25 Apr What if I sustained property damage to my vehicle but was not injured?
Unfortunately you were involved in an automobile collision with another driver who is at fault. One of three situations will typically arise in property damage to vehicles cases : 1) the other driver has automobile insurance coverage; 2) the other driver does NOT have automobile coverage, however, you do; and 3) neither of you has automobile insurance coverage.
For situation one, usually you can handle this claim on your own with the other driver’s insurance company directly. Hopefully you received the insurance information for the other driver at the scene of the collision. If not, if police responded, chances are there is a police report with the other driver’s information. Contact the other insurance company to set up a claim. Either you will have to take your car to an approved auto body shop for inspection or a field adjuster will come out. I encourage my clients to obtain an estimate of their own to compare, in case the total amount of property damage differs in amount or in scope of damage. You then have the option to either get the car fixed, during which the insurance company will offer you a rental car, or you can take a check from the insurance company in lieu of repairs. I tell clients that if they are keeping the car, they should probably get the vehicle fixed because if additional damages are found by the auto body shop, the insurance company will have to pay for it (as long as it is related). Your best advocate in this situation is that body shop. If you pocket the money, if any additional damages is found at a later date, it is immensely difficult to get the insurance company to handle the “new found” damage.
In situation two, if the other driver does not have insurance, if you have full coverage, you will have to use your own insurance and pay your deductible. Depending on your plan, a rental car may also be available. If you do not have full coverage but have collision only, your insurance company will not handle your property damage for you. If so, see situation three.
In situation three where neither of you have auto insurance OR if you only have collision coverage on your auto insurance policy, you have to proceed a different route outside of insurance. If there was a criminal proceeding associated with the wreck, such as drunk driving or careless and imprudent, there will sometimes be a criminal/traffic case for the defendant. It is important to find out and notify the prosecutor that you are due restitution. Usually the defendant making restitution will be a condition of the sentence or plea the defendant is offered.
If there is no criminal action pending with respect to the collision, you can try to sue the other driver directly. Depending on the amount of damage to your vehicle, you can try to sue him in small claims court (contact the county in which the collision occurred to determine the maximum you can claim in small claims first). If it is greater than the small claims limit, then you may want to contact an attorney to determine if the driver has any assets to justify suing him.
Property damage to vehicles can be tricky, but if you still have any issues, CONTACT US today to review your case.
Tarun B. Rana, Esq.
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