old_mountains

You’ve got MOUNTAINS of questions!

We went on an expedition to get you answers!

We have tackled all of the tough insurance claims faqs and posted them here.  You can find info on diminished value, total losses, public adjusters, injury claims, demand letters and more to make an informed decision when dealing with your insurance claim after an auto accident.

Take a look around or take a shortcut and request a free claim consultation!

Auto Accidents (17)

What is the definition of diminished value?

Diminished Value Of A Car And A “Loss Of Value” Claim: The Definition

 

This is a trickier question than it may seem. Let me start by providing a general definition:

Diminished Value:

The amount of value lost on any item of value due to a change in the condition, age, or demand associated with the item.

Now, as it relates to the value of a car, diminished value is defined in different ways and there are different types of diminished value.

As used in most insurance claims litigation, diminished value is defined as:

“the difference in value of an automobile immediately prior to a collision and the value immediately following a collision”.

This definition is simply another way of saying that diminished value is simply the cost of repair. This may be well true, but if you further describe the type of diminished value by adding the words “residual” or “inherent” or “repair related” or “process related” then you have a whole new definition.

For the purposes of most people, the only type of diminished value they will be concerned with is the inherent or residual diminished value that their vehicle sustains following collision damages and repairs.

This type of diminished value is based upon the fact that a damaged and repaired vehicle is not as desirable as a vehicle of the same make and model and options that has not been damaged and repaired.

Less desire = less value

I think anybody that understands the concept of supply and demand will agree that this analogy is sound.

So, now you know what diminished value is, but now how do you get compensated for it if it has affected you?

Simple! You need to document your loss and demand payment for your damages! Most people enlist the services of an expert appraiser in the area of diminished value. If you need assistance or more information on your diminished value or loss of value claim, remember that information is always free at Petty Details, LLC and we will provide you with a free claim consultation to see what your claim is worth today!

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How much is my auto accident injury settlement worth?

Advice On Car Insurance Injury Claims

Let me first start by saying if you have been injured in an auto accident, you should seek proper medical attention without regard to your insurance claim.

The failure to do this is where many people fall to the wayside.

Think about it. If you didn’t seek medical care, what was the problem, how can you document your injury? Insurance adjusters are normally trained on the best arguments for the type of scenario where no treatment was sought, and you will likely be rejected if you attempt to file an injury claim. There is simply no excuse for not seeking medical treatment for an injury.

What? You were hurt but you don’t have insurance or any money to spare and couldn’t get treated?

 The adjuster’s answer to this is simple: If you didn’t go to the hospital, then your injury wasn’t very bad and you incurred no cost, therefore there is not even a pain and suffering aspect.

Have you heard of the “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act”? Almost all adjusters have. Briefly, this is a law that was enacted by Congress in 1986. It is a Federal law. What it means is that if you have any type of emergency or if you are a woman and in active labor, then almost all hospitals and ambulance services must provide you treatment, no matter if you are an illegal alien, or if you have no insurance or money at all.

The most you could expect if you didn’t seek treatment would be what adjusters call a “nuisance value” settlement, no more than $500, and only if you seem to be sincere and the adjuster is nice.

You think that’s not fair?

If you are hurt, then you should get paid, right? Even if you didn’t go to the hospital you can still be hurt, right? The answer is…..sort of. If you have what they call a “soft tissue” injury, then it may not warrant emergency care. The problem is that treatment for soft tissue injuries is debatable. Chiropractors will tell you that you need to undergo some treatments, exercises or adjustments to speed up the healing and alleviate the soreness or pain. Liability claims are paid based on a complete injury evaluation which means you have to be finished with your treatment before you can get a settlement.

If you don’t go to the hospital because you don’t have insurance or think you can’t afford it, you have made a bad mistake and there is nothing for the adjuster to evaluate.

The deciding question (in the back of their mind) for a jury and for an insurance adjuster is “Regarding treatment for your injury, would you have taken the same action if you knew there was no insurance available?” If the answer to this question is yes and the evidence supports that answer, then you most likely have an injury claim that is worth pursuing. Now, to determine the value of your injury claim you will have to account for many factors.

To answer the question posed by the article title, you should add up all your medicals, research the venue, and evaluate all the factors that are provided in my popular ebook.

This article is the first paragraph in my full e-book that explains everything you need to know!

Fill out my online form.

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How do I calculate the value of my soft tissue injury?

Soft Tissue Injuries And Auto Accident Injury Settlements – Calculate The Value!

If you have been involved in an auto accident, the chances are you may suffer some discomfort and pain in your neck and back. If you don’t have a severe injury, then what is most likely is that you have what they call a “soft tissue” injury. Essentially, the physics involved with two vehicles colliding is what has caused this. Inertia, you know? Soft tissue injuries are hard to detect with conventional medical equipment. X-rays will not show a muscle sprain or strain. This is the problem with soft tissue injuries, they’re hard to document. So, if you have a soft tissue injury, then what is the pain and suffering worth?

What Can I Expect From The Insurance Company?

Many people would say that there is no dollar amount you can put on someone’s physical pain and suffering, but insurance adjusters and “adjusting software” do it every day. What are you supposed to expect in the way of actual money from the insurance company for the person that caused the auto accident and your soft tissue injury?

 1.  They do not actually tell you how to calculate your estimated injury settlement.

Most of the e-books out there on this subject make statements like “every injury is different”, “some people’s pain and suffering is different than others”, “depending on your circumstances”, and so forth. These statements are needed to make people aware of the diverse way in which a claim may be settled, but just making these statements and not going into detail about what circumstances, what kind of people, and what types of injuries demand higher settlements, is cheating the book purchaser.

