Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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Who is responsible for paying my property damage claim?
First, let's assume both you and the other driver have insurance coverage and that the liability for the accident is clear. It will ultimately be the other person's insurance company that is responsible for fixing or replacing your vehicle.
However, if your have full coverage on your own vehicle, you may find it to your advantage to work with your own insurance company, rather than coordinating repair or replacement with the other person's insurance company. This may be apply to you because:
- You are not happy with the dollar offer from the other insurance company.
- You are not happy with the overall manner in which the other insurance company is handling your property damage claim.
- The insurance company for the other party has called you and said they are "attempting to sort out liability" for the accident. This statement could mean:a) they have yet to talk with their insured
b) their insured's version of the accident doesn't match your version
Either way, this doesn't bode well for you. You won't be getting an offer any time soon, and you won't be extended a rental car by that insurance company.
For all these reasons, you may choose to call your own insurance company to investigate the property damage. Ultimately, your company will make use of their subrogation rights and turn to the other company for reimbursement. It won't be your insurer that foots the bill, but you might get better, faster service from them.
What does "mitigating" my property damagemean?
Mitigating losses is a term used throughout the insurance industry. To "mitigate" means to lessen or minimize.
The concept is that you have the ultimate responsibility to lessen the property and personal damages resulting from your accident. You may not have caused the accident, but the responsibility of finding a replacement vehicle, and taking active steps towards resolving all the other issues, will largely rest with you. Once an insurance company makes an offer, whether it's by phone, in writing, or through a voice mail message, the clock starts ticking against you.
A specific example of mitigating your losses involves the use of a rental car. If the insurance company has given you a rental car, it's safe to assume they will not be paying for it more than a week or until liability for the accident is determined.
START LOOKING FOR A VEHICLE THE MOMENT YOU ARE ABLE TO FOLLOWING YOUR ACCIDENT.
Even before you have an offer, you can at least begin to search for vehicles that are comparable to your current one.
Why would the insurance company not give me a rental car?
1. The other party's insurance company is still investigating liability.
Remember, just because the police report indicates their driver is at fault, there's still the chance their insured has told them a different story. Until that insurance company places liability on their insured, they will not extend you a rental. (The police report is not necessarily the definitive factor in regard to liability.)
2. You were struck by an uninsured driver and do not have a rental car provision in your policy.
Few people think to check their policy for rental car provisions. Some people believe full coverage automatically includes rental car coverage. Not true. I would suggest calling your agent to see if you have rental car coverage in your policy.
3. You were uninsured and placed at fault for the accident.
Am I allowed tooffer evidence to the adjusterthat my car is worth more than what he or she hasoffered?
Sources of extra value are upgrades you've had done on your car, or accessories you've purchased for the vehicle. Perhaps you've recently outfitted your car with four new tires. The adjuster will ask for receipts or other proof of these improvements, and won't increase the offer without that proof.
Keep in mind that the adjuster does not have an obligation to compensate you for general upkeep of your vehicle. Normal maintenance, replacement of tires when you have a flat tire will not earn extra consideration.
The rules and practices are often ambiguous. Individual insurance companies handle property damage in widely differing ways. What may be the rule for one company will be the exception for another.
I just bought my car and owe more than it's worth. What can I do?
Unless you have GAP coverage in your insurance policy, there may be little to nothing you can do. (If you're wondering what GAP coverage is, don't feel alone. Many accident victims are unaware of this type of insurance until it's too late.)
GAP coverage is designed to protect you in the event the value of your car is less than the balance of your loan.
The amount you owe on your auto loan - $12,500
Your car's fair market value at the time of loss - $7,500
Your insurance deductible - $500
The amount your insurance company pays you - $7000.
The gap between this amount and what you owe on your car - $5,500.
And it doesn't matter whether the accident was your fault or not, or whether you use your insurance company or go through the other person's insurance company. If you don't have GAP insurance, you will be responsible for the remaining $5,500.
Who determines whether the vehicle is repairable or not?
The insurance company.
This holds true if you were to use your insurance company or pursue the property damage claim through the other party's carrier. The insurance company makes the determination regarding the cost of repairs if your vehicle is not totaled. They also determine whether or not your vehicle is a total loss.
There is no magic number to determine whether a car is repairable. In general, an insurance company will assess the damage. If those damages exceed 65-75% of the car's total value, it's probable they'll call the car a total loss. This percentage may vary from company to company and state to state.
Does the insurance company become the authority over who repairs my vehicle?
You have every right to let the insurance company know which collision/body shop you prefer to have repair your vehicle.
Will I be required to pay a deductible on my property damage claim?
If the accident was not your fault, and you have decided to go through your own insurance company to recover the loss, then you'll be expected to pay the deductible on your policy. (This is the reason many people are turned off to the idea of using their own insurance policy, though it's perfectly acceptable to request that your own insurance company repair your vehicle or determine whether or not it's a total loss.) However, assuming the other party is 100% at fault, you'll get your deductible back from the other person's insurance company, although you may need to wait awhile for this to happen.
Sometimes your insurance company can call the other company and request that they pay the deductible up front so that you don't have to pay out of pocket. Since the other company knows they'll be paying it sooner or later, it's highly likely they'll agree to pay the deductible now. You simply need to inquire about this when talking to your adjuster.
If you were placed 20% at fault for the accident, and you're using your own insurance company, then you would recover 80% of your deductible. The comparative negligence is counted against you for whatever percent of fault is assigned to you in the accident.
My car was totaled and is sitting in a salvagelot.Am I responsible forstorage fees?
An insurance company will expect you to have been searching for a vehicle to replace yours if they feel it's a total loss. The moment the insurance company has made an offer to you on your vehicle, they will likely stop paying storage fees. This will happen even if you do not agree with the offer. You could be left with a rather large bill if you ignore their attempts to settle with you.
If the insurance company is still investigating fault, they will probably ask for your permission to move the vehicle to a facility that does not charge daily fees for the storage of your vehicle. There is no reason not to allow them to do this. If you refuse their request, you will likely be racking up unwanted storage fees.
Why did the adjuster offer me an amount for my car that was less than Blue Book value?
Consumer guides such as Kelly Blue Book and NADA annually collect and publish data on the value of consumer vehicles. But these guides offer only a general estimate of value and may not take into account certain factors the car insurance company will use to determine the value of your vehicle.
The final offer made to you by the adjuster will be based on the resale or fair market value of your vehicle in your particular geographic location.
There is often confusion regarding property damage value, because the clients look for reimbursement at an amount that they feel the car is worth to them, not what the car would actually sell for in their particular town, city, etc., and there can be a sizeable difference between the two.
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