property damage during an auto accident - Experience Matters!

By Prev Info - October 18, 2022

  After an accident, one of the first issues that most people need to address after medical treatment is the property damage to the vehicle. When your car, truck or motorcycle is damaged in an accident, your ability to get to the doctor, to the pharmacy, to the store, to work or elsewhere is very difficult. For this reason, law allows an insurance company to settle a property damage claim without any effect on the personal injury claim one way or the other. 

The injury claim will remain open so long as you do not sign any papers also agreeing to settle the injury claim when you are settling the property damage claim. In fact, most insurance companies use two different adjusters, one for property damage and one for personal injury.

While most people want to save money and handle their own property damage claim. You must understand that the insurance company wants to pay you as little as they can to settle your property damage claim and they will not tell you what damages you can recover under the law.


Under law, the general rule is that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is obligated to pay the reasonable cost to repair your car so as to return it to the condition the car was in just before the accident. However, if the cost to repair your car is more than what your car was worth just prior to the accident, then the insurance company does not have to repair your car but the insurance company only has to pay you the amount of money equal to the fair market value of the car prior to the crash.

When your car is damaged, you can often recover the reasonable cost of a rental car when your car is being repaired. In fact, many insurance companied will pay to rent a car for you until your car is repaired since they get much better volume rental rates than you could on your own. In many cases, you can even get a comparable vehicle if you just ask. For example, if you had a minivan and you have kids to drive around town, you may be able to get the insurance company to allow you to rent a minivan as a replacement vehicle until your vehicle is repaired. The same would be true if you had a truck used in a business. You can ask to get a truck as a rental vehicle.


Your Car Is Totaled

If your car is totaled, the insurance company will make you a low offer to start. They will offer you a settlement based on what they say was the fair market value of the car just before the accident. You need to be ready and have done your own research to make a counter offer. You need proof to show them why their initial offer is low. Go to resources on the internet to find similar vehicles in your area with the same amount of miles and in the same approximate condition to show them you could not replace the same vehicle for that price. Check local classified ads in the newspaper. You may even talk to the car dealer where you are looking for a new vehicle and see if the dealer will give you a replacement value on its letterhead. Show the insurance adjuster what you found and why your higher number for fair market value is more accurate. This is your time to negotiate for extra money in your pocket. If you had new tires on the car, or had special equipment on the car, such as special wheels or an expensive stereo system, get receipts for what you paid or for what it would cost to replace and ask for that additional money too.

Diminished Value

If your car is repaired, you should also ask for money for diminished value. When a car has been wrecked and repaired, it is not worth the same amount as a car that has never been in an accident. When you go to sell your vehicle, the buyer can see the history of the car by the car’s VIN number and can see that it was in a crash and what was repaired. Most buyers in today’s market use services such as Car Fax to investigate a car’s history and an accident will cost you money at the time of resale.

the insurance company knows all about diminished value but will not volunteer this damage to you. Also, if the insurance company does make an offer of money for diminished value it will be low and based on a calculation they say is recognized by  law. Do not fall for this! If you do not think the offer is fair and based on the actual loss of value ask a dealer what they would pay for your repaired vehicle based on what they would pay if it had not been in an accident and the difference is the real decrease in value. There are also professional appraisers you can hire to give you a detailed written report on the decrease in value to your vehicle and you can use the report to get more money than the insurance company’s initial offer. The diminished value is very small for older and high mileage vehicles but it can be several thousand dollars for newer vehicles and luxury vehicles.

Aftermarket Parts vs. OEM Parts

When your car is repaired, the insurance company may tell the body shop to use cheaper aftermarket parts rather than more expensive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. They will say that the aftermarket parts are “just as good” as the OEM parts but you should insist on OEM parts. When you go to sell your vehicle, it will be more valuable at resale if the OEM parts were used.