When a negligent driver causes your crash, chances are your vehicle will be damaged. You will need to file a property damage claim. If you think the process is straightforward, think again. You could have many decisions to make in filing your claim. Understanding the process of settling a property damage claim can help you to make the right decisions so that you obtain the compensation you deserve.
What Are Your Options for Filing a Property Damage Claim?
A property damage claim is the portion of your claim to repair or replace your vehicle. In Georgia, all drivers are required to purchase $25,000 in property damage liability coverage to pay for damages they cause to vehicles and other property in an accident. You also have the option of purchasing collision insurance when you buy your own insurance policy, which could cover these costs. You could have the following choices when filing a claim for your property damage:
- Negligent driver’s insurance company. You could file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. The benefit of doing this is that you have no out-of-pocket expenses. The drawback is that it could take longer to settle your claim, especially if you also have a claim for personal injuries.
- Your own insurance company. If you purchased collision insurance coverage, you may want to file a claim with your own insurance company and let them seek reimbursement from the negligent driver’s company. The benefit of this is that you could settle your claim more quickly and have an easier process. One negative of this choice is that you will have out-of-pocket expenses of your deductible amount—the amount you must pay before your insurance company will pay your claim—that you will need to recover.
- The negligent driver. If the negligent driver failed to have the minimum insurance required by Georgia law or you are unable to resolve your claim with his insurance company, you may have to file a lawsuit against the driver.
What Are the Steps in Filing Your Property Damage Claim?
There are certain steps that will happen when you make your property damage claim—whether you file it with your own or the negligent driver’s insurance company. Some of them include:
- Reporting your accident. Even if you decide to file your property damage claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company, you should report it to your own insurance company. You may be required to do so under your insurance policy and notifying your insurance company preserves your right to file a claim later if you decide you need to.
- Filing a claim. You will need to contact the insurance company you decide to file a claim with and file your claim.
- Getting estimates. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they need to get estimates of the cost of repairing their vehicles. Unless the insurance adjuster tells you to do this, you do not need to take this step. The insurance adjuster will either arrange for you to bring your vehicle to a certain location or will send someone out to inspect your vehicle and to work up a general repair estimate. This information will enable the adjuster to determine whether to settle your claim by paying the repair or replacement cost of your vehicle.
- Repairing your vehicle. While the insurance company can suggest a repair facility to make your repairs, it cannot require you to use any specific shop. You have the right to pick where your vehicle is repaired. However, you may have to negotiate your settlement amount with the insurance adjuster if your repair costs are higher than the company’s estimate.
- Replacing your vehicle if it is totaled. If your vehicle is totaled due to the extent of the damage, you would be entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle given its condition right before the crash.
- Car rental fees. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of a car rental while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced. You want to arrange this with the adjuster soon after you file your claim. If you file a claim with your own insurance company, you would only be entitled to this reimbursement if you purchased this coverage.
- Obtaining your payment. Once your claim is settled, the insurance company may send you the check to pay for your vehicle repair or replacement or send the payment directly to a third party, such as the repair facility.
- Signing documents. You may be required to sign a release before you receive your property damage claim check. Be certain to have an attorney review this document before you sign it to ensure you are not waiving your important rights, such as to file a personal injury claim if you need to.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney to Negotiate Your Property Damage Claim
Your property damage claim could be substantial, and the negligent driver’s insurance company could look for ways to deny or reduce the amount of your settlement. Even your own insurance company may not be fair—especially if the value of your claim is high. You need an experienced car accident attorney who can guide you through the process of filing your claim and negotiate your settlement for you. Call Brauns Law at (404) 998-5252 to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help you.