 2.  No follow-up availability.

Since every claim is different, how can anybody put into a book all of the scenarios and values? They can’t! Along with injuries, people and circumstances being different, juries are also different. Providing a live person to answer some basic questions for free is a valuable asset to an e-book about how much injury claims should be worth.

In nearly 15 years of claims adjusting, I have handled claims of just about every type. From fatalities, to soft tissue injuries. The methodology for determining the value of the injury is always the same.

In my e-book, I reveal the methodologies that are incorporated into every injury adjuster’s, and every computer program’s procedure for determining an injury value as it relates to the pain and suffering portion.

The goal of purchasing a book that is supposed to tell you what your injury claim is worth should be to give the consumer a dollar amount that they can use to negotiate their settlement. By utilizing standard methodologies and describing some common accident injury scenarios, I have developed a formula and specific method for the victim to use.

The adjuster has these tools, so why shouldn’t you?

Fill out my online form.

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Do you have some small claims settlement tips for Texas?

Small Claims Settlement Tips

Tips For Using Small Claims Court In Texas

Limits, Forms And Court Info

I think an attorney would tell you that it is never beneficial, but I am not an attorney so I say it is beneficial when one can’t afford an attorney and has the time to invest in a little research.

Small claims courts are for the people, so the people should use them. I can’t speak for the rules in States other than Texas (they are very similar), but I have been in front of a few small claims courts in Texas, Florida and Arizona, and for the most part, they are worthwhile provided you follow the rules. The rules in Texas can be found in Chapter 28 of the Government Code.

Chapter 28

This chapter of the Government Code sets forth the rules of battle. I will try and give some pointers about the rules in as simple a manner as possible for the benefit of the public reading this article.

Keep in mind that this article is not legal advice, just some pointers on procedure that I have gleaned from my experience as a corporate litigation specialist for insurance companies.

Before I go into the pointers for suit, I would like to say that a great alternative to filing a suit (if you are actually in contact with the person you have the dispute with) is an agreed mediation. The cost might be a little more than what a suit would cost, but going to a mediation doesn’t have the “bully” effect that going to court has. Nobody likes a bully. People and businesses that are hard to deal with may fight even harder if you file a suit, but a lot of times they are not as defensive if you are open to the idea of alternative forms of settlement.

With that being said, here are some basics as they relate to Texas small claims suits. These pointers are not all inclusive and meant solely as a guide for those wishing to embark on a suit without the help of an attorney. Surely winning your suit will take much more time and research than you can get from this article.

 Basic Qualifications

  1.  1. In order to file a small claims suit in Texas, your total damages cannot be more than $10,000
  2.  2. You can only sue for monetary damages, not for the return of property or for an order to make somebody do something
  3.  3. You can only sue for your own damages, not for somebody else’s, even if they assign you the right to sue.
  4.  4. You can only sue the person or business that actually caused the damages (you can’t sue the insurance company of the person that hit your car, only the person that hit your car and in some cases, the owner of that car if it wasn’t the same person).
  5.  5. Unless you are suing for the breach of a contract, you only have 2 years to initiate suit

Getting Started

1.  First and foremost, you have to have know who to sue.

If it is an individual, then it’s simple, just make sure you have their proper name and address. If it is a company, then you need to figure out who the “agent for service of process” is. You still have to name the business on the actual petition (the official complaint requesting suit), but you have to know who to send the complaint to so that it will count.

Normally, if the business is a corporation you can call the Secretary of State and they will tell you who the agent is, or if you can’t track the information down on the agent, then name the president of the company or the highest officer of the company as the person you want to have the court “serve”.

 2.  Once you know who to sue and who is going to get the suit papers, you have to figure out the correct precinct based on the address where the person you are suing lives.

You will need to determine what County the address is in and then look up in the phone book the number to any of the Justice of the Peace courts, or the municipal court in that county. Once you have one of the courts on the phone, ask them for assistance in determining what precinct the specific address falls into. Now you have the right precinct, just make sure you file the suit in the Justice of the Peace Court for the right precinct in the right county.

The Paperwork

 1.  The petition is the first thing you need in order to get a suit going. It is the actual complaint that tells the court who you are suing and why. Don’t forget to include the date that the “action” occurred which caused you the damage you are suing for. The Government code sets forth what has to be in the petition and a lot of times if you talk to the right court clerk, they will either provide you with a form to fill out, or answer basic questions about procedure (they cannot give legal advice).

 2.  So if all has gone well, you have been able to find the proper precinct and either fill out a basic petition or write one up based on the way the Government Code dictates, and now you just need to mail the form to the court.

The Cost

The cost of a small claims suit is relatively cheap. There is some minor fluctuation in the cost based on the charge for service (the act of actually giving the sued person notice of the suit), but in general a small claims suit can be initiated for less than $100. The court will charge a filing fee of around $17 and then the constable will charge between $50 and $65 to actually deliver the notice of suit or citation (a brief note that the court produces that mainly says “you have been sued” and provides the person being sued with some basic instructions and deadlines for defending themselves.

In most cases, you can just combine the payment for filing and service of the citation into one payment and make it all payable to the Justice of the Peace. You can also ask the court to include your filing and service cost in the award that you win, provided you win. That’s it! Pretty cheap.

The Deadline

After you have filed the suit, you will need to give the court a few days or even a week or so to get the paperwork out to the person you sued. You will have to call the court and ask the clerk for a status on service.

