fault company and they will return any deductible you paid out of pocket. If the liability insurance company accepts liability and you do not agree with the settlement offered by the adjuster, you have the right to reject their offer, but this does not mean that you will necessarily be able to recover any more monies on your vehicle. You should always request that the adjuster tell you the specific offer along with the precise policy provisions and factual documentation the adjuster is relying on in support of the offer. PART ONE- TOTAL LOSS WHEN IS A VEHICLE A TOTAL LOSS? A motor vehicle is considered a total loss when the amount of the repairs (including supplemental claims such as projected rental during the period of repair) equals or exceeds the pre-accident cash value, which is sometimes referred to as the vehicle s fair market value. Generally speaking, the liability insurance company is required to pay the fair market value (FMV) - the value of the vehicle right before the collision occurred. In simple terms, the FMV is the value a
6 Page 4 NADA the National Automobile Dealers Association publishes the Official Used Care Guide which insurance companies and many banks use to determine the fair market value of a vehicle. Total Loss - occurs when the fair market value of the vehicle is less than the repair cost. not forced to sell, and a buyer, not forced to buy, would agree upon for the vehicle immediately before the collision giving rise to the property damage claim. Insurance adjusters generally have a book value they use to arrive at FMV. They may have some "wiggle" room based on the condition of the vehicle, but there is generally little room for negotiation. Book value is supposedly FMV, but there may be some room to negotiate based on the condition of the car, etc. Many insurance companies use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) publication entitled "Official Used Car Guide," which is published monthly. Other insurance companies have their own methods to arrive at valuations. Some insurance companies consider their system superior to the NADA Book commonly used. Notwithstanding, no publication is completely accurate and they should and are indeed only "guides". As such there is usually some basis to negotiate in most cases. Reminder: You should always continue making car payments even if the car is totaled. You are generally contractually obligated to continue making payments, notwithstanding the condition of your vehicle. If you are behind on your loan payments, this will only make the negotiation on your total loss much more difficult. WHAT HAPPENS IF WE CAN T AGREE ON A VALUE FOR THE VEHICLE? When your vehicle is a total loss, the adjuster will usually provide substantiation for the FMV of your vehicle, including estimates, evaluations and deductions used in calculating the payment, as well as stating the source of these values. Your vehicle is not worth more because you recently bought new tires or replaced the engine. Usually these items are considered maintenance and they do not enhance the value. Upkeep of your vehicle helps to maintain the value, not increase it. Sometimes a new paint job will be considered, but usually not. Still, be sure to advise the insurance company of any recent major expenses and be sure to provide the adjustor with copies of the
7 Page 4 applicable receipts. If your vehicle was in better than average condition prior to the collision the adjuster is required to give due consideration to this fact in arriving at a value, but if your vehicle was not in good condition this will actually lower the value of your vehicle. Salvage Value - the value of your vehicle s parts, if sold, after your vehicle is a total loss. The salvage value is usually between 10% and 25% of the total loss value. WHAT IF I WANT TO KEEP MY VEHICLE? If the vehicle is a total loss and the fair market value of the vehicle is agreed upon, then in exchange for a check, you must provide the liability insurance company with the title to the vehicle and possession of the vehicle. In other words, the insurance company is not going to pay you full FMV and let you keep the vehicle. This is because there is usually some residual or leftover value in a totally damaged vehicle. At the very least, the vehicle can be stripped and some of the parts sold. The value of what is left of the "total loss" vehicle is referred to as the "salvage value". When the adjuster pays the FMV then you must sign over the Title to the vehicle. If you wish to keep the vehicle then the insurance company will pay you the FMV minus the salvage value". Usually the "salvage value" is between 10%-25% of the Total Loss value. In other words, if you want to keep the vehicle you can, but they will offer less money to allow you to keep the salvage. We generally will ask the adjuster to give us two offers, one if the insurance company takes the vehicle and one if the client keeps the vehicle. The liability insurance company usually will have a salvage dealer who will purchase the salvage for the amount claimed as salvage value by the adjuster (usually a few hundred dollars). WHO GETS THE TOTAL LOSS CHECK? If your vehicle is not financed, then the insurance company will write you a check for the FMV and send it directly to you. If you have chosen to keep the vehicle, the check will include the FMV minus the salvage value of the vehicle. You may then choose whether or not to have the vehicle repaired. If your vehicle is financed you will need to determine the pay-off to the finance company.
