If you’ve been in a car accident, you know what a headache they are. Even if there are no injuries, you still may have to deal with damaged cars, property damage, and the stress of working with your insurance company.
The average cost of a property damage claim after a car accident is about $4,600. That’s the good news: the cost isn’t in the tens of thousands (or even millions), which is possible when a car accident results in bodily injury or death.
The bad news, though, is that some property damage claims can be complex. If this is the case, you should consider hiring a property damage lawyer to help you navigate the process. Read on to learn more about when you should consider an attorney.
What Is a Property Damage Claim?
If there are any damages to your vehicle or other vehicles involved in your accident, then property damage has occurred. Property damage also includes damage to other things, including trees, homes, fences, mailboxes, and even equipment inside your car (a car seat, your laptop, etc.). Damage to anything other than another person is considered property damage.
How Compensation Is Determined
Damages (different than “damage”) is the amount that you will be paid by your insurance company or the other insurance company due to the property damage.
This amount is calculated by considering the replacement value of the damaged property, the cost of the repairs, the loss of use until the item is replaced repaired (this is extremely relevant if your car is undrivable, as you’ll likely need to have a rental vehicle until the car is fixed or you can replace it), and the sentimental value of something that is damaged if it is a family heirloom that cannot be replaced.
These calculations are completed by an insurance adjuster, who will be assigned to your case once you file a claim. The adjuster will inspect your vehicle and determine how you will be compensated based on the criteria above. If you want to use your own mechanic or auto body shop, the insurance company may ask you for estimates or give you a set amount they will pay. Anything above this is your responsibility, and don’t forget about your deductible!
The adjuster will also determine if your vehicle should be totaled, which happens when it’s not worth the cost to repair the car. Instead, the insurance company will pay you out based on the value of the vehicle.
Always remember that the adjuster is working for the insurance company and their goal is to settle your claim for the lowest amount possible. This is not to say that adjusters are trying to shortchange you, but a warning to be aware of the value of your vehicle and property that is damaged and to refuse to settle if you think that your damages are lower than what you deserve.
When Do You Need an Attorney
This is where an attorney comes in. Many property damage claims can be settled quickly and simply, but if your insurance company is trying to lowball you, then you need to consider an attorney to help ensure you get adequate compensation for your damaged property.
An attorney will know what things to look for in your claim to maximize your damages and can also negotiate and communicate with the insurance company on your behalf, saving you a great deal of time.
You may also need an attorney if your insurance company refuses to pay for the damage or denies your claim without a justified reason why. You also might want to sue another driver for the property damage to your car, especially if you had to pay your deductible. You can take them to small claims court (if you live in a no-fault state, you don’t have this option, as you are responsible for paying your deductible and handling any accidents).
What to Look for in a Property Damage Attorney
If you determine that you are in need of an attorney to handle your property damage claim, you don’t want to hire just anyone. Just as you wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your roof, you don’t want to hire a real estate attorney to handle your property damage claim.
Instead, you should focus on finding an attorney who specializes in car accidents and has experience working with insurance companies on property damage claims. The best way to find an experienced attorney is to ask friends and family for recommendations. Armed with their suggestions, you can do some of your own vetting as well.
Check out their websites, read Google and other reviews, and check out the state bar association to see if they have any complaints or disciplinary actions on file. Once you put together a shortlist, take some time to reach out to each potential attorney. If possible, meet with them to discuss your case or have a phone conversation where you can ask questions, such as:
- How much experience do you have with property damage claims?
- Do you think I need an attorney?
- What damages am I entitled to?
- How much success do you have with these claims?
- How much do you think my case is worth?
- What is your fee structure?
- Do you think the insurance company will settle?
- Will we have to take this case to trial?
- Do you have experience taking property damage cases to trial?
Making sure your attorney has experience with your particular type of case is important, as they will know the ins and outs of auto insurance and the settlement process.
Hire an Attorney Today
If you’re lucky, you will be able to handle a property damage claim with your insurance company on your own. However, in some situations, insurance companies do not act in good faith, and the assistance of an attorney is necessary to make sure you get what you are entitled to.
Contact us today at Sweet Law if you have been in an accident resulting in property damage and your insurance company is not treating you fairly. Our attorneys specialize in auto accidents and can provide a free case consultation.