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49 Property Damage Questions

1.Q: Do I have to wait until my personal injury claim is settled to resolve my vehicle damage claim?
A:No.   Your property damage claim can be handled through the liability adjuster without affecting your personal injury claim.  Most property damage claims are handled soon after the accident, whereas your personal injury claim can take months depending on your injuries and treatment.

2. Q: Is there any reason for me to delay settling my vehicle damage claim?
A:  Normally no.  You have a duty to mitigate damages, thus it is important to minimize your loss.  Settling your property damage quickly and efficiently can reduce possible fees such as storage fees and rental car fees.  Moreover, the liability carrier is only required to pay for a rental car for a reasonable period of time.   Therefore, waiting an unreasonable amount of time could incur charges that you will be responsible for paying.

3. Q: Should I use my own collision coverage?
A: Yes, if the liability carrier is not taking care of the property damage quickly or efficiently, then file with your own insurance company.  You will have to pay the deductible, but your insurance company will attempt to recover the damages from the liable driver’s insurance company.

4. Q: How does the deductible work?
A: When you bring your car to a body shop for repairs, the deductible is the amount you will be responsible for paying in addition to the amount your insurance will cover.

5. Q: Won’t my rates go up if I use my own insurance coverage?
A: Normally, insurance companies do not raise an insured’s rates or cancel coverage for making a claim that is not the insured’s fault.

6. Q: Can I settle with both my insurance company and the other driver or his insurance company for the same vehicle damage?
A: No.   If your insurance company handles your property damage and another vehicle was liable, then your insurance company has a right of subrogation.  This means, they have the right to recover the amount your insurance company paid on your claim from the liable driver’s insurance company.

7. Q: What if I don’t have collision coverage?
A: If you do not have collision coverage, but you were not at fault in causing the accident, then the liability insurance carrier who insures the at fault driver should handle your property damage.

8. Q: With whom will I be working?
A: During the process of resolving your property damage, and upon consent by your attorney, you will deal directly with a property damage adjuster or appraiser from either your or the liable driver’s insurance company.

9. Q: Should I give the insurance company a recorded or written statement of the facts of the accident?
A: No.  Before making any statements to an adjuster, you should talk to your attorney.  If your attorney approves a statement to the insurance company, he or she will most likely want to be present while the statement is taken.  If you do give a statement, request to have a copy of the statement sent to you.  If, during the statement, the insurance company asks you questions about your personal injury claim, let them know you are represented by an attorney and would like all correspondences and questions about your personal injury claim to go through your attorney.

10. Q: What if the responsible driver is uninsured and I don’t have collision coverage?
A: Under North Carolina law, you have uninsured property damage for $25,000, unless your insurance agent required you to sign a rejection form.  Thus, you could be covered under your automobile policy for uninsured property damage.

However, if you signed the rejection form, then you may be unable to recover.

11. Q: How much will the insurance company pay?
A: The insurance company will either deem your vehicle to be a total loss or find that it is repairable.  If the insurance company evaluates your vehicle as being totaled, then you will be entitled to the actual cash value of your vehicle up to the policy limits.  If your vehicle is repairable, then you are entitled to the amount it will take to repair your vehicle and depreciation loss if applicable.  If the cost to repair is 75% or more of the value of your car, then it is considered a total loss.

12. Q: Can I have my car repaired first and then request payment from the insurance company?
A: No.  The insurance company will evaluate your car and give you an estimate for repairs.  Normally, an insurance company will also recommend a place where you can get your car fixed for the estimated amount.

13. Q: How do I obtain a repair estimate?
A: To obtain a repair estimate, call the insurance company and find out their preferred procedure.  The insurance company will either tell you where to take your car to get an estimate or will send an insurance appraiser to the vehicle’s location and appraise the damage.  The insurance company may ask you to take your vehicle to several body shops to get estimates for the damage.  Under North Carolina law, if an insurance company requires a claimant to have more than two estimates, then the insurance company has to pay for the additional estimates.  11 N.C.A.C. 4.0419(a).

14. Q: What if my car is not drivable?
A: Do not worry if your car is not drivable.  Repair estimates can be made at the location that your car is being held or stored.

15. Q: How long will it take for the insurance company to have my car appraised?
A: The amount of time it will take to have your car appraised will vary depending on whether liability is accepted.  Normally liability will have to be accepted prior to an adjuster giving an appraisal on a claim and thus extending the time to get your car fixed.  If liability is not automatically accepted, you have the option of filing with your own insurance company in order to expedite the process of getting your car fixed.  Under the North Carolina Administrative Code, an insurer cannot refuse to inspect a claimant’s car when the claimant requests the inspection.   11 N.C.A.C. 4.0419.