8 Page 4 The liability insurance company must pay the finance company. They are required to do this by Law. If there is any money left after the pay -off, they will write you a check for the difference. Sometimes the check from the insurance company may have your name and the name of the finance company on the check. Usually you will need to endorse the check and turn it over to the finance company. The finance company will pay-off the loan and refund the difference to you as your equity in the vehicle. Gap Insurance - insurance you may purchase when you buy a vehicle that covers the remaining amount of an auto loan when a car is a total loss. If the pay-off on the loan is greater than the check from the insurance company then the finance company gets the entire check and you will still owe the finance company the difference, unless you had purchased "gap" insurance. (Gap insurance is insurance you purchase when you buy the vehicle. It is sometimes required for leased vehicles and may also be provided in financed purchases.) If there is insufficient money to pay-off the loan and you do not have any supplemental gap insurance, you may be upside down on your loan (in other words, you owe more than the vehicle is worth). This means, you will be stuck paying for the vehicle that you no longer use. Notwithstanding, if this situation arises you can ask the dealer where you purchased your vehicle if they would be willing to do substitution of collateral. What happens in this situation is that the insurance company sends the check for the FMV to the finance company, which in turn sends the Title to the liability insurance company and transfers what you owe on your vehicle to a new loan on another vehicle selected by you and the dealer. This procedure allows you to settle the property damage claim as well as provide you with a replacement vehicle. Moreover, you may not be required to make another down payment on the subsequent purchase. You will usually be required to purchase the subsequent vehicle from the same dealer because they must agree to this procedure. Reminder: If you choose to go this route, you should definitely purchase gap insurance so you do not again find yourself upside down on a loan.
9 Page 4 Mitigate Your Damages - the requirement that someone injured by another s negligence must take reasonable steps to reduce the damages, injury, or costs incurred and to prevent them from getting worse. WHO PAYS FOR TOWING AND STORAGE The liability insurance company is responsible for all reasonable towing and storage charges until you and the storage facility are notified that the insurance company will no longer reimburse the owner or storage facility for storage charges. Once you are notified of this situation you must take all reasonable steps to move the vehicle or you will be responsible for the charges. AM I ENTITLED TO A RENTAL VEHICLE WHEN MY VEHICLE IS A TOTAL LOSS? If your vehicle is not drivable, you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the time of the collision until you receive an total loss offer from the insurance company. Once the offer is made (assuming the offer is reasonable), the insurance company is not technically responsible for a rental vehicle. Some insurance adjustors will allow you a few more days if you have had trouble buying a replacement vehicle or allow time for you to receive the check. However, they are not required to provide you with a rental vehicle after this time. You are always required to "mitigate your damages". Generally, you should be provided with a vehicle comparable to the vehicle that was damaged. Some insurance companies have arrangements with automobile rental companies whereby a call from the liability company to the rental company will produce a vehicle to you at a fairly modest cost which the liability insurance company will pay for. Mileage and gas are not paid for by the insurance company, only the daily rental costs of the vehicle. Moreover if you do not have collision coverage, you will be required to purchase this coverage prior to obtaining a rental vehicle. The liability insurance company is not required to pay for this expense. If you do have collision coverage through your own insurance policy, you should generally decline additional coverage because your vehicle's collision coverage will usually cover the rental car.
