Getting Your Car Fixed or Replaced After an Oregon Auto Collision

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families

Introduction

In the days following a car collision, many people are more concerned about getting their car fixed or replaced than they are about their injuries.  This makes sense, given that transportation is a basic part of our everyday lives.  It is one thing you can take care of that will get things somewhere near back to normal.  This article provides basic information on how property damage claims work in Oregon.

The General Rule

The general rule is that you are entitled to recover the loss of the value of the item damaged.  If the item, in this case your car, can be repaired, then the loss of value is presumed to be equal to the cost of repair.  However, in some cases, the car’s value may be diminished even after it was repaired, and you may have a diminished value claim in addition to a claim for the cost of repair.


If the car is damaged beyond repair, then you are entitled to the fair market value of the car at the time the collision occurred.  “Fair market value” means what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller.  A “total loss,” or when a car is “totaled” is not technically the same as a car being damaged beyond repair.  Typically, if a repair estimate approaches 80% of the car’s value, then it will be “totaled.”

Loss of Use

In addition to the cost of repair, and diminished value for cars that can be fixed, you are entitled to a claim for the loss of the use of your car.  So, if the car is in the shop for two weeks, you should be entitled to a rental of a similar car for that period of time.  Often times, insurance companies will authorize a rental at the outset of the claim.


When the claim involves a total loss, the insurance company may make an offer, and in a “take it or leave it” kind of way, cut off the rental car if the offer is not accepted.  Or, even if the offer is accepted, the insurance company may cut off the rental immediately.  Some companies will allow a reasonable extension so that the car owner can find and purchase another car.  Others do not.  If you suspect that your car is a total loss, you may want to consider looking for a replacement car early in the process to avoid any problems with the rental car.

How Insurance Companies Determine Fair Market Value

In our experience, insurance companies will use a data base service to determine a vehicle’s fair market value.  Some companies will have an appraiser come out and inspect the vehicle and determine its condition at the time of the collision.  Then, the insurance company will search a data base to find comparable vehicles in order to determine fair market value.  Many companies will not stray very far, if at all, from the initial offer amount for a total loss claim.  Sometimes, proof of major improvements, like an engine rebuild, or some other overhaul may increase fair market value.  Even evidence of similar vehicles advertised for sale in the same area could get some movement from the adjuster.  Nothing prevents you for hiring your own appraiser, and obtaining a report on fair market value.  However, you may be stuck with an appraisal that does not help your cause.

The One Bite of the Apple Issue

A long time ago, an injured person with a property damage claim could pursue the property damage claim in court, and then later pursue their injury claim.  Now, the rule is that an accident victim gets one bite of the apple. This means that if you are going to file a lawsuit, you must include all claims (personal injury and property damage) arising from the facts “giving rise” to the claim, which in this case means the car wreck.


Questions about property damage?  Check out our blogs, frequently answered questions, and articles.