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New Smyrna Beach Accident Attorney - Vehicle Repair

How do I get my vehicle repaired?

As a New Smyrna Beach accident attorney I will tell you that if your vehicle was damaged in the accident, and the accident was the other driver's fault, you have a right to be compensated by the owner or driver of the other vehicle.  The exact amount of compensation you are entitled to depend on the value of your car at the time of the accident and the extent of the damage to your vehicle.

 Under Florida law, both the driver and owner of a motor vehicle are responsible for all damages caused by the negligence of the driver, so long as the driver had permission to use the vehicle.  Often, the driver of the vehicle that caused an accident is either the owner of that vehicle or a family member.  Normally, the owner's policy of insurance is the initial source for seeking compensation.

Sometimes we discover that the driver of the vehicle is not the owner or a member of the owner's household.  When this occurs, it is possible that both the owner and the driver have separate insurance policies that will benefit the person who was not at fault.  Still, the policy of insurance covering the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident is the primary source of recovery.

In a property damage claim you are entitled to be compensated for the lesser amount of either the cost of repairs or the replacement value of your vehicle.  In addition, you are entitled to any charges associated with towing and storage of your vehicle after the accident.  If your vehicle was rendered inoperable by the accident, you are entitled to be compensated for the loss of use of your vehicle.

In Florida, all licensed motor vehicles are required to carry insurance that provides No-Fault Insurance and Property Damage Liability coverage.  This is the minimum required coverage under our law.  We will discuss No-Fault coverage later.  Property Damage Liability coverage is the type of insurance that pays for the damage to your vehicle following an accident.  Although there are many vehicles on the road that are uninsured, you can be sure that if the other vehicle is covered by any insurance, there is at least $10,000 in property damage liability coverage available for your loss.

The first step in resolving a claim for the damage to your vehicle is to notify the insurance company covering the vehicle that was at fault.  Usually the adjuster for the other vehicle will ask some general questions about how the accident occurred.  You should only provide the other driver's insurance with the information contained on the "Exchange of Information" form that the officer gave you at the scene.

Although the other party is required to notify their insurance company of the accident, sometimes that does not occur.  If your call to the other party's insurance carrier is its first notice of the accident, do not be surprised if the carrier delays accepting responsibility. Often the adjuster will request time to obtain a copy of the Accident Report and an opportunity to speak with their insured before accepting responsibility, or fault, for the accident.

Once the other party's insurance carrier accepts responsibility for the accident, it will assign an adjuster to estimate the damages to your vehicle.  You are entitled to be compensated for the lesser amount of either the cost of repairs or the fair market value of your vehicle.  In general the adjuster will first determine the fair market value of your vehicle.  Then the adjuster will estimate the cost of repairs.  If the cost of repairs equals or exceeds sventy five percent (75%) of the fair market value, your vehicle will be considered a total loss.

If your vehicle is repairable, the insurance adjuster will authorize the necessary repairs.  You may have your vehicle repaired where you wish.  It is important to make sure that the  repairman will be able to make the necessary repairs to your vehicle for the amount reflected on the insurance company's estimate.  Usually this is not a problem.  However, if the repairman you have selected indicates that he cannot repair your vehicle for the amount of the estimate, you should address this with the adjuster immediately.

Once the repairs are begun, it is not unusual for the repairman to find other damage that was not contemplated by the initial estimate.  This is known as "hidden damage".  When hidden damage is discovered, the repairman will contact the adjuster for authorization to complete the additional repairs.  The insurance adjuster will normally authorize the additional repairs so long as they relate to the accident.

While your vehicle is being repaired you are entitled to be compensated for the loss of use of your vehicle.  Normally the adjuster will authorize you to obtain a rental vehicle similar to yours, that will be billed to the insurance company.  An exception exists if you are under the age of twenty five.  If you had insurance on your vehicle at the time of the accident, your personal auto policy will also cover the rental vehicle.  If you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your personal policy, there is no reason for you to purchase insurance from the rental car company.

Whether you rent a vehicle or not, you are entitled to be compensated for the loss of use of your vehicle.  If you have another vehicle to drive, the insurance company for the person who caused the accident must still compensate you for loss of use.  The amount of money you are entitled to for loss of use is normally calculated by determining the cost of renting a similar vehicle times the number of days you were without the use of your vehicle.

Once you receive your vehicle back from the repairman, make sure everything has been corrected to your satisfaction.  If there are any problems, immediately take your vehicle back to the repairman and insist that the repairs are made correctly.