Once the paperwork has been properly delivered, the clerk will tell you when “service has been perfected”. Once you have this date, write it down because the person you sued has a limited time to defend themselves. In Texas, the small claims courts give them 10 (business) days following the first Monday after the date they were served. This is not a lot of time and many people fail to file an answer to the suit within the deadline. If you are on top of things you can “move” or ask the court (in writing) for a default judgment (an order stating you won because the other person didn’t fight).

The good thing about small claims court is that they are normally not sticklers about the form of the requests you send them. The government code allows the Judge to determine the rules, pretty much, so most Justices of the Peace realize that the layman is not trained in proper legal form. If a person just asks for the right thing at the right time, the court will normally help by either providing you with a form, or telling you where to look for an answer. I find that Judges and court clerks truly want to see justice served in most cases. If you are sincere and really needed to file the suit in the first place, they can tell and will try and point you in the right direction.

 The Details

Sometimes, the person being sued will hire an attorney to answer the lawsuit for them. In this case, you will probably be a little bit confused as the attorney will most likely request a jury trial and commence with some discovery.

Keep in mind, if you get a request from an attorney saying you have to answer a bunch of questions because of discovery, the rules of small claims court allow for only reasonable discovery which is approved by the Judge (check out the government code). A good way to get around a bunch of paperwork from an attorney is to immediately write a letter to the court and ask that the Judge review what the attorney is asking for and limit the questions to what is reasonable. The court will look it over and send it back to you in an amended form. Normally they will allow 5 to 10 questions unless your case is really complicated and you have witnesses or other questionable evidence.

If you have a complicated case, then small claims court isn’t the place for you. If the Judge says you have to answer questions, remember that you also have the right to ask some basic questions, so just take your lead from the attorney and make sure you know at least as much as about the person you are suing as the attorney is getting about you. If there is no attorney involved, then the court will just set up a time to have a hearing. Unless somebody asked for a jury and paid a small jury fee, the hearing will be a bench trial, meaning the Judge will be the decider of the facts.

The Best Way To Win

The best way to win a small claims suit is to be right, hehe. If you are right and the person actually owes you money, then make sure you have evidence that supports your claim. Small claims court is a civil venue and the burden of proving the case is on the person suing, so that means you. It’s not like a criminal court where you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. You will only have to prove that it is “most likely” the fault of the other person that you suffered the damages you are trying to recover, but you have to support your story with evidence like a witness statement, photos, estimates of damages or a receipt, and so on and so on.

Just use your head and bring with you what you need to show that you did sustain damages, how much they are, and that the other person caused them. Judges have a knack for picking out a liar, so if all you have is the truth, that’s okay, but make sure it’s the truth.

The Hearing

Your day in court can be scary. The advice I have for you is to speak only when spoken to, and to make sure you get to your point quickly. Judges are very busy and somebody that can’t clearly explain why they are there will quickly get on the Judges nerves, and that is not a good thing. Prepare and practice saying what you need to say before you go up there. Don’t worry about what the other person is going to say, just make sure you say what you need to say.

The Judges in small claims courts are normally very patient, but if you are prepared and you have all your evidence in line when he asks you why you are suing, then you will do much better.

As the person suing, you will be asked to give your case first.

When this happens remember the following tips:

  1.  Make it short and sweet. No more than 1 minute should be used to make your opening statement.
  2. Tell the judge who did what, when they did it, and how much damage it caused you, and then shut up.
  3. Offer your evidence after you have given your short statement.

 Here’s an example of what I would consider a good opening statement:

“Your honor, on June 19th, at the intersection of Main St. and Park St, Mr. Smith ran a red light, rammed into my car, and caused $2518.00 in damages. He has refused to pay for my damages. Here is the repair invoice, estimate, police report, the letters I wrote to him, the rental car bill and pictures of mine and Mr. Smith’s car after the wreck.”

Conclusion

Small claims court is not that difficult to utilize, but it takes a little research, and good nerves and good record keeping. Any type of litigation is nerve racking and without the help of an attorney it can be confusing, but if you can read and are willing to research for the answers you need, you can find them. All the answers you need are available for free, and in most cases on the internet.

Don’t sue unless you have tried everything else. Litigation is a last resort but sometimes if you have someone or some company that is ignoring you and hoping you will go away, or just refusing to do the right thing and pay for damages they caused, then initiating a suit will force them to address the problem. Sometimes they will even go ahead and pay you instead of taking the time to fight in court.

My experience with small claims court is unique in that I represented the interests of an insurance company and had many suits going at once. I got a lot of practice, and I filed a lot of suits. The normal person would rarely have more than one or two small claim suits within their lifetime, but the rules are written so that the people can have access to the courts for matters that are not of too much consequence (up to $10K).

If you have to use the court, then use it…otherwise try and work out your differences in a friendly manner. You would be surprised what the right approach to resolving a conflict can produce. You can find a copy of the Texas Small Claims Statute at www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.28.htm.

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What’s my total loss worth?

What’s My Total Loss Worth ? Figuring Total Loss Car Value For Your Insurance Claim

 

How Much Will The Insurance Company Pay You For Your Total Loss? What Is The Real Value?

