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7 Tips to Consider Regarding Your Property Damage Claim

Being involved in a motor vehicle crash is a frustrating experience.

The first issue you have to deal with is whether to repair or replace your vehicle after a motor vehicle wreck. In Idaho, what are your legal rights and remedies associated with your property damage claim?

TO REPLACE OR REPAIR, THAT IS THE QUESTION!

In Idaho, an insurer is required to pay the lesser of the cost of repair or the fair market value of the vehicle, whichever is the lower, that you incurred at the time the vehicle was damaged. In the case where the costs of repair exceed the fair market value of your vehicle, the vehicle is declared a total loss which is commonly referred to as the vehicle being "totaled." In that case, the claims adjuster performs an analysis as to what the fair market value is to determine what you are entitled to receive for your property damage claim.

This is where the "games" begin.

Instead of using a Kelly’s Bluebook or a NADA Guide book, many insurance companies retain a service called CCC to allegedly perform a "local" analysis of the value of your vehicle which no matter where you reside in the country, CCC has been known to "low ball" the value of your totaled vehicle. In the 32 plus years I have practiced law, I have never observed or even heard of CCC’s analysis outpacing the values of a used car by Kelly’s Bluebook or the NADA Guides!

CCC claims to perform a local analysis regarding local car dealership sales to determine the fair market vehicle of your vehicle. But BEWARE!!! You should always ask for the comparable vehicles used in the survey and the car dealers who sold the same in order to verify the purported sales. I know of at least one client who complained that the values suggest by an insurance company due to CCC’s report were outrageously low, and when he checked to verify the information provided by CCC, the dealers that were purportedly surveyed disavowed the information. The client discovered that either the car dealer was never contacted , and/or the car dealer told the client that he did not concur with the insurance company’s low ball figure. He also discovered that some of the vehicles used in the survey were not the same make, model and year as the client’s vehicle.

Therefore, don’t just accept at face value the insurance company’s representation regarding the value of your vehicle. You have to do your homework to make sure that you are getting a fair offer for the property damage to your vehicle.

WHAT IF I RECENTLY INCURRED A MAJOR EXPENSE SUCH AS INSTALLING A NEW ENGINE OR TRANSMISSION OR I PURCHASED A NEW SET OF TIRES?

Also, a frequent question I have had over the past 32 plus years of being an accident trial lawyer is where the client recently made a major repair such as an engine or transmission or perhaps purchased a new set of tires. What if any compensation can you seek in the event you have incurred an extraordinary expense to your car? If the expense didn’t add to the fair market value of the vehicle, then don’t expect the insurance to entertain your proposal. What you have to do in that regard is get a statement from a person who is trained as a car appraiser to render a statement on your behalf as to the car’s value as a result of the extraordinary expense in order to be reimbursed for the expense.

CHOOSING A REPUTABLE AUTO BODY SHOP TO COMMENCE REPAIRS

With respect to the repair of your vehicle, choose a reputable body shop. You aren’t required to use the shop the insurance company recommends. I suggest you get 3 or more bids for the repair of your vehicle and negotiate with the auto body shop of your choice.

Make sure to check the warranty or guaranty of the body shop for the work they intend on doing for you - particularly with respect to the paint job to follow. Some body shops will provide you with a written guarantee for their work so long as you own the vehicle. Some body shops will warrant their work for only a year. You need to get in writing what the warranty or guarantee is before you authorize work on your vehicle.

Check first with the Better Business Bureau to see if the body shop has been the subject of any complaints lately. Check with family and friends if they have had any experience with a body shop in the past. Talk with your lawyer to see what recommendation the lawyer may have regarding a local body shop.

WHAT ABOUT INCIDENTAL EXPENSES SUCH AS TOWING AND STORAGE CHARGES?

An insurance company will likely ask permission to move your vehicle out of a tow yard to another location in order to reduce the storage charges. Any negotiation you have regarding the replacement or repair of your vehicle must include the towing and storage charges to avoid you having to be stuck with the cost.

ARE YOU ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION FOR THE LOSS OF DEPRECIATION IN A VEHICLE?

If your vehicle is damaged due to no fault of your own because of another person’s negligence, you are also entitled to compensation for all losses associated with the damage to your vehicle including the loss of depreciation associated with the damage to your vehicle. If there is "structural" damage to your vehicle, that is likely going to show up in a "Car Fax" report which will have a significant impact or reduction in the value of your vehicle at resale time.

CAN I DECIDE TO KEEP MY CAR EVEN IF IT’S TOTALED?

If you request, you can receive two offers in the alternate from the insurance company depending on whether you wish to relinquish the title to your vehicle to the insurance company or whether you wish to keep the vehicle and the title thereto. The difference between the two offers is predicated upon the "salvage" value of the vehicle. Some clients prefer to keep the vehicle for any number of reasons. When that is the case, the insurance carrier should provide you with an offer to settle the vehicle for the fair market value less the value the insurance company would receive for the salvage value of your vehicle. If you decide to keep the car after the vehicle has been "totaled," the Idaho Department of Transportation will reissue a title marking thereon that the vehicle has been salvaged.

IN IDAHO, WHAT IS THE TIME PERIOD IN WHICH I HAVE TO PURSUE A PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIM FOR THE DAMAGE TO MY VEHICLE CAUSED BY A CAR CRASH?

In Idaho, unlike a claim for bodily injury which has a statute of limitations of two years from the date of a collision; a property damage claim has a statute of limitations of three (3) years. Of course under certain circumstances such as a claim against the State, County, City or any political subdivision thereof and/or in the case where you have a claim against an obviously intoxicated driver and you wish to pursue a claim against the purveyor of the alcohol to the obviously intoxicated driver (and/or minor), you have an additional burden of serving a notice of tort claim within 180 days from the date of the accident.

Failure to serve a notice of claim or file a timely lawsuit could act as a complete bar to any recovery in the State of Idaho.

If you have any other questions regarding your property damage claim or bodily injury claim, don’t hesitate to contact Boise Auto Accident Trial Lawyer Alan Morton at 208.344.5555, toll free at 888.716.8021 or by completing an online contact form. Mr. Morton is available to meet with you for a free initial consultation to discuss your claim and to provide you with helpful information regarding your legal rights and remedies.


Alan Morton
Advocate for Justice/Trial Lawyer