Once the repairs have been completed to your satisfaction, it is time to address the last issue regarding property damage.  It is possible that even though repaired, your vehicle may have lost value because it was damaged in the accident.  When this occurs, the owner has a right to be compensated for the loss of value.  This form of compensation is only available, however, from the insurance carrier for the other motorist.

If your vehicle is determined to be a total loss, you are entitled to be compensated for the fair market value of the vehicle.  You are not entitled to what you owe on the vehicle or what you paid for it. Often the owner is confronted with the harsh reality of learning that the actual value of the vehicle is much lower than they thought.  When determining what the owner is entitled to for the loss of their vehicle, the law only allows a person to receive the fair market value of that vehicle.

How does the insurance company determine the fair market value of the vehicle?  First the carrier inputs the specific information pertaining to your vehicle into their computer.  Then the carrier seeks the value of three vehicles similar to yours from the same geographic area.  Ultimately the insurance carrier uses the average value from these three similar vehicles to determine what it contends is the fair market value for your vehicle.

Attempting to negotiate property damage claims with insurance carriers is one of the most frustrating and difficult things we do as being a New Smyrna Beach accident attorney.  Once the insurance company comes up with a figure, it is almost impossible to move them off of their positions.  You can help yourself by obtaining the fair market value of your vehicle from someone who is either familiar with your vehicle or the value of motor vehicles in general. Often this will be a loan officer in a bank, a salesman from a car dealership, a mechanic who has worked on your car or someone else who can testify to the true value of your property.  By obtaining this information before the insurance company makes its offer, you can gain valuable information to use in negotiating the fair market value of your vehicle.

If your vehicle was totaled, you are also entitled to be compensated for the sales tax on the fair market value of your vehicle.  You are also entitled to an amount equal to the cost of the fee for transferring your tag to a new vehicle.  This is a small amount but worth remembering.

When negotiating with an insurance company, never discuss reimbursement for the sales tax on the value of the vehicle or the transfer fee until you have agreed upon the fair market value of the vehicle.  Once that has been determined, discuss the additional charges that you are entitled to.  In this way you may increase the amount of compensation you receive for the loss of your vehicle.

So far this discussion has assumed that the other motorist had sufficient insurance to cover your property damage claim.  Problems can arise if the other driver had the minimum required coverage of $10,000 and the amount of repairs exceeds that.  In that situation, you may be better off seeking reimbursement under the terms of your own policy, assuming you have collision and comprehensive coverage. A New Smyrna Beach accident attorney can be of help in this situation.

Another problem arises if the insurance company for the other vehicle refuses to accept full responsibility for the accident.  In this situation, if you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your policy, you may be better off allowing your own insurance carrier to pay for the repairs to your vehicle.  Although what you will receive from your own carrier will be subject to the deductible on your policy, going through your own insurance company can save a great deal of time and frustration.  Your insurance carrier is bound by the terms of your policy and must see that your vehicle is repaired.  Fault is not an issue in this situation.

If your insurance carrier pays for your property damage claim, it is entitled to seek reimbursement from the insurance carrier for the other driver.  This is known as a right or reimbursement or right of subrogation.  If your insurance carrier pays for the repairs to, or loss of your vehicle, and pursues reimbursement from the at fault party's insurance company, it will also try to recover your deductible at no expense to you.

If you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your policy, another option is to seek compensation for the cost of repairs or replacement of your vehicle by filing a claim with your carrier.  The same analysis regarding whether the vehicle can be repaired or is totaled will occur.  Now, however, you are bound by the terms of your insurance policy which is a contract between you and the carrier.  Your claim will be subject to the amount of any deductible.  Also, unless you have rental reimbursement on your policy, you will not be provided with a rental vehicle for loss of use.  In addition, most policies contain language that states that the insurance company will repair or replace your vehicle at "our option".  This language can provide your insurance company limited authority to determine the quality of the repairs.

On the other hand, the collision and comprehensive coverage afforded by your policy may exceed that available on the other motorist's policy. Your policy may provide the necessary amount to insure that your vehicle is repaired or you are fully compensated for the destruction of your vehicle.  Sometimes there is no choice but to pursue the claim under your own policy.  The good news is that, generally, your own insurance carrier will take action on the claim much quicker than the carrier for the other motorist.

If you need more information on this matter feel free to speak with a New Smyrna Beach accident attorney by contacting us today!


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