So the insurance adjuster has told you that your vehicle is a total loss, huh? How much are they going to pay you? As a licensed insurance adjuster and the owner of a company that certifies vehicle values, I should be able to shed some light on this subject for you. Let’s get right to it. The actual cash value of your vehicle is generally defined as the value a private purchaser would pay for a similar vehicle, if the purchaser is under no pressure to purchase, and the seller is under no pressure to sell. Even adjusters get confused about this subject. A retail vehicle price is different than a private vehicle price because of the factors incorporated into it. The retail price will always be greater than the actual cash value. Dealers have to advertise, make a profit, pay sales people, inspect vehicles for safety concerns, and they have to maintain a staff that can assist purchasers with obtaining credit and filling out paperwork. All of these costs are incorporated into a vehicle’s sales price when it is sitting on a dealers lot. Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle, and will not command the same price as a vehicle that is sitting on a dealer’s lot ready to sell. The law normally does not require the insurance company to pay you for the retail value of your vehicle (if you’re not sure, call us and we will tell you where to find your State’s information for free).

Market Reports

Many insurance companies use a third party vendor to provide reports that reflect a vehicle’s market value. The most prominent ones are CCC (Valuescope), and ADP Autosource. These reports generally do not depict actual sales data, rather they depict asking prices (one can ask whatever they want, but the sale price is what is important). Additionally, the vehicle specifications reflected in these reports totally rely on human input. If the adjuster / report requestor doesn’t enter correct information, or if they enter nothing at all, then default values are generated, and the final report value will not be reflective of the actual vehicle that is being evaluated. Watch these reports for inaccuracies. If everything is entered correctly, the best argument against a report from CCC or ADP is to review the “comparable” vehicles and point out where and why the comparable vehicles aren’t actually comparable.

National Publications

The national publications that can be used include NADA, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. There are more, but these are the main publications that are generally used. If you run the same vehicle with each one, you will come up with different figures. My suggestion is to average the three and use that value because then your value is supported by all three publications.

Real Data

The real data one can use consists of online vehicle auction sites or actual sales receipts from individuals. AutoTrader.com, and Cars.com will allow you to search for comparable vehicles in your area. The easiest way to use these sources is to do an advanced search and make sure you average only the really comparable ones. It can get complicated, but it’s normally worth the effort.   Once you have researched the value of your vehicle using national publications and real data, and picked apart any market evaluation done by a computer, then you should be ready to negotiate by using the average price you have calculated using the data you have. Be willing to accept a little less than you have calculated, but be professional and persistent in your negotiation.

Always negotiate in writing.

Send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster asking for a specific amount (the amount you calculated), and give them a time limit to respond to you. After you have sent the demand, follow up by telephone every couple of days. If the insurance adjuster or carrier refuses to negotiate, then you must either work your way up the chain of command, or begin doing your research for filing a small claims suit in your State. Proper negotiation and a willingness to accept a little less than you consider to be fair will keep you from spending extra money filing suit and arguing your case in front of a judge or jury. If you can get to within $800 of the average price calculated using publications and real data, I would suggest you settle and move on with your life! Good luck with your total loss negotiation. You can do it! Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!

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How do I deal with my total loss claim?

Insurance Help And Claims Advice: Total Loss Claim Values

What Can You Do?

Total loss disputes are common.

The value of your vehicle is very important to you, but it may not be as important to your insurance company or the insurance company of that guy or girl that hit your car and totaled it.

What Are Your Options When Dealing With Total Loss Of Your Vehicle?

There are some options to help you advocate for the best value on your vehicle. The most common and accepted is to employ the services of a non-interested professional. If the professional is truly a non-interested expert, then their opinion should be based on accepted appraisal methods and proper training and experience. The value you get from an certified independent appraiser should be in line with the actual value of your vehicle as it relates to the terms of the insurance claim.

First Party: The “Appraisal” or “Umpire” Clause

If you have a first party claim (meaning you are using your own insurance), then your policy likely has an “appraisal” clause. You can use this clause to effectively argue the value of your vehicle. The problem with this clause is that it normally dictates that the cost of a third party appraiser has to born by both the insurance company and the policyholder.

In addition to normally having a deductible apply, the “split the cost” requirement ensures that minor disputes such as differences of less than $500 are not worth pursuing. I mean if you have a $500 deductible and then you will have to also pay $200 of a third party appraisal fee, then you’d have to have a difference in opinion of at least $700 to just break even, you know?

Sometimes, the insurance company will agree to bear the cost and just take your part out of your settlement so you don’t actually have to come up with the money, you just lose it in the settlement. If you employ this technique, insist upon shopping around for an agreeable appraiser that is as cheap as possible, but still qualified and professional.

Ask about the experience of the appraiser, and whether or not they have an adjuster’s license. Insurance companies will inquire about this, so you should, too. There are quality services available for as little at $150, you just have to hunt around a little.

If you still can’t come to an agreement on the value of your vehicle and you are sure you are being messed with, then the other option you have is to seek out a public adjuster who specializes in low dollar representation and then get that adjuster to handle the claim for you. Some public adjusters will charge a nominal flat fee to represent you on a total loss property damage claim and waive the normal 10% contingency agreement.

Third Party: The “Certified” Appraisal

If you have a third party claim, the rules are based on tort law, not on a policy contract. You’re entitled to receive what the negligent party is legally responsible for causing due to the negligent operation or use of a motor vehicle. This means that if you have a dispute with a third party carrier, you will have to bear the entire cost of an appraisal from a third party.

In addition to the cost being solely born by the claimant (you), the report will have to be a stand-alone report since the appraiser won’t be working with you and your carrier, but with you alone. The report will have to be self explanatory and will need to be produced in accordance with accepted standards within the insurance and appraisal industry. Again, check the credentials of any service provider. Make sure you trust who you are dealing with and that they will treat you like a person and not a number. Call them to see how easy it is to deal with them and make sure the report has an official “certification” section.

