What To Do After a Car Accident in Alpharetta
How to pursue a property damage claim in Georgia
The good news is that not everyone involved in a car wreck is going to suffer an injury. The bad news is that in every wreck you are going to have some degree of property damage to your vehicle and/or the value of the vehicle going forward.
Below we will discuss the two most important things to do immediately after a car accident to help you resolve your property damage claim and then discuss some of the details surrounding property damage claims. Our property damage attorneys help injury victims we are representing on the personal injury side handle their property damage claim for free as part of our overall representation of them after a collision.
Two Important Things To Do First
1. TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES
It seems like it should not need to be said but we are shocked at how many clients do not take pictures of the damage to any of the vehicles in the wreck. The most important pictures to take are obviously of your vehicle immediately after the accident. If you can safely do it at the scene take them right there with your phone.
There are two other types of pictures that may prove very helpful to you in your property damage claim:
- Pictures of the other vehicles involved in the wreck (at the scene if possible). These could come in handy should there be any argument about who was the cause of the collision.
- Pictures of the scene itself including where the vehicles wound up after impact, if possible, as well as pictures of the roadway to help prove how the at-fault driver should have avoided the collision or how he or she caused it and pictures of any debris from the vehicles left in the roadway after impact.
2. REPORT THE ACCIDENT TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
After every accident you must report the incident to your own auto insurance company immediately. Any delay could be used against you later should you need to use your insurance to cover any damages.
After most collisions, you can work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to settle the property damage fairly easily. However, there are some times when the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not be very responsive to your claim or will deny all or a portion of it for invalid reasons.
In these scenarios, you are not required to only use the at-fault driver’s insurance to cover your property damage. You can use your auto insurance to cover all of the property damage (minus your deductible), settle with it, and then your insurance company will go after the at-fault driver’s insurance company on your behalf to recoup what it paid you.
How To Best Handle Different Types of Property Damage Claims
There are two main types of property damage claims depending on the severity of the damage done to your vehicle; one of which brings with it another unique claim you do not want to miss. These two types are full value of your vehicle or repair costs.
Car Is Totaled
If your car is totaled, you have the right to what your vehicle was worth right before the collision. This means its value in the condition it was in and with the amount of miles it had on it. It is whatever the market would have paid you for that vehicle had you sold it as is right before the collision.
The downside to this comes when you owe more on your vehicle than what it was worth. You unfortunately do not have the right to receive compensation for what you currently owe on the vehicle. Again, you only have a right to what it was worth at the time.
So the question becomes what was the value of your vehicle at the time and how do you prove it. The more expensive way to prove it to the insurance company is by hiring an independent appraiser to go inspect the vehicle and the marketplace and give you his or her opinion on the value of the vehicle. This is what you would need if you went to court on your property damage claim.
The good news is there is a cheaper way to get the same numbers to help you negotiate with the insurance company. We recommend to our clients that they get three estimates from various online sources and take the average number as your target settlement number. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds.com are two sources.
Be careful here though. We have heard time and time again from clients that the insurance adjuster tells them they do not accept Kelly Blue Book and other online estimates. There is nothing in the law that says that an adjuster cannot consider these estimates as legitimate sources. You can absolutely use them as a guidepost for what is a reasonable offer or not for the value of your vehicle.
Car Is Repairable
If your vehicle is repairable you have two unique property damage claims here. The first is payment for proper repair of the vehicle. The second is the diminished value of your vehicle after it is repaired. Lets tackle the first claim.
Getting your vehicle repaired is typically straightforward. One important thing to remember is that you do not have to use the insurance company’s body shop. Quite frankly we don’t recommend to our clients that they do so.
Instead, go to a trusted repair shop. Maybe you have one you have worked with in the past. If not, get a recommendation from your mechanic or friends and family. As long as the shop you use is priced within industry standards, the insurance company has no legitimate reason to deny covering the bill.
Also, make sure the shop will use new parts not refurbished parts from a junk yard. This is the often the problem faced with using the insurance company’s repair shop. Be careful.
The diminished value claim is very similar to the totaled vehicle claim. Diminished value means the difference between the value of your vehicle right before it was hit and the value of the vehicle after repairs because it has been in an accident.
This claim exists because the used car market will pay significantly less for the same vehicle that has been in a wreck and repaired versus a vehicle that has a clean history. In the age of Car Fax, every buyer is knowledgeable about the history a vehicle and know to ask these questions.
Similar to the totaled vehicle claim, for the diminished value claim, you are going to want to get a good idea of the value of the vehicle both before the wreck and after repairs. Again, turning to the internet can give you all the information you need to make an informed decision regarding the lost value of your vehicle post-collision.
Insurance company’s typically only offer a few hundred dollars at best for diminished value claims without significant evidence from the claimant of the lost value. The best evidence for your diminished value claim is through an independent appraiser. However, internet estimates and market research of what similar cars are selling for are great places to start.
If you still have questions or concerns about a car accident claim in Alpharetta or elsewhere in Georgia, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to answer your questions or concerns. All consultations are free (770) 355-0780.