Car Insurance: How Does It Play Out After An Accident

Some states have a “No-Fault” law that was enacted to provide certain immediate benefits for all victims of an automobile accident, regardless of who was at fault.
Each insurer of a vehicle in which a person is injured will provide payment of typical expenses caused by personal injury, called “PIP”: Personal Injury Protection. An injured person must make their claim to the insurer of the car in which the victim was injured. If the injuries are not serious enough to reach the “threshold,” the victim receives nothing further.
If the injuries reach the legal “threshold” the victim may then make claim against the driver of a vehicle who was legally liable (at fault) in the accident. The “threshold” is an injury that (a) requires over $3,000.00 in medical treatment, or (b) causes permanent injury or (c) disfigurement. After the threshold is met, the victim may make a further claim against the responsible driver’s insurance accident law

Our car accident lawyers routinely handle these PIP benefits for our clients at no charge when we are retained to represent the client on the liability claim against the person who was at fault.

Your PIP benefits are your “lifeline” if you are disabled due to an accident; it is important that you coordinate with us to be sure you obtain all benefits to which you are entitled.

At least $3,000.00 for reasonable, necessary costs for medical treatment (The policy limit may be higher– check the individual policy).
Lost income is caused by the injury, for up to a year, at the rate of $250.00 per week or 85 percent of your average income (whichever is less).

Household services: (“Essential Services”) This $20.00 per day payable by the insurance company is to pay someone else to perform those household tasks which the injured person would have done if they had not been hurt. The insurer paying the PIP benefits is usually reimbursed by the insurer of the driver who was at fault in an auto accident. All policies are required to include these benefits.
To receive the benefits your doctor must certify that you, (1) need the treatment received, (2) are unable to work at your regular job, and (3) need the household help. Your doctor is the key to your entitlement to the benefits; be certain he or she understands your needs.

If you reach the “threshold” described above you may be entitled to a lump sum personal injury payment, which we will negotiate for you.

An automobile accident is always stressful. You are not alone. This advice has been prepared to help guide you through some of the steps you should take to ensure that your property damage claim is handled speedily and that your interests are protected.

Immediately following the accident, or as soon thereafter as you are able, you should contact the property damage adjuster of the responsible party’s insurance carrier and make arrangements for your vehicle to be seen. This can be done either by the adjuster coming out and looking at your vehicle and estimating the damages, having you take the vehicle to one of the insurance company’s drive-thru shops, or by having you obtain two or three estimates on your own from shops of your choice.

If your automobile has been damaged in an auto accident, you are entitled to have your automobile repaired, or if your vehicle is determined to be a “total loss,” you are entitled to be paid the value of that vehicle. If you had other personal items damaged in the accident, you are entitled to be reimbursed for those losses as well.

Sometimes, when there are liability issues involved, you may experience long delays in getting a response from the responsible party’s insurance carrier regarding what position they are taking concerning your claim. Therefore, some clients may prefer to have their own insurance carrier to handle their property damage claims.

When an accident is someone else’s fault, generally that person’s insurance company will compensate you directly. Otherwise, your own insurance company may reimburse you for your vehicle, e.g. property damage, if you have the appropriate insurance coverage. A property damage claim is resolved in one of two ways: either your car can be repaired or it will be considered a total loss — meaning that the cost of the repair exceeds the actual value of the vehicle.

You may have the right to have your car repaired at the body shop of your choice. You need not accept the insurance company’s property damage appraisal of the actual repair costs. Take your car to your selected body shop and present a written estimate to the insurance company. Make sure you retain 2 or 3 written estimates from different body shops. Do not rely solely on an insurance company’s estimate. Be satisfied that your car is returned to pre-collision condition before signing any insurance company check or property damage release. Otherwise, you may waive your right to further repairs.

Once an estimate of the damages has been determined, the insurance company will either issue you and the shop a check or will pay the shop upon completion of the work. If you receive the check upfront before your repairs are done, do not give it to the shop until the work is done and you are reasonably satisfied. If you pick up your vehicle from the shop and notice something that has not been taken care of, let the shop and the adjuster know immediately.

Total loss means that the cost of repair exceeds the reasonable retail market value for “your” car in the condition it was in at the time of the accident. If your vehicle is determined to be a “total loss,” (this means that your vehicle will cost more to repair than its worth) you are entitled to be compensated for the value of your vehicle. Fair value is usually determined by the NADA Guide. However, some insurance companies are now using computerized data services. When your car is a total loss, the insurance company is obligated to pay you for the market value of your car in the condition it was in before the collision. Market value can be determined by looking in classified ads for similar cars with similar mileage as yours. Ask car dealers what a similar car sells for on their lot. Obtain written estimates for the retail values of your car from a salesperson. In negotiating the value of your car, let the insurance company know of any recent repairs, any special accessories and the value of any damaged contents. Show the company recent receipts of all service and maintenance records. You have the right to market value, which is generally higher than blue book value. An insurance company is not responsible for an outstanding loan or lease balance in excess of market value. So, if you bought a car and were making monthly payments, you may unfortunately owe more than what the car is actually worth. You will not be entitled to recover compensation for the loan balance if the car is worthless. This is a result of a poor business decision when you purchased or leased your car. You are also entitled to recover pro-rated licensing fees on the balance remaining on the annual license and sales tax on the total loss value.

If you feel you are not being offered a fair settlement for your vehicle, please let us know and we can assist you in getting this resolved.

If an accident is another’s fault, that person’s insurance company should provide you with a rental car while your car is in the repair shop or until the insurer makes a reasonable offer to settle a “total loss” on your vehicle. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, your right to a rental car is subject to the terms of your own insurance policy.

Contact the insurance company for pre-authorization of all rentals. They will direct you to local car rental companies. If there is a delay in obtaining a rental car, you may be entitled to compensation for the “loss of use” of your vehicle for each day you have been deprived of its “use.”
This rental car insurance is not compensable. You will not be reimbursed for insurance on a rental car. Most car rental companies want your business and most will have a drop-off and pick-up service if you request it, at no additional charge.

If you had other items damaged in the accident, don’t throw them away! The insurance company will not pay for damage to items if the items were not retained. If you recently purchased any of these items, the receipt will be helpful in obtaining reimbursement. If you do not have receipts, you will need to get estimates or some proof of the market value of the item. For example, you recently purchased a cellular phone and it was cracked in the accident. You didn’t save the receipt, but you recall where you purchased it. You can go to the store where you purchased the phone and describe the make, model, etc. and ask them to give you a note indicating its cost at the time of your purchase. They might even have records of the purchase. The insurance company will then reimburse you the cost less any depreciation.

NOTE: If you need help with your property damage claim, please call your attorney or paralegal for assistance.

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