Sometimes It Pays To Have A Professional

If you think you are being ripped off on the total loss value of your vehicle, then it may be worth it to seek out some professional assistance.

In my own experience, the difference in the initial offer amount and the amount offered after getting an independent professional involved is almost always more than the cost of employing the professional in the first place, and it will give you a feeling of self achievement because you didn’t have to give any of your money to an attorney (who likely won’t take a total loss case anyway).

Good Luck!

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Critical Thinking After A Car Accident

How To Deal With Your Claim After An Auto Accident

Most of us will be involved in an auto accident within our lifetimes.

This means that we are likely to have a claim with an insurance company, either our own insurance company or someone else’s insurance company. After nearly 15 years of experience in the field of insurance (most as a claims adjuster), I have come to realize that the majority of the public just doesn’t get it (the claims process, that is).

Additionally, I also believe that the majority of auto claims adjusters don’t get it. When I first began to speak with people about insurance claims nearly 15 years ago, the problem was not so apparent, but as more attorneys and less experienced adjusters come on the market, claimants get fed a lot of misinformation.

Do this for me: Search the internet for auto accident claims help or some similar string of search words. You will quickly become confused on how to best approach getting a fair settlement on your insurance claim.

 So How Do You Get Started With An Auto Insurance Claim?

In my own opinion, the best approach is the simplest approach when dealing with claims. As the title of this article indicates, critical thinking is the key to a successful insurance claim negotiation. As an adjuster who has handled almost every type of claim imaginable, I will attempt to give some pointers on critical thinking that we should all remember when we are dealing with a claim, adjusters and claimants alike.

  1.  Never assume anything
  2.  Listen hard
  3.  Keep notes
  4.  Research on your own
  5.  Remember that what you believe is true is always an opinion
  6.  Don’t settle unless you understand why you are settling (aka: ask direct questions)

During a claim negotiation, I find that sticking to these six rules almost always creates the best platform for getting what you want, a fair settlement. The problem arises when one party isn’t aware of the rules….funny but true. The good news is that if you stick to the rules, sooner or later the use of them will result in a good settlement.

Below I have provided an example of each of the 6 rules I have listed so you can better visualize how the rules work. The obstacles can be overcome with a proper understanding of the rules.

 1.  Assumption

Don’t assume that because a person does not know their own phone number, that they are not intelligent. They may just be logical. Einstein did not know his own telephone number, and when asked why, he basically said that he just never needed to call himself.

 2.  Listening

That man’s father is my father’s son. Is that possible? Who is that man? (it may not be the way you would say it, but can you figure out who that man is?) Break it down on paper, but make sure you listened correctly and write down the problem correctly.

 3.  Notes

When did you first speak with your adjuster? What did he/she ask you to provide? Without notes, you may not recall and this could delay your claim.

 4.  Research

My chocolate cookies are sweet. Do you believe me? What if I used bakers chocolate? Taste the cookies for yourself, don’t take anybody else’s word except your own, including written words. Test any alleged factual statement on your own ground by reading multiple opinions on the fact/statement and formulating your own unique understanding of the opinions. Facts are simply what the majority of people believe at any certain point in time, and many facts have been overturned by critical thinkers (remember when the Earth was flat? Do you believe that the Earth is round?)

 5.  Opinion

See number four, hehe. Really though, there are not really any cold hard facts. Think about this statement: “Something is only impossible until somebody does it.” Everything is an opinion, you will have to come to grips with this and be satisfied with the opinion that has the best evidence with it.

 6.  Be satisfied

Yeah, I know you make $40K per year, so with three days of missed work for going to the doctor, I will pay you $80.00 per day. You should understand the calculation, so ask how the $80.00 was calculated, in writing, and then study it. If you can’t get it in writing, ask for the formula until you have it properly written down and then study it. If there is not a good reason or a proper calculation, I would not be satisfied.

 

What Holds You Back

Here are some obstacles you will surely run into (just try not to be the one creating the obstacle):

  • Ego
  • Patronization
  •  Unsubstantiated opinions
  •  Bad research or advice (also known as ignorance)
  •  Impatience
  •  Apathy towards the opposition’s goals
  •  Greed

The above obstacles are just the first to come to my mind when I think about those hard claims negotiations I have had, and for sure there are many more. Since insurance claims can be complicated, I will not provide a claim scenario (I think it would just generate questions). No two claims will be exactly alike, and therefore the method to a successful resolution will be slightly different.

Okay, I guess that is the best I can do! Critical thinking and negotiation is an art – keep a list of the rules in front of you if find yourself needing to negotiate for anything. Sometimes just having them available will help you to stick to them, even if you never look at them.

 To conclude, I will leave you with this “fact” about the claims process so you can “get it”:

 If the right information is available to both the adjuster and the person filing a claim, then every claim will be settled fairly. It is your responsibility as either the adjuster or the person filing the claim to make sure the right information is available.

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Are there any secrets to help settle a total loss ?

So you’re looking for secrets to help settle a total loss ?  Well, look no further!

Do It Yourself – Finding The Total Loss Value Of A Vehicle

Insider Secrets To Help You Through Your Car Insurance Claim

 

Total Loss

As the owner of a claim service company and a licensed adjuster who has settled thousands of total loss claims, I will reveal the tricks to getting an insurance company to take you seriously.

Let me dispel some common misconceptions that apply in almost every State.

Myth #1: Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle.

