A traffic accident can result in significant damages for the victims. Property damage refers to the harm caused to the vehicle because of a car accident. Typically, property damage claims are settled separately from personal injury claims, which involve physical, emotional, and mental injury to a person.
What Is a Property Damage Claim?
Vehicles involved in a collision sustain some level of damage. The factors and circumstances of the crash determine the severity of damage to the vehicles. Property damage is an economic loss.
Economic damages reimburse the accident victim for monetary losses caused by the at-fault party. Generally, the property damage portion of an accident case settles soon after the traffic accident.
CAUTION! If you settle a property damage claim, read the documents the insurance company asks you to sign very carefully, including the back of a settlement check. The property damage release and settlement should not release any claims you might have regarding the economic and non-economic damages related to your personal injury claim.
Missouri Requirements for Car Insurance
Missouri requires drivers to have a minimum amount of automobile liability insurance. The state requires drivers to have:
- $25,000 per person for injuries
- $50,000 per accident for injuries
- $25,000 for property damage
Liability insurance compensates accident victims for damages sustained in an accident that is their fault.
Many drivers also purchase optional insurance coverage. For example, they might have collision insurance. Collision insurance pays for the damage to their vehicle in an accident that was their fault.
Drivers might also purchase comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive insurance pays for vehicle damage caused by fire, theft, storm, or other casualties. Most lenders require owners to have comprehensive and collision insurance for the duration of the loan.
Who Pays for Property Damage After a Car Accident in St. Louis?
The at-fault driver is generally responsible for paying damages for a car accident that is their fault. Therefore, you should be able to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance company.
The company assigns a claims adjuster to evaluate the damage and determine if the accident was the insured fault. If the claims adjuster determines the accident was the insured’s fault, the adjuster offers to settle the property damage claim.
The insurance company would be liable for up to $25,000 in repair costs if the at-fault party has minimum car insurance coverage. You can choose any repair shop to make the repairs. However, some tips to keep in mind include:
- Getting at least two written estimates for repairs allows you to compare the estimates to the damages noted by the insurance adjuster to ensure all damage is repaired
- Demand that the company authorize new parts for the repairs instead of used or aftermarket automotive parts
- Do not sign any documents releasing the company from liability until you are satisfied with the repairs
Also, you want to negotiate a payment for diminished value. Your vehicle is repaired and may look like it was not in an accident. However, if you try to sell your vehicle or trade it in for a new vehicle, potential buyers and dealers will likely pay less because the vehicle has been damaged in a car accident.
What Should I Expect if the Insurance Company Totals My Vehicle?
Insurance companies total vehicles when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds the vehicle’s value or a specific percentage of the vehicle. In other words, it costs more to fix the vehicle than it would be worth. In that case, the insurance company “totals” the vehicle.
You are entitled to receive an amount equal to the fair market value of your vehicle. Several factors impact the fair market value, including:
- The model, make, and year of your vehicle
- The market for the type of vehicle
- The mileage and condition of your vehicle when it was wrecked
- The vehicle’s crash and damage history
- Special options, equipment, or features that were not standard for that model
Before accepting an offer to settle the property damage claim, verify the value of your vehicle. You can check the value of a vehicle online at NADA, Carfax, Kelly Blue Book, or Edmunds.
However, if your vehicle is a luxury car or has special options, you might want to obtain an appraisal from a dealer. A dealer specializing in the type of vehicle is the best option for obtaining a written appraisal.
Be prepared to negotiate a property damage claim for a totaled vehicle. Make sure you have copies of records showing maintenance, special equipment, etc. Also, photographs of the vehicle before the crash can help prove the vehicle’s condition for determining its value.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyers
Our St. Louis personal injury attorneys at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers fight to recover maximum compensation for all damages caused by an accident or other personal injury. Call (314) 444-4444 to contact our law firm and schedule a free case review to discuss how we can help you with your injury claim.