10 Page 3 PART TWO REPAIRS WHAT IF MY VEHICLE CAN BE Repairable - a motor vehicle is repairable if the cost of repairs is less than the pre-accident fair market value. A motor vehicle is repairable if the cost of repairs is less than the pre -accident cash value (FMV). Do not have your car fixed without first allowing the insurance company an opportunity to see the damage and authorize the repairs. It will usually take at least three days to several weeks before the car is appraised, depending on the insurance company, when the accident was reported, and if liability has been accepted. MUST I USE THE REPAIR FACILITY THE INSURANCE COMPANY RECOMMENDS? No. You may use the repair shop of your choice. Often, adjusters will recommend that you use a particular repair shop. You are not obligated to use that repair shop and may use the repair shop of your choice. While you may choose the repair shop, you usually will not be able to designate the parts that are used. Generally, you are entitled to a repaired vehicle that is in a condition as good as it was just before the accident. Keep in mind that unless your vehicle is brand new, it is made up of used parts. This may mean that like, kind and quality parts may be used in the repair of your vehicle. The insurance company also will typically not pay to have your entire vehicle repainted. If only a part of your vehicle was damaged, you are not owed an entire paint job. Most body shops can match the color of your vehicle accurately, even if the paint has faded. HOW MANY ESTIMATES SHOULD I GET? You should get two estimates of repair. Personally inspect the damaged vehicle to make sure all of the damages are accounted for.
11 Page 3 AM I ENTITLED TO A RENTAL VEHICLE DURING REPAIRS? If your vehicle is not drivable, you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the time of the collision, until the repairs are completed. If your vehicle is drivable, you are entitled to a rental vehicle starting on the day that the body shop actually begins repairs. It is important to remember that the adjuster for the insurance company knows how many days it will take to repair the vehicle and will generally not allow any additional days for the rental vehicle. If the body shop is slow in completing the repairs the insurance company will not pay for any more time for a rental vehicle than was reasonably necessary to repair your vehicle. It is always important to pick a reputable body shop that not only stands by its repairs, but also will be responsible for any delays. Generally, you should be provided with a rental vehicle comparable to the vehicle which was damaged. Some insurance companies have arrangements with rental companies whereby a call from the liability company to the rental company will produce a vehicle to you at fairly modest costs which the liability insurance company will either pay for directly or reimburse you later. SUPPOSE SOMETHING GOES WRONG AFTER THE REPAIRS ARE MADE? - If you sign a release involving a repair to your vehicle, that release does not bar you from later asserting a claim for damage to the vehicle which was unknown to you or the adjuster at the time you signed the release. If the discovered damage was caused by the collision and the damage could not be determined or known until the repair or attempted repair of your vehicle, you have an allotted amount of time after the repair to assert the claim for additional damages. WHAT IF I HAVE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS? If you have additional questions after you have read this brochure, please do not hesitate to contact our office. This pamphlet answers some of the most commonly asked questions about property damage claims.