Myth #2: Frame damage has nothing to do with whether your vehicle is considered a total loss or not.

Myth #3: You cannot force the insurance company to total your vehicle, nor can you force them not to total it.

Myth #4: Any vehicle can be repaired; it is simply a matter of cost.

Myth #5: The salvage value of your vehicle is very important.

Myth #6: Insurance adjusters do not have the authority to change company policy, but claims managers, litigation adjusters, claims presidents, and vice presidents of claims departments usually do.

 Myth #7: Staff insurance adjusters are normally not experts on determining vehicle value and may not even have an adjuster’s license (ask them for their license number).

What dealers would ask for your vehicle is not what your vehicle is worth. Your vehicle is a private vehicle, and the value of your vehicle will be reflective of this fact.

Okay, if you understand those seven things then you are ahead of most people. I think most people believe (rightfully so) that insurance companies use computers and formulas to determine vehicle values. This practice is the main problem that consumers face.

How do you argue with a computer or formula?

I’ll tell you how – you have to call its bluff!

Each vehicle should be evaluated on its own merit, and the adjuster should be able to utilize common sense. Instead, processes, computers, and formulas keep adjusters from using logic, and when you (the victim) don’t agree with the result of the process, then the adjuster is trained to simply advise you that their offer is the final offer.

So what do you do? How do you call their bluff and get them to act human?

Do It Yourself Process For Total Loss

1. Gather every scrap of documentation on your vehicle that you can find and get it in front of you.

If you have no oil change receipts, other maintenance records, the purchase invoice, list of options, etc., then you will have a hard time proving your vehicle was taken care of and “above average” no matter how good it looks. You need to prove your vehicle doesn’t fit with the “formula”.

2. Demand a written salvage value quote from the insurance company (in writing).

If the adjuster verbally gives you a quote, write it down for comparison later.

 3. Use the internet!

Go to the websites for NADA, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, E-bay Motors, etc. Carefully document your vehicle’s value according to all of these publications. The more information you have, the harder it is for the insurance company / adjuster to argue with you.

 4. Pick up the telephone and call auto salvage lots in your area.

Ask them to give you a salvage bid on your wrecked vehicle. Do this with at least three salvage dealers, even if you have to call dealers that are over 100 miles away from you. Document at least three bids on the salvage for your vehicle, and if possible, ask the salvage company if they maintain auction sales records and see if they will give you an average sale price for vehicles like yours that have been sold at auction in the last 6 months to a year.

Document all of this and determine your vehicle’s salvage value so that you can compare it with the value the insurance company gave you in step 3. Most of the time, insurance companies/adjusters simply use a percentage of the car’s value to determine salvage value (crazy and inaccurate!).

Okay, so if you have completed steps 1 through 4, you should be ready to move on. If you haven’t completed steps 1 through 4, then this is probably why you need help with your settlement; you can’t follow directions.

Just kidding! Moving on……. 

5.  Write a well thought out demand letter and give the insurance company a time limit for responding.

Indicate in your demand that your offer to settle will be rescinded at the end of your time limit, then follow up by telephone every two business days until your time limit expires.

6. When calling the insurance company, unless the adjuster is responding favorably, just request to speak with the vice president of claims, and then settle for a claim supervisor.

Unless you are an experienced negotiator, try to avoid getting into a detailed conversation with the claims department – simply ask them when you can expect a written response to your demand. Try and get the supervisor to provide you with a fax number or e-mail and then correspond only in writing. If they will not provide you with a fax number or e-mail address (some won’t), then try and record your conversations with the claims office, and advise them that you’re recording the conversations, not because it’s required, but because they will be more likely to be careful if they know they are being recorded. Of course, you can use snail mail, but who wants to wait on the mail? The point is to document what you are doing so you can review it later if you need to.

7. Be willing to give in a little bit on the value that you expect to receive.

If the insurance company is increasing their offer to you, then in the spirit of fair business dealings, you should reduce your demand. Always move in small increments…don’t give away the house or settle for too little (insurance adjusters are trained to move as little as possible to try and settle low, so why shouldn’t you do the same, but in an attempt to settle high?).

Be confident in your negotiation, but don’t be over-confident. Remember if you fight for every penny, you will likely spend at least a few hundred dollars fighting, you know? And it is possible that you have overlooked something that an adjuster or attorney has already found.

8. If all else fails, hire a qualified expert to write a detailed and industry accepted market value report.

Submit the report to the insurance company along with a final demand letter and a small claim petition.

That’s it! If you can follow the steps outlined in this article, you can get a fair settlement for your auto total loss. There are people like us out there that will help you to navigate through your claim for free, you just have to find them.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details! Good luck!

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Do I Need An Attorney?

Advice On Insurance Claims And Auto Accidents

This article is based on my 15 years of claims adjusting experience. I have developed a simple little formula that will help you decide if you need an attorney or not.

Keep in mind, this quiz is tailored for auto accidents only, and I make no warranties or guarantees that your result is a foolproof answer. Ultimately, the only person that can decide if you need an attorney is you. With that being said, simply answer the following 15 questions and then add up your answers.

 All of these questions are yes or no questions. Whatever answer you have the most of is your answer to the title of this article.

  1.  Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
  2.  Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
  3.  Are you younger than 35 years old?
  4.  Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
  5.  Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
  6.  Was the accident someone else’s fault?
  7.  Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
  8.  Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
  9.  Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
  10.  Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
  11.  Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
  12.  Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
  13.  If you suffered $5000.00 in damages to your vehicle, didn’t take an ambulance, but did incur over $2000.00 at a chiropractor’s office, do you believe your total claim is worth at least $10000.00?
  14.  Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
  15.  Do you agree that even a low speed rear-end impact can cause a low back disc herniation?

