After you have received emergency medical treatment, one of your first concerns will probably be how do you get your vehicle repaired. Insurance companies normally will go ahead and settle the property damage part of your claim soon after the accident. The property damage settlement will not affect your personal injury claim unless you sign a full and final release of “ALL” claims in the accident.
If your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company owes you the “actual cash value” of the car or truck. “Actual cash value” is defined as the price that you would pay down at the corner car lot for a vehicle exactly like yours, the same mileage, same condition, etc. Insurance companies may refer to the NADA book or obtain estimates from car dealers to determine the worth of your car. After paying you for your total loss, the insurance company usually sells the salvage. However, the company is often willing to sell the salvage back to you.
If your vehicle can be repaired, the insurance company owes you the reasonable cost of repairing all damage incurred in the accident. Wrecker and storage fees are usually covered in full.
If your own insurance company is paying the property damage under your collision coverage, you are not entitled to a rental car unless you have opted to pay an additional premium for this coverage. If the negligent party’s company is taking care of the property damage, you may be entitled to a rental. If your car is a total loss, the company owes you a rental car only up to the day the decision is made that the vehicle is a total loss. If your vehicle is repairable, then the insurance company will pay around $20 a day for a rental car while your vehicle is in the shop. If your vehicle was used in a commercial enterprise, you may be reimbursed for loss of use and loss of business.
What about my medical bills while my case is pending?
Hopefully, you have “medical pay” coverage on your own auto insurance policy. “Med pay” pays your bills up to the limits of your policy. Your company does not penalize you for using med pay since you have paid a specific premium for the coverage. In most cases you do not have to repay your own company when you settle with the other party’s insurance company.
Your health insurance carrier can be called upon to pay your medical bills. However, health insurance companies have a right of “subrogation” which allows them to be reimbursed for their payments from the eventual settlement with the negligent person’s company.
What is uninsured motorists?
Uninsured motorists or UM coverage is one of the most valuable forms of auto insurance you can purchase. Your agent must offer UM coverage to you when you buy your policy. If you do not sign to reject the coverage, the UM provision of the policy provides some important advantages.
If the person who causes your damages does not have insurance, your own UM coverage will pay medical bills, loss of earnings, pain and suffering and other elements of damage in the injury part of your case. UM does not pay for your property damage.
UM also means “underinsured motorists.” If the person who is negligent does not have “enough” insurance, your UM coverage can be accessed and used to cover your damages. In certain cases we may be able to “stack” the UM limits on all the vehicles in your household.
Will I have to go to court?
I have been able to settle 90% of my clients’ cases “out of court” down through the years. When your medical treatment has ended, I obtain all of your medical bills and records and doctors’ reports and submit the information to the insurance adjuster. The adjuster usually takes a few weeks to evaluate the claim and make an offer of settlement. You and I will discuss the settlement and I will give you my advice on whether the settlement offer is fair. However, you make the decision on whether to take the offer or authorize me to file suit.
I handle this type of case strictly on a contingency-fee basis. I take 1/3 of the gross recovery, plus reasonable expenses incurred in the preparation of the case. If your case goes to trial, the case expenses can become significant because of depositions and fees for expert witnesses and doctors.