After an Accident: Auto Damage and Rental Car Information
If you were injured in a car accident, chances are your vehicle was damaged too. Repairing or replacing your car after an accident can be extremely expensive and frustrating, especially if you need to get to work. Fortunately, damages are often covered by your insurance.
Solving Property Damage Claim Problems
While most people are insured for these types of situations, you may not know whether the damages will be covered, which insurance company will pay, how to get a rental car, or how to handle a disputed claim.
This property damage guide will help you answer those questions.
What is automobile property damage?
In a car accident, any damage that occurs to an inanimate object is considered property damage. As you may be aware, your claim against the insurance company consists of two parts: your property damage claim and your personal injury claim. The property damage claim covers your motor vehicle and any personal property items on or inside the vehicle that may have been damaged as a result of the accident. Under Florida law, the “at-fault” driver is responsible for fixing and repairing all of the damage his or her negligence has caused—not just vehicle damage.
How to start a property damage claim after an accident
The first step in any car accident is to check on the wellbeing of everyone involved. Then, call the police. You will need the police report of the accident for the insurance company.
While waiting for the police to arrive, it is important to exchange information will all involved parties and witnesses. Obtain names and insurance information. Then, start collecting evidence and documenting the scene.
Take photos of the accident scene or jot down details, such as:
- Vehicle damage
- Traffic signs
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Environmental surroundings
- Directions of travel, and
- Any other relevant details that you deem important.
When to file your claim
Filing your claim too early or too late can affect the results.
In Florida, your right to submit a claim typically starts on the day of the accident and extends four years from that exact date. It’s important to understand that your personal injury claim likely has a different deadline than your property damage claim. Write these dates down and keep them in mind during settlement negotiations.
Dealing with the claim’s adjuster
Once a claim is opened by the insurance company, you will likely need to speak to the claims adjuster who will be handling your claim. Be honest and upfront with them but avoid any language that could be interpreted as “admitting fault”.
Don’t let the adjuster intimidate you or convince you that you don’t have choices. You have a right to choose the body shop which repairs your vehicle and you have a right to fight any unfair claim denials. You also have a right to reclaim your vehicle’s value and cover the cost of any rental cars you need while your car is being repaired.
Reclaim your vehicle’s value
If your vehicle was damaged in a crash and has been repaired by the insurance company, you may be able to reclaim the value that was lost due to it having been involved in a car accident. It’s no secret that vehicles with a clean Carfax often fetch a higher trade-in or selling price, and we want to help you recuperate that loss. Ask your case manager about how to file a diminution in value claim, often referred to as “DIV” for short.
This type of claim is excluded under the collision coverage on your own policy but may be recoverable with the at-fault party’s carrier. Typically, the at-fault insurance carrier will have you fill out a packet of paperwork about the details of your car and the damage it sustained, and then they will have your claim reviewed for a potential compensation offer. This offer is negotiable. Also, keep in mind this type of claim is often only reviewed if your vehicle is less than five model years old or newer, has less than 100,000 miles on it and has never been in an accident before.
Rental vehicle policy
Did you know the at-fault insurance carrier owes you a rental vehicle for the active and reasonable repair time of your vehicle or during the total loss settlement process? According to the Department of Insurance regulations, you are entitled to a similar class of vehicle to the one that was damaged in the auto accident. This means if you drove an SUV before the accident, the insurance company owes you the same rate an SUV can be rented for after the accident. If your vehicle is deemed to be a total loss—meaning it would cost more to repair than to replace—your rental will be available to you for up to three days from the time the settlement offer is made.
Here is a quick money-saving tip when you get your rental:
The rental agency will offer you a daily coverage charge to ensure the rental is insured for the time you are driving it. This charge can be up to $15/$20 a day, but if you do not carry full coverage on your policy, then the at-fault insurance company is responsible to pay this fee. Sometimes your current insurance policy offers coverage while you are driving a rental, so check with your agent or insurance adjuster today to see if your policy has full coverage to avoid any unnecessary out of pocket costs!
Arrive at a settlement
Once you’ve finalized a settlement for your property damage, you will need to sign a release. These releases will likely prevent you from seeking further compensation in the future. As such, you should never sign anything without first speaking with a car accident lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to review your settlement offer and help you determine if the compensation offered is enough to cover all of your injuries and expenses.
How to get a rental car after an accident
Before you can obtain a rental car, you or your representative will need to meet with an adjuster from your insurance company.
After your property damage claim is reported, an adjuster will often contact you directly regarding the claim. He or she will set up a time and place to inspect, photograph, and appraise the damage to your vehicle. The adjuster will suggest you take your vehicle to one of the body shops approved by your insurance company to start the repairs. You do not have to use their recommendations and can take your vehicle anywhere you want. Either way, the adjuster will approve the repair of your vehicle and will also approve a rental car.
Who pays for your rental car?
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will be the one to provide and pay for a rental car for you to use while you are getting your own car fixed. However, the insurance company may not pay upfront. In some cases, the other person’s insurance company will not pay for your rental vehicle until the court determines who is at-fault.
If this happens, you may be able to use your own personal rental insurance, if you have this type of coverage on your policy. Call the claims adjuster you spoke with to see if they can provide a rental car for you and directly bill the liable insurance company. The one caveat with using your insurance is there’s a cap on the number of days. Often, rental coverage only lasts 30 days.
If you don’t have rental car insurance and the other company is not paying for your rental car, you may have to pay out-of-pocket until the case settles. Be aware this takes time. Insurance companies delay payouts as long as possible.
Make sure you document all of your rental costs. Saving these records will ensure you receive the proper compensation amount when your case settles.
Avoid these common pitfalls
- Don’t wait to return your rental car when your car is fixed.
As soon as your car is fixed, return your rental car. The insurance company is no longer responsible for the rental feeds once the body shop has completed all repairs.
- Don’t rent-up.
If the car you damaged was a Toyota Corolla, then you cannot rent a Tesla. The insurance company will only cover fees comparable to the cost of the damaged vehicle. You will be charged additional fees if you choose to upgrade your vehicle.
- Don’t pay unnecessary costs.
The rental agency will offer you a daily coverage charge to ensure the rental is insured. This charge can be up to $15/$20 a day, but if you do not carry full coverage on your policy, then the at-fault insurance company is responsible to pay this fee. Sometimes your current insurance policy offers coverage while you are driving a rental, so check with your agent or insurance adjuster to make sure you are not paying unnecessary costs.
Our complimentary claims services
If all of this sounds like a tedious ordeal, please know that at Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez we handle the entire process for our clients as a complimentary service. From getting copies of the police report to setting up the vehicle inspection, we take care of everything for you.
- We arrange for your rental car to be ready when you need it.
- We help you get extensions on rentals if your vehicle is not repaired within the allotted time.
- We fight for a fair price on the vehicle repairs to ensure you get the best value.
- We take pictures of the property damage before, during, and after the repairs. This ensures your demand is for the proper amount.
- We help you get your deductible back from your insurance company, if you go through your insurance for repairs.
- We always make sure our clients are satisfied with the outcome of their vehicle repairs.
To learn more about auto property damage and rental car info following an accident, you can contact us here or call 813-774-3341.