If your car was damaged in a car collision, then you will need to deal with insurance companies to get a settlement for the damage to your car. If someone else was at-fault for the damage, then their insurance company will pay you a settlement for the damage.
Generally speaking, you will not need ato hire a lawyer to get a fair settlement for the damage done to your car. However, it is very important that you know your rights, for it is common for people to disagree with the settlement offers from the insurance company. Read also: What is Nova Scotia's Compensation System for People Injured in Car Accidents?
The process works as follows:
- The accident is reported to the insurance company by you or the other driver.
- You will be contacted by an insurance adjuster - usually called a property damage adjuster. If you had collision insurance on your car, then you will be dealing with your insurance company (they pay you and collect it back from the at-fault driver). If you didn't have collision coverage, then you will be dealing directly with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
- The insurance adjuster then gathers information, including verbal or written statements from you, the other driver and any witnesses to the collision. If the police were involved, then they will likely order the police report. Read also: How to Find Auto Accident Lawyer.
- The insurance company will arrange for a automobile appraiser to view your car to assess the damage caused by this accident. The appraiser will complete a report and send it back the the insurance company. The role of the appraiser is to determine two things -- 1) how much it will cost to fix the car (cost to repair) and 2) what was the car worth before the accident (actual cash value).
- Once the property damage adjuster receives the car appraisal report, he or she will make a decision on wether the insurance company will elect to repair your car OR pay you the actual cash value of the car. If the cost to fix the car is at or above 60-70% of the actual cash value, then the insurance company will classifiy your car as a "write-off" and will write a cheque to you for the actual cash value. If the cost of fix the car is less than 60-70% of the actual cash value, the the insurance company will likely pay the cost of repairs. Read also: Pedestrian Struck in Jefferson County Missouri Car Accident.
- Before providing you with a cheque for the "actual cash value", the insurance company will require you to sign a Release that "settles" the property damage claim. Signing this Release means that you can't come back later and ask for more money. The Release is specific to the property damage claim and will not affect any claim you may have for personal injuries.
- A word about "Actual Cash Value" -- actual cash value is what your car was actually worth before it was damaged. Cars lose their value very quickly (depreciation), so you can be sure that the actual cash value will be much less than what it will cost you to replace your car. It is not uncommon for actual cash value to be less than the total amout of the loan still owning on your car. If you disagree with the insurance company's appraisal of the damage to your car, then your only option is to pay for your own appraisal and provide it to them. This may cause them to increase their offer. If you still can't agree, then your only option is to go to arbitrator or to small claims court. Read also: The Process of Car Accident Compensation.