I hope you wrote your answers down! If you didn’t, go back and write them down this time! (hehe) Now, just add up the yes’s and the no’s. Whichever answer has the highest number is the answer to the question “Do I need an Attorney?”.

Good luck with your claim!

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What do I need to know when dealing with my repair after an auto accident?

Collision Repair After An Auto Accident

7 Things You Need To Know About Car Accident Repair Costs & Auto Body Repair Estimates

 

In nearly 15 years as an adjuster I have seen some doozies when it comes to collision repair.

 As a short example, let me tell you this . . .

When I was an adjuster, I caught a body shop and a rental car company conspiring to defraud the insurance company.

 What they did was this:

The rental company would file a claim for undercarriage damage, and we would inspect the vehicle, find the damages, write the estimate for the collision repair and pay the body shop for the repairs.

What I figured out is that instead of the damages happening like the rental company said (like a renter hit a curb, or hit some debris in the road), it was being caused by the body shop.

The shop would have their technician put the car on a lift and then he would get under it with a sledge hammer and damage the oil pan or some other component, then they would give the car back to the rental company and they would file the claim. We would pay the shop to replace the damaged component, but they would just go in and repair the component and pocket the money for the parts that we paid them. They sometimes made $400.00 or $500.00 on one scam by just faking invoices for parts that they had damaged to begin with. They would then repair the part or replace it with one they had lying around and pocket the insurance money.

Not all shops are crooks, but body shops, like any other business, are in business to make money. Most people are not experts on collision repair, and body shops know this. Taking your car to a body shop is sort of like going to the doctor or hiring an attorney. You kind of have to trust what the doctor or lawyer says because they are specially trained. It is the same for a body shop, you kind of have to trust what they tell you because they are specially trained.

If you’re cool with trusting a collision repair facility, then fine, go find another article to read. But if you are like me, you want to learn how to avoid having to trust a body shop (the concept could apply to doctors and lawyers, too).

 Try to avoid using a shop if:

 1.  You were referred to the shop by an insurance company

 Here’s why:

  •  The shop has an agreement with the insurance company, and if you are able to get a copy of the agreement between the shop and the insurance company, you are impressive.
  •  The insurance company has a vested interest in making sure repairs are as cheap as possible.
  •  Questions that would normally be directed to the vehicle owner, like “should we fix this wiring while we’re at it?”, or “hey, did this happen in the accident?” will be directed to the insurance company and not the customer. The owner is left out of the loop.

2.  The shop is dirty or unorganized

I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of people just overlook that aspect because they think repairing vehicle damages is a dirty job. It’s not, a good shop will be clean and organized. Dirty and unorganized implies to me that the shop is used to cutting corners to save money.

 

 Dealing With The Shop

Okay, so the above two things are things to watch out for if you haven’t picked a shop.

What? You say your vehicle is already at a body repair shop that the insurance company referred you to?

Don’t panic!

Here are some things that you can do that will help you keep the shop honest:

1.  Ask the shop manager to provide you with a copy of all the invoices for parts they had to purchase to fix your car, and then compare the parts list with the cost listed on the insurance company’s collision repair estimate.

 2.  Ask the shop for a written repair guarantee.

 3.  Ask the shop if they are a direct repair facility for more than one insurance company (just asking this will make them think twice about cutting a corner at your expense). If they are, ask them for the list.

 4.  Bluntly ask if they have used new Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts (OEM), used OEM parts, or aftermarket parts.

 5.  Ask the shop to explain “betterment” to you, just because you are curious. This is just to show them that you are reading up on the repair process.

 If you picked a dirty and unorganized shop, well, that was silly :), but you could still use the 5 tips above to help keep them honest.

In conclusion, be curious. Force yourself into the loop. A customer who is actively asking questions and is curious about what is going on will help to keep the shop on their toes. If you still think the shop is not treating you right, get a professional involved to check out the repairs after they are complete and tell you if the repair is sufficient. A good shop should be able to repair your vehicle back to within the original factory specifications.

 Good luck!

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Auto Taxes (1)

Do I need an appraiser for my used car auto taxes?

Used Car Auto Taxes In Texas

You May Need A Certified Auto Appraiser

 

I’ll tell you why this happened and how to get around it which the tax office won’t normally tell you.

Standard Presumptive Value (SPV)

What the State of Texas has done is write a law that says they can tell you what the value of your car is, no matter what you paid.

On top of that, the law also says that if you paid more, then you have to pay taxes on the higher amount!

To me, that is a little bit crazy….

They have set a minimum on the value of vehicles using what they call the Standard Presumptive Value (SPV). There are a few exceptions, but they don’t really help the bulk of private auto purchasers.

 Here are the nine exceptions:

  1.  Clearly, a new vehicle is not a used auto, so the law doesn’t apply to a new car.
  2.  Also, if you purchased a used car from a licensed dealer, then their price sticks, so you pay taxes on the actual purchase price in this instance.
  3.  If you buy a used vehicle from a government or “repo” auction, then they cut you a break and you only pay taxes on the actual purchase price.
  4.  If the vehicle is not actually an auto, like an all terrain vehicle or a dirt bike, then the law doesn’t apply.
  5.  If you buy the vehicle at a salvage auction and it is actually a salvage vehicle (with damage intact), then you get a break and just pay taxes on the purchase price.
  6.  Gift vehicles can slip through the cracks in some cases.
  7.  If you swap two vehicle even, then the SPV doesn’t apply.
  8.  If the vehicle you purchased is an antique, or more specifically, if it is 25 year old or older, then no SPV is required to be calculated.
  9.  A mechanic or storage lot can sell you a vehicle if they acquired it by way of lien and you only have to pay taxes on the amount paid.