12 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shelly Leeke Law Firm The attorney and staff at Shelly Leeke Law Firm, LLC are dedicated to protecting the rights of accident victims. Our promise is to handle your case with personal attention, zealous advocacy, professionalism, and compassion. Shelly Leeke Law Firm understands that accident can be traumatic, life changing, and emotionally devastating events. We understand that the selection of your personal injury attorney is an important decision, which may have far reaching consequences. S H E L LY M. L E E K E South Carolina attorney, Shelly M. Leeke, has been representing people injured in accidents for nearly a decade. She is the founder of Shelly Leeke Law Firm, LLC. The firm focuses on personal injury law, including automobile accidents, work injuries, wrongful death, dog bite injuries, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, construction injuries, boating accidents, slip and fall accidents, trip and fall accidents, and drunk driving victims. The firm handles accident cases throughout the state of South Carolina, particularly in the low country counties of the state. Shelly has represented clients throughout the state and nationwide. If you, a family member or a friend has been injured by someone else s negligence, contact Shelly Leeke today for a Free, no obligation case consultation at We consistently provide up to date information for accident victims. We believe that knowledge is power and offer free reports and information for South Carolina residents. Shelly Leeke Law Firm North Area Office 103 Laurel Avenue Goose Creek, SC Downtown & Mt. Pleasant 222 W. Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, SC Phone: Fax: LeekeLaw.com Shelly M. Leeke Attorney at Law
13 November 2009 Low Country Today Local News Legal New Book Helps South Carolina Accident Victims Goose Creek, SC- An attorneyauthor is giving voice to injured people in South Carolina who are in search of fair compensation from their insurance companies after an accident. Personal Injury Attorney Shelly M. Leeke wrote "The South Carolina Accident Book: Avoid the Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Injury Case." The book was written for South Carolina residents, and is meant to be an informative, practical, and easy to read guide for accident victims and motorists. In the book, Leeke addresses various aspects of the insurance claims and litigation processes that are common in personal injury cases, and is being offered free to residents of South Carolina. The book covers important topics such as, "What is a Personal Injury or Accident Case?", "Should I talk to the insurance company about my case?", and "Do I really need an attorney?" The book also discusses in depth the steps to take after an accident, the critical mistakes that can destroy your injury case, medical treatment considerations, why you may not even need an attorney for your case, and the legal process involved in resolving a personal injury claim. The book includes fifteen chapters spanning some 75 pages. "Most of my clients come to me after having been involved in devastating accident. I ve seen many unfortunate situations where an injured accident victim was taken advantage of by the insurance company. Too often, the accident victim has made a serious mistake in their case before they seek the advice of an attorney. Accident victims have questions that need answers immediately. They need useful information available to them, before they hire an attorney or speak with an insurance adjustor." said Leeke. Leeke says that she also wrote the book to provide accident victims with accurate information about insurance claims and the legal process. For instance, the book addresses common myths associated with accident claims and it offers an inside look at tactics used by the insurance companies to devalue accident claims. The book has been published by Word Association Press and is at Amazon.com. As a public service, and for a limited time only, residents in South Carolina will receive a free copy of the book. The Book can be ordered for free at TheSouthCarolinaAccidentBook.com.
14 Shelly M. Leeke, Attorney at Law R E S P E C T E D A U T H O R The South Carolina Accident Book: Avoid the Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Accident Case is intended to help accident victims who have been injured in South Carolina. The book addresses various aspects of the insurance claims and civil litigation processes that are common in personal injury cases. It covers a wide array of accident claims topics such as, What is a Personal Injury or Accident Case?, How Do You Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Case?, and Do you really need an attorney? The book also details how to work with a claims adjustor, medical treatment considerations, and the dif- If You Or a Friend or Family Member Would Like to Receive a FREE Copy of This Book, Simply Complete This Form and Return it To Our Office By Fax to OR Scan and the Form to We will also add them to our newsletter mailing list as a complimentary gift. Name: Address: Address: Request Additional Copies: Please send my friends or family a copy of the book: Name: Address: City: State: Zip: Address: Shelly Leeke Law Firm North Area Office 103 Laurel Avenue Goose Creek, SC Downtown & Mt. Pleasant 222 W. Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, SC Phone: Fax: LeekeLaw.com Shelly M. Leeke Author
