I get a lot of calls in a month about property damage issues. The big ones are “How much do they owe for my car?” and “Why isn’t there enough to pay for my repairs?”
First, property damage claims, especially if it is only property damage and their is no injury, are difficult to take as an attorney. If your repairs are $10,000 and I take a contingency fee on it, you end up with $7,000 – probably. Now you don’t have enough to repair your car. So you aren’t happy. Hence, most attorneys won’t take a property damage only case.
Second, how much do they owe you? It depends. There are a few situations that come up:
a. Your car is repairable and you have collision coverage – your insurance company owes you to fix your car;
b. Your car is a repairable and you have no collision coverage – if the other driver is at fault, they owe you to repair your car plus either a rental car or loss of use;
c. Your car is a total loss and you have collision coverage – your insurance company owes you the fair market value of your car (note it is not the blue book value of your car);
d. Your car is a total loss and you do not have collision coverage – if the other driver is at fault, they owe you the fair market value of your car plus either rental or loss of use.
So A and C are pretty clear. The problem comes with B and D. If you do not have collision coverage, you may be at the mercy of the other driver’s insurance company. If that driver does not have enough insurance, you may not get paid in full for your car. The insurance company will only pay up to the property damage limits of the other driver. Hence, if you have $6,500 in damage and their limit is only $5,000, the most the insurance company will pay is $5,000. You will NOT be paid in full.
This is one reason you should carry collision on your car. It is possible that someone else could damage your car and you may not get paid in full for the repairs.
Of course, if you have any questions, you can call my office or email me for a free consultation.