Property Damage – Table of Contents
Once you have filed a property damage claim for your vehicle, an insurance company adjuster (or a team of adjusters) will work with you to process your claim and get your vehicle repaired. (Note: If the insurance company has determined that it is not cost-effective to repair your vehicle, please see Dealing with a “Total Loss” Vehicle.)
What repairs are covered on my property damage claim?
Unless your vehicle is declared a total loss, the insurance company must pay to have your car restored to its pre-accident condition. This includes both mechanical work and body work.
Can I demand that the insurance company pay for new, name-brand parts used in the repair?
Generally not, unless the vehicle itself is new or almost new. The law in Washington State allows insurance companies to substitute “aftermarket” parts (or used parts) for the repair of used vehicles. The company owes you repair or replacement with like kind and quality parts, not necessarily new parts. If the parts and repairs are guaranteed by the repair shop, and are in the same condition as the parts damaged, then they are deemed to conform to the repair requirements. If you insist on certain parts you may have to pay the additional cost.
Do I have to use a repair shop approved by the insurance company?
No, you can get your car repaired anywhere you choose. However, there may be several advantages to having it repaired at a facility approved by the insurance company.
First, the insurance company and their approved repair shop will have agreed on the cost to repair your vehicle. This means that you won’t have to pay any extra, other than any deductible amount if you are using your own insurance company.
The insurance company is obligated to pay only the reasonable cost of repairs. If you use a non-approved shop to repair your vehicle, and the repair bill is higher than what the insurance company estimated, you could be responsible for paying the difference to the repair shop.
Second, an approved repair shop may offer a better guarantee on the repairs because of their ongoing relationship with the insurance company. In some cases, you may get a guarantee that lasts as long as you own the vehicle.
Can I get a written estimate of repairs from the insurance company?
Yes. In fact, Washington State law requires the insurance company to provide you with a written, itemized repair estimate.
Am I liable for towing and storage charges for my vehicle?
It depends on who is at fault for the accident. If you are at fault, then yes, you are liable for those charges. Some insurance policies may cover some of those charges, so check with your agent. If the other driver is 100% at fault, those charges will be the responsibility of the other driver. If there is shared fault for the accident, those charges should be divided according to the percentage of fault of each driver.
NOTE: It is important to keep in mind that you have a duty to minimize your loss. If you delay settlement of the property damage claim or you delay in authorizing repairs, the insurance company may refuse to pay the full amount of the storage charges.
Do I have to get my vehicle fully repaired?
No, you don’t. Insurance companies have differing policies regarding payment procedures. Your company may have policy language regarding whether it is necessary to repair your vehicle, or to make the draft payable to a lien holder or a body shop and the owner. If the other party’s insurance company is paying, they are required to pay either the registered owner or the lien holder, or both. A direct payment to the owner who doesn’t repair the car right away usually will not allow for any supplemental payments for undetected, additional damage.
What if I discover something else is damaged after the repairs are made?
You have every right to make a supplemental claim for damages that were unknown to you or the insurance adjuster at the time of the original repair.
What is “diminished value?”
Vehicles that have suffered substantial damage in accidents often have “diminished value” – that is, people place a lower value on such a vehicle solely because it was damaged in an accident, even if the vehicle has been repaired or is repairable. For example, many used car dealers will not take seriously damaged vehicles in trade, even if they have been repaired. (Records of all vehicles involved in accidents are available to the public.)
Washington State law recognizes diminished value as a valid claim, and this loss can be documented by an appraiser.
What if I feel that my vehicle will not be safe after it is repaired?
This may be a valid consideration, but the insurance company does not have to declare your vehicle a total loss if it can be reasonably repaired to its previous condition. The insurance company has the right to settle your claim in the least expensive manner. If the combined value of the repair work and the diminished value after repairs is less than what it would pay for a total loss, the insurance company is not required to offer you any more, even if you feel the vehicle would be unsafe.
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