After you have been in a car wreck, at some point, you will have to deal with handling a claim for automobile property damage. That is, you will be seeking payment for damage to your car that occurred during the wreck in which you were involved. The sole purpose of the blog article is to provide you with some general information about how a property damage claim is generally handled in South Carolina. So this article is not intended to give you specific legal advice about your specific situation. Its purpose is to give you some general guidelines or a framework of understanding so you can handle your automobile property damage claim yourself. Remember, you can always seek out the services of an attorney; but in many instances it is cost prohibitive to hire an attorney to handle a small automobile property damage claim. Also, this article is not about your potential personal injury claim. You should hire a qualified experienced personal injury trial lawyer to handle your claim for personal injury arising out of the car wreck in which you were involved.
To begin with, it must be determined who was at fault in the accident. Most of the time the investigating police officer will make that determination. Or one party will admit it. But before an insurance company will pay an automobile property damage claim from its liability policy, there must be a determination and acceptance by an insurance company of fault. Sometimes both parties were at fault. Even if you were at fault or if there was a single vehicle accident, there may be insurance coverage to pay your claim. More on that below. If you were not at fault, then the other driver will be responsible for compensating you for the damage to your car and some other losses. I say the “other driver” what I mean is the other driver’s insurance company. You can handle a property damage claim yourself. You know probably better than anyone what your car was worth before it was involved in the wreck.
The person who is at fault will incur financial responsibility to cover two types of damage.
- Bodily Injury = damage done to a person or persons
- Property Damage = damage done to vehicles or other property
There are sections within automobile insurance that may cover some of these damages. Bodily Injury Liability Insurance covers the first type. While Property Damage Liability covers the second.
What can be considered property damage in a car accident?
If you are involved in an accident that is not your fault and your property is damaged, you may receive compensation for that loss. This part of your policy is called property damage liability coverage. This is in addition to compensation that you may get for bodily injury. What items can be considered property damage?
Here are some examples of what can fall under the category of damaged property:
When shopping for property damage insurance, consider the following numbers:
The 3rd number above represents property damage liability coverage. This amount covers a maximum amount per accident. If you are in a wreck and the damage incurred costs more than $25,000 you will be responsible to pay the difference out of your own pocket. Each state has their own requirements for the policy amount. It is important that you look into those requirements when shopping for insurance.
What amounts are recoverable for an automobile property damage claim? Generally speaking, you are allowed to claim the fair market value of your car in the condition it was in immediately prior to the accident. To determine that number, you can look at a number of sources: other sales, what used car dealers are selling vehicles in the same conditions as yours, what do car trading or car sales publications say a car like yours was worth? Check these sources and develop a number-use the sources as evidence to support your claim. You cannot claim what a new vehicle like yours would be worth. In other words, your claim is for the car you were driving not a new one.
You are also allowed to claim time lost from using your car – whether it was repaired or deemed a total loss. Usually that value is represented by what a rental car during that time would cost. So if you rented a car, then you can claim that cost/expense as well. Also, if you had to pay out of pocket for your car to be stored at tow yard or mechanic then you may be able to claim that expense as well.
You may also be able to make a claim on the other at fault driver’s liability policy for the depreciation or loss in value suffered to your car as a result of the accident if your car was not totaled or a total loss in the accident.
The next question, is who pays and when? Processing of claims does take time but should not take too much time. First off, do not give an insurance a statement about your health until you have consulted an attorney. An adjuster may ask you how you are feeling and its ok to politely decline to speak about your health with an adjuster. Also, when trying to get your property damage claim handled, it pays to be the squeaky wheel. Call the other driver’s insurance company daily – if not twice a day – to make sure they are processing your claim timely and efficiently. Provide the other driver’s insurance company information upon request and timely or quickly. If it was the other driver’s fault, then the other driver’s insurance will be responsible for paying. However, it may take time to perform an investigation in determining who was at fault in the accident. That investigation may delay your receiving a rental car or having your car fixed. The other driver’s insurance company may be dragging its feet. You may have to pay out of pocket for a rental car if transportation is urgent for you. You may want to check your own insurance policy to determine if your own auto insurance will pay for you to have a rental car.
What happens if YOU were at fault in the accident? Property damage liability coverage generally does not pay for damages you cause to your own vehicle or personal property. If you want to ensure that you will be covered for damage to your own property, you may want to consider getting collision and/or comprehensive coverage. Check your policy to see if you have collision coverage. If you do, then you can file a property damage claim on your own coverage for repairs or total losses you caused to your car. You may also be able to get a rental car through your own insurance coverage. Also, collision coverage comes in handy when the accident was not your fault but the at fault driver’s insurance coverage is dragging its feet. You can file a claim on your collision coverage and your claim will probably get handled faster. You will likely have to pay a deductible as well.
Hopefully, this article will have provided you with some general practical information in handling an automobile property damage claim in South Carolina. Please do not treat anything in this article as formal legal advice. If you need formal legal advice, please feel free to call our law office located in Greenville, S.C..
If you or your car have been injured in a car wreck, we know how difficult it can be and we are here to help. Contact our offices at 864-235-4999 to discuss your case.