If you have been involved in a car accident with another vehicle, you may not always need an attorney right away. Dealing with insurance companies on your own may seem overwhelming. However, there is a way you can handle property damage on your own with the responsible party’s insurance company. If things start to seem complicated or confusing, an attorney is still a great option.
Step 1: The responsible party's insurance will cover when they agree that their insured is at fault.
Determining fault is one of the most high-conflict topics when filing a claim. California is a comparative fault state, so if they view you as partially at fault, they will only cover their insured's percent of the responsibility. For example, when the other driver rear-ended your vehicle at a 4-way stop, you get in a car accident. You were speeding and didn’t see a stop sign in time to make a safe stop. The insurance views you as 40% at fault and the other insured driver as 60% at fault. Your claim of $1,000 in property damage will only be compensated 60% by their insurance, $600. If there were multiple drivers involved, you would need to request reimbursement from each individual insurance company.
Step 2: Collect Evidence
When the insurance company does not agree that their insured is 100% at fault, you need to collect evidence to prove your case. Common sources of proof include police reports, witness statements, 911 audio, video and photos of the incident, surveillance footage from neighboring businesses, body-worn camera video from the police who responded, and emergency medical records.
Hopefully, the evidence makes it clear that their insured is at fault. If they still disagree, you can file small claims if your case is worth less than $10,000, and a judge will decide who is at fault.
Step 3: Determine the Damage Calculation
Damages are typically weighed as the cost of repair vs. the cost of replacement, whichever is lower. A 'total loss' is when the insurance company decides that the cost of repair is greater than the cost of replacement. Remember: property damage is not just damage done to your vehicle; it could also include damage to your clothing, phone, laptop, helmet, accessories added to your vehicle/bicycle/motorcycle, car seats, and more.
Before submitting your claim, have proof of the cost of repair or placement, such as estimates from a body shop, KBB value, internet listings for replacement items you have to buy, receipts from places where you had items repaired, tickets from when you purchased items that were destroyed.
Take photographs of the damage. You may need to talk to a representative from the responsible insurance to discuss when they can inspect the vehicle - do not discuss the facts of the incident beyond what damage was done.
Step 4: Don’t Settle for an Amount You are Uncomfortable With
If you feel like you are being shorted, don’t settle. Try to negotiate to ensure you are covering the damages you have sustained. If they continue to give you the run-around, it could be time to get an attorney involved.
Have you been injured in a car accident? Contact the team at the Law Offices of Tanya Gomerman. Call 415-545-8608 to discuss your injuries and get a plan to move forward.