Posted by Tentinger Law Firm

If you’ve just been in a car accident thats not your fault, you likely have many questions, not the least of which is how to get your car back on the road. This article addresses common concerns and questions that drivers face after a collision, including how to get a rental car, and whether you’re even required to get your car repaired. The first step is reporting the claim to your insurance company.

I. Report The Accident To Your Own Insurance Company

Always contact your own insurance company to report an accident, even if the accident was not your fault. Most insurance companies require their customers to report any accident, regardless of fault, and failing to report an accident could allow your insurance carrier to deny coverage. Reporting an accident to your own insurance has the added benefit of alerting them you were involved in a collision and may require medical or wage loss benefits through your No-Fault benefits. It also puts your insurance company on notice in case the other driver is uninsured (no insurance) or underinsured (not enough insurance to cover your personal injury damages), as you may have additional benefits through your own policy.

After reporting the accident, your insurance company will open a “claim” and provide you a claim number. Make sure to take that number down, as you will likely need it for future reference. Your insurance company may also assign your claim to a claim adjuster (the person handling your claim on behalf of the insurance company). Make sure to record their name and number. You will likely need to contact them again, especially if the at-fault driver’s insurance company denies liability.

II. Contact the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company

Next you’ll want to contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This process will be much the same as reporting to your own insurance company. Your property claim will be assigned another claim number and another adjuster. Make sure to take the claim number down and verify the contact information for the claims adjuster. Your mechanic or body shop will need this information when you get your car repaired.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company will investigate your claim and either accept or deny liability. In the event they deny the claim, you will need to contact your own insurance company to make a claim – this will require paying your deductible. If you must file the claim this way, the good news is that you should get your deductible back after your own insurance company makes a demand on the at-fault driver’s insurance. This may take several months though.

III. Choosing A Repair Shop

After determining which insurance company will be paying for the repairs, it’s time to pick a repair shop. In general, you have a right to choose where your car will get fixed. The insurance company is required to pay all costs, including reasonable towing costs, for the satisfactory repair of your vehicle. This includes repair of both obvious and hidden damage caused by the accident.

You are also entitled to original equipment (“OEM”) parts, or parts made by the vehicle manufacturer. This does not mean, however, that the insurer must pay for new OEM parts, as an insurer may use OEM parts of comparable age and condition of your car prior to the accident. The repair estimate will list the parts being used to repair your vehicle and will indicate if they are OEM or aftermarket parts. If it does not show OEM next to a part, insist that all parts be OEM if that is what you want.

IV. Do I Have To Get My Car Repaired?

You are not obligated to get your car repaired. If your vehicle is damaged in a car accident through the fault of another person, that person is responsible for the damage caused. As is often the case, that means having the repair shop bill the insurance company directly. However, you can also request a cash settlement from the insurance company, sufficient to pay for the satisfactory repair of your damaged vehicle. Any settlement check would be payable to you directly.

V. What If My Car Is A Total Loss?

Generally, a vehicle is a total loss when the cost to repair the vehicle to its pre-accident condition is greater than 80 percent of the vehicle’s market value. If your car is deemed a total loss, you are entitled to a cash settlement equal to the cost to purchase a comparable replacement vehicle with similar mileage and in similar condition, inclusive of all taxes, license fees, and registration fees. In the event an insurance company offers you an amount that you feel is inadequate, insist the adjuster provide you with the total loss report showing how they came to that amount. Stay proactive and work with the adjuster to reach a fair settlement.

VI. Getting A Rental Car

If the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts liability for the accident, they will often pay for a replacement vehicle while your car is getting repaired or replaced. Again, just like the repair shop, you have the right to choose what company you use for a rental vehicle and are entitled to a vehicle of similar size and purpose. Nevertheless, it can be a good idea to alert the insurance company of the cost of the rental car prior to incurring any charges. This way, in the event of a disagreement, you won’t be left with a large bill you were not expecting (even though it may eventually get paid by the insurance company).

If the at-fault driver’s insurance company is not accepting liability right away, you may still have coverage through your own automobile insurance. Many insurance policies include rental car reimbursement and it’s worth checking your own policy if the at-fault driver’s insurance is not willing to pay right away.

VII. Conclusion

Most property damage claims can be wrapped up within 30 days of an accident. Unlike personal injury claims, which can take months, property damage claims are much simpler to process. That being said, it’s important to be proactive, reporting the claim right away, and choosing a repair shop. Your actions will help bring a speedier resolution.