In a car accident, the at-fault insurance company may accept responsibility for the damage to your vehicle and make an offer to settle the property damage claim. You will almost always deal with an adjuster at the at-fault driver’s insurance company. An adjuster is the person the insurance company hired to review and negotiate your claim. Typically, part of the adjuster’s job is to try to minimize your claim in order to control costs for the company. After a liability decision is made, the insurance company will let you know whether your car will be repaired to declared a total loss.
Usually, if the estimated repairs are less than 75% of the vehicle’s pre-accident cash value, the the car will be repaired.
The pre-accident cash value is sometimes called the “fair market value.” Fair market value is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, and both have reasonable knowledge about the vehicle’s condition. When calculating repair costs versus value, insurance adjusters may use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) publication, the “Official Used Car Guide,” to determine the fair market value. It is available online at www.nadaguides.com.
While the insurance company may use the NADA book value to determine fair market value, the book is only a guide. There is more room to negotiate based on the actual condition of your vehicle.
You should get estimates for the amount of repairs your vehicle will need. After you get the estimates, and provide them to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster may make an offer over the telephone. If you do not agree with the telephone offer and the adjuster has never seen the damaged vehicle, then you can require the adjuster or the insurance company’s appraiser to personally inspect your damaged vehicle.
If you do not agree with the settlement offered by the adjuster, you have the right to request that the adjuster send to you in writing the amount of the offer along with the specific policy provisions or legal basis the adjuster is relying on in support of the offer.
An adjuster may tell you they want you to take your car to a particular garage – typically, a garage with which they get a volume discount. However, you have the right to take your vehicle to any repair shop of your choosing.
Total Loss Offers
A vehicle is legally considered a total loss if the cost of repairs and supplemental claims equal or exceed 75% of the fair market value. If this is the case, the liability insurance carrier should pay fair market value for the vehicle.
Fair market value is often determined by local market statistics. Local fair market value must be determined by using either the local market price of comparable vehicles or, if no comparable vehicles can be found, quotes from at least two qualified dealers within the local market area. If your vehicle was in better-than-average condition prior to the collision, the adjuster should factor that in when determining the value.
It is also important to note that the fair market value could be lower than the loan owed for the totaled vehicle, and the insurance could be unwilling to payoff the loan amount.
You should require the adjuster to give you a written report with the total loss offer including estimates, evaluations, and deductions used in calculating the total loss offer, as well as stating the source of these values.
Complaints About the Insurance Company
If you have a complaint about an insurance company and the way they are handling your claim, you may call or write the Consumer Insurance Information Division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance. The toll-free telephone number is 855-408-1212. The mailing address is: North Carolina Department of Insurance, Consumers Services Division, 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699.
The Consumer Services Division will take information from you and then an analyst from the Division will request information from the insurance company, agent or adjuster. If the analyst finds that there is just cause for the complaint then a recommendation will be made to both sides as to how to settle the situation. If this does not resolve the problem, a deputy commissioner may arrange a conference with the insurance company involved to resolve the problem. If the conference does not resolve the disputed issue, then the deputy commissioner may recommend to the commissioner that appropriate legal action be taken including a public hearing (filing a lawsuit).
Our Recommendation: No Need For an Attorney Unless You Were Hurt
At Tien Law Firm, we think that most individuals will be fine with handling their property damage claims. However, if we represent you on a bodily injury claim related to the accident, our door is always open to answer your questions and assist with your property damage issues.
Whatever the size of your case, we believe that our clients deserve excellent representation and service. If you have questions, or want to see if we can help, give us a call at 1-888-988-6613 or contact us online.