If you have been in an accident, getting your car fixed is probably your first priority. Until it is drivable, your life will be affected by more than just your physical injuries. The following are several car repair questions often posed by our clients:

Question: Who Will Pay To Repair My Vehicle?

Short answer: Maybe the at-fault driver’s insurance company; maybe your own.

Insurance companies are not bound by the opinions of the police officers who respond to accident scenes. As a result, even when an at-fault party is cited for the accident, its insurance company may not pay for repairs to your vehicle. Rather, the at-fault party’s insurance company will make its own determination of who is at fault, and that process can take months to resolve.

If the at-fault party’s insurer accepts liability soon after the accident, it should pay all costs associated with repairs to your vehicle. However, if they dispute liability, or if their investigation drags on, your car repairs will be paid for by your own insurance company.

Question: Will I Get A Rental Car Or Payment For Loss Of Use?

Short answer: In almost all situations, yes.

Ideally, the at-fault driver’s insurer pays for a rental car. However, if the insurer has not accepted liability, you may be able to obtain a rental through your own insurer. Most auto insurance policies include provisions for a thirty (30) day car rental. In the unlikely event that you need a rental for more than thirty (30) days, check to see if the at-fault driver’s insurer has concluded its investigation. If they accept liability, they can assume the ongoing payment of your rental car.

While your car is being repaired, you are entitled to either a rental car or daily compensation for the loss of use of your vehicle. You are not entitled to both. Loss of use is payment of approximately $15 – $30 per day while your vehicle is being repaired. Similarly, insurance companies will pay approximately $15 – $30 per day for a rental car.

Be mindful of the following problem areas as they relate to rentals and loss of use:

  • If you retain possession of your vehicle after the accident, you will be responsible for dropping it off with the mechanic. Do not leave your car with the mechanic until the shop has all the parts and manpower necessary to repair your vehicle. Even if your car is in the shop, many insurers will not pay for a rental car or loss of use until your vehicle actually begins to be repaired. Sitting in the shop waiting to be repaired may not count.
  • Always be aware of the insurer’s limits. If you prefer a make or model of rental car that is more expensive than what the insurer is willing to pay, you will be required to pay the difference in cost.
  • Your rental car must be returned as soon as you are notified that your vehicle is ready for pick up. You will be responsible to pay for every additional rental day beyond such notification.
  • In most cases, your personal auto insurance coverage extends to your rental car. If you feel that such coverage is insufficient, you may elect to purchase additional insurance through the rental agency. However, keep in mind that you will not be reimbursed for this cost.
  • Regardless of who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, the rental car will only be issued to the owner of the damaged vehicle.
  • With few exceptions, renting a car requires a credit card. This remains true even when an insurance company pays for the rental. If you do not own a credit card, you may be able to rent a car on a lien, meaning that you will pay the rental fee out of a future settlement. Please note that if your case does not result in a satisfactory award, you will still be personally liable to pay these charges. When rented on a lien, daily rates increase dramatically. When seeking compensation from an insurer for this cost, many companies will only pay the standard fee, leaving you with the balance of the inflated amount. For this reason, liens should be avoided when possible.

Question: Will I Have To Pay My Deductible?

Short answer: If you use your own insurer, yes. If you use the at-fault driver’s insurer, no.

If the at-fault driver’s insurer accepts liability, it should pay the cost of repairs to your vehicle without you paying a deductible. However, if liability is disputed, cost of repairs will likely fall on your own insurer. In that case, your insurer will usually require that you pay your deductible. While this cost is initially unavoidable, you may be entitled to a reimbursement of your deductible if the at-fault driver’s insurer ultimately accepts liability.

Even after the repairs, my car is still worth less than it was before. Can I be compensated for that?

Short answer: In many cases, yes.

It is true that your vehicle loses value simply by having been in an accident, even after all necessary repairs. Given two comparable vehicles, a buyer prefers the vehicle with no history of an accident, and you are entitled to the difference between their valuations. To be compensated for this loss, you would make a claim for “diminution of value” to your vehicle. Insurers often fight these claims and many attorneys do not bother making them at all. However, if your vehicle is less than five (5) years old and did not have significant repairs before the accident, you should not ignore this avenue of recovery. In most cases, an automotive inspection and appraisal expert will apply the pressure needed to encourage an offer from the insurance company.

Keep in mind that being legally entitled to something does not mean that the insurer will give it willingly. Heaton & Associates knows the insurer’s pressure points and will help you resolve your property damage claim quickly, with all the compensation you are entitled to. Call now!