16. Q: Will new parts be used to repair my vehicle?
A: New parts will only be required if the parts in your damaged car were still new at the time of the accident.  Most of the time, the parts in your car will be used parts and after market parts will be acceptable.  However, the North Carolina Administrative Code requires that the after market part be “at least equal to the original part in terms of fit, quality, performance and warranty.”  11 N.C.A.C. 4.0426.

17. Q: Can I make the insurance company paint my entire car?
A: No. The insurance company only has to paint the part of your car that was damaged.

18. Q: Will the new paint meet factory standards?
A: The paint on your car will most likely be body shop paint which is not applied in the same manner as factory paint.  Make sure to request chip resistant paint before the repairs are made.

19. Q: How will I be paid for my car repairs?
A: The insurance company will send a check made out to both you and the body shop that repaired your vehicle.  This check will need to be endorsed by you and the body shop before it is cashed or deposited.

20. Q: Should I have minor damage repaired?
A: Yes.  You are entitled to have your car repaired whether it is minor or major damage.

21. Q: Does the insurance company owe me for the whole repair even though part of the car was damaged before the accident?
A: Normally no.  You are only entitled to the repair amount for damage that is related to the accident.

22. Q: Can I choose where my car will be repaired?
A: Yes.  Insurance companies can recommend body shops for you to go to, but they must make it apparent that you are not obligated to go to their recommended body shop.  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-33-76 (2007).

23. Q: What happens if hidden damage is later discovered?
A: Hidden damage that was caused by the accident should be paid by the insurance company.  Upon finding hidden damage, you should promptly contact the insurance company and have them sign off on the subsequent repairs for the hidden damage.  Even if you have signed a release, you are still entitled to “promptly assert a claim” to have hidden damages fixed if they are caused by the accident and were “unknown to either the claimant or to the insurance carrier prior to repair of the vehicle”.   11 N.C.A.C. 4.0421 (2007).

24. Q: What about mechanical damage?
A: The liability companies insurance is responsible for fixing mechanical damage that is accident related.  If the mechanical damage is not accident related, then you are responsible for the mechanical repairs.

25. Q: What if I am not satisfied with the repairs?
A: To ensure satisfaction with the repairs, do not sign the release form until you feel that your car has been adequately fixed or that you are happy with the amount you were paid in exchange for your totaled car.  If you are not satisfied, then promptly contact your insurance company and have the hidden damages repaired.

26. Q: Even though it looks repaired, everyone tells me my car will never be the same.  Shouldn’t I just trade it in?
A: Trading your car in is a decision you will need to make.  If your car is deemed to be repairable and not totaled, than the insurance company should repair your vehicle with parts that are “at least equal to the original part in terms of fit, quality, performance and warranty”.   11 N.C.A.C. 4.0426.

27. Q: Can I force the insurance company to replace my car?
A: No.  The insurance company is only required to pay you the Fair Market Value of your car.   This is the amount you could have sold your car at one second before the collision.

28. Q: How does the insurance company determine a total loss?
A: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-71.3 addresses the branding of title for motor vehicles.  The statute distinguishes motor vehicles older than six years from vehicles younger than six years old.  For motor vehicles that are “six model years old, a branded title shall be issued if the cost of repairs, including parts and labor, exceed seventy – five percent of its fair market value at the time of collision or other occurrence.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-71.3(h)(1).  The statute holds “[f]or motor vehicles more than six model years, a branded title shall be issued if the cost of repairs, including parts and labor and excluding the cost to replace the air bag restraint system, exceeds seventy-five percent (75%) of its fair market value at the time of the collision or other occurrence.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-71.3(h)(2).

29.Q: If my car is “totaled” am I entitled to the price of a new car?
A: Normally no.  The insurance company is required to pay you the “pre accidental actual cash value” of your car.  11 N.C.A.C. 4.0418(5).

30. Q: How is actual cash value determined?
A: The cash value of a vehicle is the amount that a person is willing to buy the vehicle in the open market.  To determine the cash value of a vehicle, the insurance adjuster will look at “published regional average values of similar vehicles.”  11. N.C.A.C. 4.0418(1).  Thus, the adjuster is going to look at other vehicles that are the same model, year, condition, etc… of your vehicle and create an average value for the comparable cars.  If the value is not agreed upon, then insurance companies are required to also look at vehicles in local markets to determine the cash value.  11 N.C.A.C. 4.0418(1).

31. Q:  My car is not just old; it’s genuine restored classic.  Now what?
A: If your car is a genuine restored classic, then you may need to hire an appraiser that is experienced in classic cars.  This may be an expense that you will have to incur.  Insurance companies carry special insurance for antique and classic cars.

32. Q: My car had a lot of sentimental value.  Doesn’t that count for something?
A: Unfortunately, when evaluating the cash value of a car, sentimental value is not a factor in the formula.

