Property Damage Primer
A few people recently approached us with horror stories about their dealings with insurance companies (sometimes their own) with property damage claims. Here is a primer.
First and foremost, you have to prove that the other driver was at fault. If the insurance company thinks that you are at least partially at fault, it may argue that you were "contributory negligent." This means that you share in the fault, and any property damage payment would be reduced by your percentage of fault. If you are 51% at fault or more, then you have no claim whatsoever if the case is in Oregon.
If your car is repairable, you should insist on getting a rental replacement from the liability insurance carrier. In some of our recent cases, insurance carriers seem to be stingier about authorizing a rental. However, regardless of whether you actually get a rental car, you are entitled to recover the "loss of use" of your car. In other words, you are entitled to get the cost of renting a car, even if you choose not to. Also, you are entitled to the cost of renting a car like your own. If you were driving a pickup truck when the collision occurred, then you get to rent another pickup truck.
You should also be aware of a claim for diminished value. If your car is a recent model year, then it may not be worth as much as it was prior to the accident, even after all repairs are made. The difference in value is the diminished value. In many cases, an appraiser can give you an estimate of the diminished value of your vehicle, even after repair.
If your car is a total loss, the insurance company will most likely have an appraiser inspect your vehicle, and then take those findings to a database program to calculate a fair market value. The "fair market value" is what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for your vehicle. Most people are not happy with the insurance carrier's offer when a car is "totaled." If you have maintenance records showing significant improvements to your car (rebuilt engine), then you may have an argument for an increased fair market value. If you can find other similarly situated cars in your area that are selling for more than what the insurance company is offering, that may help as well. Sometimes, it may make sense to hire an actual appraiser of your own to contest the insurance company's findings.
One advantage with property damage claims is the time limit for actually bringing a claim in court. In Oregon, you have six years from the date of the collision to bring a property damage claim in court. If you do not have the case filed in court within this time, you lose all right to make the property damage claim.
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