Complimentary Copy Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina Automobile Accident Related Property Damage Claims By The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin INTRODUCTION This informational booklet has
After a Car Accident Your (Legal) Survival Guidebook to Handling a Property Damage Claim WITHOUT a Lawyer When your vehicle is damaged and it s someone else s fault, you have certain rights under North
Law Y o u r Rights After A Serious Car Accident Provided as a public service by: Serving Virginia & West Virginia Page 1 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this booklet is to provide basic information to help
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Florida Attorney Frank M. Eidson has practiced law since 1998 in Central Florida. Since that time he has represented thousands of injured clients who have been injured in motorcycle accidents,
Protecting Your Family From Accidents Practical advice on insurance choices, the insurance claim process and Personal Injury and Wrongful Death lawsuits, including: A Lawyer s Guide To Purchasing Car Insurance
Handling Your Own Property Damage Claim After An Auto Accident in Texas Table of Contents Handling Your Own Property Damage Claim after an Auto Accident in Texas... 1 Introduction... 3 Chapter 1... 4 Important
Free Legal Consumer Guide Series Brought To You By Meeting All Your Legal Needs For 50 Years 2 Everything You Need To Know About Car Accident Cases HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE If you read this guide, you will
9 Common Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Workers Compensation Claim And How to Avoid Making Them By Frank M. Eidson Copyright 2013 by PILMMA Publishing All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used
Auto Insurance Consumer s Guide Prepared by Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance P.O. Box 1157 Richmond, Virginia 23218 (804) 371-9185 (877) 310-6560 Website: www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/
The Essential Consumer Guide for Accident Cases in Florida The Seven Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case Don t Let The Insurance Company Take Advantage of You! WHETHER YOU HAVE BEEN
MONTANA COMMISSIONER OF SECURITIES & INSURANCE MONICA J. LINDEEN COMMISSIONER MONTANA STATE AUDITOR Dear Fellow Montanan: I am pleased to provide you with a copy of the Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance.
CRASH COURSE 101 Achieving Physical & Financial Recovery After an Accident Sixth Edition John M. Graham, Attorney at Law of Graham Lundberg & Peschel Injury Attorneys since 1979 (800) 422 4610 North Puget
Disclaimer This book is educational information only. This is not legal advice. ANY CASE RESULTS INCLUDED IN THIS BOOK ARE BASED ON THE SPECIFIC FACTS OF THOSE CASES. PAST RESULTS DO NOT PREDICT FUTURE
The Insider's Guide to Handling Ohio Injury Claims 2014 Edition By Attorney David M. Chester The Chester Law Group Co., LPA Helping Those Injured in Ohio Recover from Motor Vehicle Accidents The Insider's
COLORADO INJURY LAW A Reference for Accident Victims by Michael R. O Connell, Esq Speaker Media Press Colorado Injury Law: A Reference for Accident Victims Copyright 2009 by Speaker Media & Marketing Derivative
State of New Hampshire Insurance Department Your Guide to Understanding Auto Insurance in the Granite State What You Need to Know! This guide is intended to give New Hampshire consumers basic information
CALIFORNIA MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT HANDBOOK Edward A. Smith Attorney at Law Who I am and why I wrote this book I am Ed Smith, founder and owner of the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith. As a trial lawyer in California
State of New Hampshire Insurance Department Your Guide to Understanding Auto Insurance in the Granite State What You Need to Know! This guide is intended to give New Hampshire consumers basic information
Personal Injury Claims in Georgia: The Definitive Guide for Injured Victims & Their Lawyers in Car Accident Cases By: Gary Martin Hays Copyright 2013 by Gary Martin Hays. All Rights Reserved. Published
Information for Worker s Compensation Clients Overview of the Worker s Compensation Act Indiana Worker s Compensation cases are governed by a State law known as the Worker s Compensation Act. The legislature
Automobile Accident Injury Guide Step By Step Procedures To Protect Your Rights Find Out What The Insurance Companies Do Not Want You To Know About Your Rights! By David Eaton and Matthew D. Powell Trial
Table of Contents 1. What should I do when the other driver s insurance company contacts me?... 1 2. Who should be paying my medical bills from a car accident injury?... 2 3. What should I do after the
pg. 1 Table of Contents A Message From Attorney Edgar Snyder 1 In a Snapshot: Pennsylvania s Automobile 3 Insurance Coverage PA Insurance Quick Reference Chart 5 Why We Recommend What We Do 7 Limited Tort
Wayne Howell, PLLC Basic Property Damage Information Amotor vehicle accident results in two separate and distinct claims the bodily injury claim, for which you generally engage an attorney, and the property