How to Handle Your Own Property Damage Insurance Claim
Having worked with victims of catastrophic injuries for over 30 years, I think handling property damage is about as difficult as throwing bread in the toaster. If you are new to personal injury warfare, it can be a very difficult endeavor, consuming your time and energy leaving you with a result that is less than desirable in your already fragile condition. Using your skills and the following information, you should be able to get the money you deserve.
Personal Injury v. Property Damage
First things first; property damage and personal injury claims are as different as night and day. While personal injury claims could last years, property damage claims can last weeks. Your personal injury claim must be fully developed, you must finish treatment and you must have a written itemized demand letter detailing the extent of your injuries and financial loss as is related.
For the adjuster to fully access your property damage claim, all they need is the overall costs of the damage to your vehicle. This would include documentation of your personal belongings that were destroyed in the accident and all other property costs incurred as a result of your car accident. You can negotiate over the phone, and there is usually no formal demand package.
Utilizing Property Damage Adjusters
You can use adjusters to your advantage, or you can let them use you for your own demise. There is a fine line, and you have the pen. Many car accident victims find themselves with their back up against the wall due to a poor choice of words; this is because the adjusters are trained to put you there. When speaking with the adjuster about your property damage claim, do not let them coerce you into talks about your injuries. It may seem like they are concerned for your health, but they are concerned about their paycheck. Do not say too much: limit conversation to where and when of inspection and to the amount of loss to your property. Remain polite, but be clear that all talks about your injuries must wait until you have completed your treatment.
Third Party Claims
Knowing who is at fault is crucial to the property damage process. If the other driver's liability is crystal clear, it's best for you to seek a property damage settlement from his or her company in what is known as a third-party claim. If the adjuster accepts responsibility, you will receive compensation within a matter of days or weeks. Moreover, you will not be required to pay a deductible.
The question of liability is not an issue in terms of filing for property damage under your own collision coverage. A collision policy provides payment regardless of fault, whereas a third-party claim is paid only if the other person's negligence can be shown. Your own insurer will pay you for the damages to your vehicle and its contents so long as you comply with the company's rules for inspection and estimates, and agree to the settlement amount. Be prepared to pay your deductible under your collision coverage's terms.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If the other driver does not have insurance, and you have uninsured motorist coverage, using your UM coverage might be your only option. Some types of UM coverage provide compensation for property loss; others do not. Also, you would have to be able to prove that the other driver was at fault.
Property Damage Repairs
Once you have decided which policy you will file against, move forward with fixing or replacing your vehicle. If delays or liability disputes arise, however, you need to file under your own auto insurance policy. If you find a shop you like, make sure you receive clearance from the insurer before your car is fixed. They will probably want to have their shop generate an estimate, in such case it is crucial to obtain an additional estimate from a shop of your choosing.
If your own policy includes rental coverage, your insurer must provide a temporary vehicle for you while your auto is being repaired or while you are seeking to replace it. Ask your agent for direct billing, and you can later be reimbursed for these costs.
Other Items of Loss
Anything in your vehicle at the time of your car accident that was destroyed needs to be included in your property damage settlement. Make sure to take pictures, keep receipts and have overall detailed documentation of the items you are claiming.
Final Property Damage Settlement and Release
Hopefully, the property damage claim should take a relatively short period of time. Put together an itemized list for the adjuster, and within a short period of time -- perhaps one to three weeks -- you should obtain settlement from either the other driver's insurance or your own company.
To obtain your reimbursement, you will have to sign a release. Before signing a check or release, be sure that the words "Property Damage Only" or "Property Damage Claim" are written on both documents.
California Legal Advice
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