Getting Your Property Damage Paid

If you have been involved in a collision in Indiana that is not your fault and your car suffers property damage you may have several options for getting the money needed to make the repairs. Your options will depend on the extent and nature of the insurance coverage on the vehicles involved in the crash.

Assuming you are driving a vehicle that is not a “beater” and you have collision coverage, you can make a claim with your own insurance carrier for the damage to your vehicle. This will usually result in prompt payment, but, you will lose the amount of your deductible, at least initially. If your carrier pays you, it will most likely “subrogate” against the insurance carrier for the vehicle that hit you and recover the money it paid to you. As part of the recovery, your own company usually will ask for a recovery of your deductible, and if it is paid, your own company will refund the money to you.

If you do not have collision coverage, or you simply choose to pursue the other driver’s insurance carrier directly, you often will be able to get the other driver’s carrier to pay for repairs, but only if fault for the collision clearly rests with the other driver. Under this option, you will not have to deal meet a deductible. You are entitled to full repair cost reimbursement by the other driver’s carrier.

Under either scenario the insurance adjuster will thoroughly analyze what happened in the accident. Photos will be taken and the vehicle will be examined. In either case, you should take pictures of the damage.

If there is a dispute as to which driver is at fault, your best option is to deal with your own insurance carrier. Your carrier is required to pay you regardless of fault if you have collision protection coverage on the car. Even where fault is clear, if there is severe damage to the car, expect the other driver’s insurance carrier to either argue that the vehicle should be considered a “total loss” (cost of repair is more than pre-accident vehicle value), or not, depending on which argument will cost the company the least money. Also, claims involving a “total loss” usually take time because there is room to argue over the vehicle’s value.

Another component to consider is the loss of use of your vehicle during the time it takes to repair it or to give you the fair value if it is a total loss. This component of loss is usually compensated by giving you a rental vehicle or the value of a rental vehicle. If you have not purchased rental coverage for your vehicle, then your insurance carrier does not have to reimburse you for this loss. If you are proceeding against the other driver’s carrier, be sure to discuss loss of use or rental value as an item of damage that you are entitled to recover.

Lastly, but most importantly, if you are injured, be very careful in discussing your property damage claim with the other driver’s carrier. Do not let the adjuster minimize your injuries. Do not simply respond “I’m fine” to a seemingly innocent question of “how are you doing today”? If you do have injuries, it is important to talk to a lawyer about your rights. Many attorneys are happy to advise you on how to handle the property damage yourself, without charging a fee, and will represent you on your injury claim, which will be more complicated and pose many traps for the unwary.

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