If your vehicle is damaged, you have a property damage claim. Assuming the other person was at fault, it is typically most desirable to have that person’s insurance company pay for the damage. If the at-fault party has a Florida automobile insurance policy on their car, then legally he or she is required to carry at least $10,000.00 in property damage liability coverage. The reason it is desirable to go through the at-fault party’s insurance company is that if you go through your own policy (assuming you have collision coverage), then you may very well have a deductible. By going through the at-fault party, you do not have to worry about the deductible.
If your vehicle is a total loss, you are generally entitled to the fair market value of your car’s condition before the accident (as well as some other things, like loss of use and taxes/fees). This can be a problem. Let us say, for example, that you got a really bad deal on your car, and six months before the accident you paid $5,000 for a car that is worth $2,000. In other words, you got ripped-off. Now, let’s say your car is totaled out, but you still owe $4,500.00. A lot of people think that they can get the $4,500 from the at-fault insurance company, but that is not the case. They will only pay the fair market value, so if that is $2,000.00, then you will be upside down, and still owe on the car. This is why some people buy “gap” coverage; to cover any amount they might owe that exceeds fair market value.
In general, the claim’s adjuster for the at-fault party should send a field appraiser out to appraise the vehicle. They should then either offer to cover the costs of repair, or the vehicle will be declared totaled out, and they will provide you fair market value. Many times we run into adjusters who give people the run around, making excuses that they are “not accepting liability” because they have not spoken with their insured. While an adjuster does need to investigate liability, they must do so promptly.
To discuss property damage issues with me, please feel free to contact me.