Car accidents can be costly. In addition to getting treatment for your injuries, you also need to worry about your car, which may be your only means of transportation.
Even a relatively minor crash can cause major cosmetic, structural and mechanical damage to the vehicle. As a result, you may suddenly face expenses for a rental car, extensive vehicle repairs or a new car. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to get yourself back on the road. Here are a few suggestions to follow:
Review Your Insurance Coverage
If another driver caused your accident, you can file a property damage claim against that driver in addition to your claim for bodily injury damages. Texas law requires drivers to carry at least $25,000 in property damage liability insurance. In some cases, an insurance company may offer to settle a property damage claim and even pay for your rental.
However, you will likely have to file a property damage claim with your own insurance company if:
- The other driver’s insurance company refuses to accept liability
- The other driver has no insurance or has insufficient insurance
- A hit-and-run driver caused your crash
- You were largely at fault for the accident.
You should review your own insurance policy as soon as you can after your accident. You will want to see whether your policy includes coverage such as:
- Collision – This insurance will pay for the repair or replacement of your car, regardless of who was at fault. Still, you will likely need to pay a deductible. This coverage is different from comprehensive insurance, which covers non-collision vehicle damage.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – This coverage will kick in if the at-fault driver has no insurance, has insurance that fails to fully cover your property damage or fled the scene after the crash and cannot be located.
- Towing and labor – This form of coverage pays only for towing your car if it is so damaged that it can’t be driven away from the accident.
- Rental reimbursement – This coverage will pay for renting a car while your car is being repaired. If an insurance company declares your car to be “totaled,” and you accept the insurance company’s offer to pay you the actual cash value of your car, then you can expect the rental car coverage to end within a matter of days after you accept the offer.
If you cannot understand your auto insurance policy or have questions about it, you should speak with a lawyer. Many attorneys will handle a property damage claim in addition to handling a bodily injury claim.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate with the Insurance Company
Typically, when you file a property damage claim, an insurance company will use one of its local “preferred” repair shops to estimate what needs to be repaired on the vehicle and what it will cost. The insurer will then offer to pay that amount in repairs, or it will declare the car to be a “total loss” if it finds that the cost of repairs is too close to the car’s actual cash value. However, you don’t have to accept the insurance company’s determination.
You can negotiate. For instance, you can ask one or more other repair shops to inspect your car and give you a repair estimate. If you disagree with the insurance company’s determination of your actual cash value, you can get written price quotes from local car dealers or other sources to show what you think is the right price. With this information, you may be able to negotiate a better deal for the repair or replacement of your vehicle than what the insurance company offers.
Talk with an Attorney Before You Talk with the Insurance Company
Unfortunately, insurance companies often take advantage of car accident victims. After all, they are in a for-profit industry. Often, an insurance company will contact a victim within days or maybe even within hours after a crash and make a settlement offer. If this occurs to you, then you should wait before you say or do anything with the insurance company. Instead, you should contact a lawyer.
An experienced auto accident attorney can review the facts of your case to determine not only liability but also the value of your potential personal injury and/or property damage claim. The attorney can provide a solid advice that is ultimately aimed at getting you the maximum amount of compensation for your losses.