33.Q:  How will I be paid for my car’s total loss?
A: Once you or your attorney has reached an agreed upon settlement amount for your property damage, the insurance company will issue a check to you and the bank or financing institution used to purchase the vehicle.

34. Q: Is my car worth more because I just replaced the tires or had it painted?
A: Normally no.   These repairs help with the maintenance of the car which may factor into a vehicle maintaining its value, but most likely it will not increase the value of the vehicle purely because the repairs were done.

35. Q: Do I need to make my car payment and my insurance payment if my car has been “totaled?”
A: Usually, you should keep making your car payments and you should cancel your automobile policy, or take the totaled car off of the policy if more than one vehicle is on the policy.

36. Q: If my car is totaled, am I entitled to sales tax and registration fees in addition to actual cash value?
A: Yes.  If your car is totaled, you are entitled to sales tax and registration fees.

37. Q: My car is totaled, but I want to keep it.  Can I?
A: Yes, you can keep your car.  However, the insurance company will subtract the salvage value from the settlement.

38. Q: What is salvage value?
A: Salvage value is the amount in which a salvage dealer would pay for the parts and disposal of the vehicle.  If you decide to keep your car and the insurance company deducts the salvage value, you can obtain from the insurance company the name and address of a salvage dealer who is willing to buy the salvaged car for the amount subtracted from the settlement. 11 N.C.A.C. 4.0418(2007)

39. Q: What if I owe more than the actual cash value of my car?
A: Unfortunately, there is little you can do.  If you have purchased Gap Insurance, then the insurance will pay for the price difference.   If you do not have Gap Insurance, then you are obligated to pay the difference yourself.

40.Q: Is it possible to avoid owing money to the bank on my totaled car when I’m upside down (ie: when you owe more on your car than it is worth)?
A: You can talk to your lender and see if they are willing to allow you to have your car repaired, despite the car having been declared totaled, or see if they are willing to do a substitution of collateral.

41. Q: What is substitution of collateral?
A: Substitution of collateral is when a lender agrees to substitute the totaled motor vehicle with a comparable vehicle in order to allow you to finish paying off your loan.  N.C. Gen. Stat. §25A-26 allows for the substitution of collateral in consumer credit sales, but allows the seller to charge a fee that is capped at 10 % of the unpaid balance of the debt or $15.00, depending on the lesser amount.

42. Q: How can I get my “totaled” vehicle fixed if I owe more than its worth?
A: The insurance company most likely will not pay for repairs on a car they have evaluated as being a total loss.  Therefore, you will need to approach the shop you are using to repair the car and find out if they are willing to fix the car for the amount that the insurance company is paying for the total loss.  Before this is possible, you need to get the lienholder’s approval since their name is on the check as well.  Please note that there is no guarantee, if you take this route and therefore, you undertake it at your own risk.

43. Q: What about charges for towing and reasonable storage?
A: If the insurance company deems that your car is repairable, then they are responsible for towing and reasonable storage fees “until three days after the owner and storage facility are notified in writing that the insurer will no longer reimburse the owner or storage facility for storage charges.”  11 N.C.A.C. 4.0418(6).

44. Q: My car was towed after the accident.  How do I retrieve my personal items?
A: Contact the towing company and find out what the rules and policies are for picking up your personal items.  Most likely, identification will be required before you are able to receive access to your vehicle and your personal items.

45. Q: When am I entitled to a rental car?
A: The insurance company should pay for you to have a rental car for a reasonable amount of time.   The insurance company should either place you in a rental or reimburse you for your rental car.  Normally, this is during the time in which your car is being prepared or while the insurance company is deciding how much your car is worth.   Once the insurance company has made a reasonable offer to pay you for your totaled car, or once your car has been repaired, you will need to turn in your rental vehicle.

46. Q: What kind of rental am I entitled to?
A: The insurance company should place you in a similar vehicle.  If you have a handicap or have a need for a specific type of rental, let the insurance company know.

47. Q: Do I need to purchase the extra insurance coverage suggested by the rental car company?
A: Depends on your own motor vehicle insurance policy.  You should check with your insurance company first and find out how much coverage you have under your policy to determine whether you need to purchase additional coverage.  Normally, the insurance company is not obligated to pay you back for this additional coverage.

48. Q: What if the insurance company or responsible driver wants me to sign a release?
A: Do not sign a release until you are 100% satisfied with your settlement.  Also, make sure that the insurance company is not also including your personal injury claim in the release.  Have your attorney take a look at the release to ensure that your rights are protected.

49. Q: What if I have problems or additional questions regarding my property damage?
A: If you have additional property damage questions, you should contact your attorney and see if he or she can answer them for you.

You can also contact your own insurance company.  They may be able to take care of your needs and then later get reimbursed from the liability insurance company.  However, if you decide to have your insurance company pay for your property damage, you will be required to pay your policy’s deductible.

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