So, if you find a vehicle in the classifieds and you want to buy it from the owner (who isn’t a dealer, salvage lot, mechanic, or lienholder/government official), it could cost you more than you think when you get to the tax office. If you want to know for sure what it will cost you, then you have to know what the Standard Presumptive Value is.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. You will need to get the VIN and mileage off of the subject vehicle. (call the owner and get it)
  2. Now, you need to go to the Texas Department of Transportation website and search for “Standard Presumptive Value Calculation”.
  3. Now enter the vehicle identification number and the mileage in the appropriate boxes and have it calculate the value.
  4. You need to figure 80% of the value it tells you and use that value for #5 below.
  5. Take the value and multiply it by the appropriate sales tax rate in Texas (6.25% as of the writing of this article).

Now you should have a figure, and this figure is the approximate amount you will be asked to pay, unless you say you paid more than what the SPV calculator said the vehicle was worth, and in that case, you will be asked to pay taxes on the higher purchase price.

But what if the vehicle you purchased was not in the best of shape and you didn’t pay as much as the tax office says you should have? What can you do about it?

The answer is in form 14-128 from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office.

This form is used by insurance adjusters and dealerships to certify the value of a vehicle specifically for tax purposes. If the vehicle you purchased has body damage, unusually worn seats, bad paint, or any number of other issues that can affect its value, then this is the route to go.

An Example

If you purchase a 2000 Ford F-250 as a work truck and you find someone that has a beat up one with 250,000 miles on it, then the likely tax value will be around $4,360 (80% of the SPV as calculated on the TXDOT site), but because it had been used as a work truck, it is beat up, dirty inside and has some mechanical or maintenance issues so you were able to get the owner to sell it to you for $1,500.

The tax office will make you pay around $272 for taxes, but if you go and get a certified appraisal from and adjuster or dealer. You can get one from an adjuster for around $75 or less depending on the adjuster and vehicle, but a dealer has to charge at least $100 unless it’s a motorcycle – then it’s at least $40. With a certified appraisal, the value could come out to around your $1500 purchase price (or less), so you will only have to pay about $93 in taxes. If you add in the cost of a $75 appraisal, you still will have saved over $100 on your taxes based on the above scenario.

I think that savings is worth it, especially since most of the time, if you paid less than the SPV, there’s a reason and the appraisal will be much lower than what you actually paid. It could potentially save you much more on taxes than the example I have given. Individuals and businesses can take advantage of form 14-128.

Two special points to make sure you are aware of:

  1. If you get need a certified appraisal, it has to be completed within 20 days of the sale.
  2. You can get a refund if you didn’t read this article before you paid the tax office, but you are still bound by the 20 day rule.

That’s it! I hope this saves you some tax money someday!

Sometimes It’s Just In The Petty Details!

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Diminished Value (39)

What do I need to know about Insurance Adjusters and 3rd party claims?

Car Accidents: 3rd Party Insurance Claims For Auto Accidents & Myths About Insurance Adjusters

If the at fault party has liability insurance, then when you file a claim with their insurance company you have a 3rd party claim.

I have read quite a few articles that give a lot of bad information about adjusters. The thing I have noticed most about those articles is that none of them were written by an insurance adjuster! I’d be willing to bet that if you have not been an insurance adjuster, then you believe they are almost as bad as used car salesmen or attorneys, hehe. It is a common view.

 What Is The Norm?

I can’t speak for every single insurance claims office out there, but I can say that I have worked for 5 different non-standard companies as an adjuster, and I have worked on contract for many standard companies as a recovery specialist with a firm.

I have never been instructed to deny any valid claim, nor have I been advised to “low-ball” claimants. This might happen at some companies, but it is definitely not the norm.

Insurance adjusters (if they care about their license) will usually try very hard to fairly resolve claims. I will say that I have definitely dealt with some companies that have some “questionable” practices. I won’t name names, but some of these companies simply attempt to cut costs by hiring inexperienced adjusters and giving them a “rule-book”. It is the inexperience of the adjuster in interpreting the “rules” that causes the majority of the issues.

One common unwritten rule at these companies is “deny claims with conflicting statements”. An adjuster that doesn’t understand when they can and when they can’t deny a claim makes it very frustrating for a claimant to successfully negotiate a fair settlement. In my opinion, adjusting takes an inordinate amount of common sense, but the test to get a license (at least in Texas) doesn’t really test for common sense. An adjuster can know all the rules and still be a really crappy adjuster. Believe me, I have dealt with some adjusters that give a terrible name to the profession. I’m not trying to defend those adjusters. I have heard conversations between inexperienced adjusters and claimants, and it is appalling. I have overheard adjusters just confidently misinform claimants of their rights, or confidently base their coverage or liability decision on misinformation, or just poor investigation.

Just realize that is not the norm.

 Common Sense and How To Use It To Resolve Your Insurance Claims Issues

An Example

With that previous rant off my chest, let me tell you a practice that falls into that category of having a “no common sense” adjuster and that is (in my opinion) unethical and inappropriate. The main scenario that causes a claimant to be “screwed” is when the damages are not very severe. For example, let’s say you were rear-ended, but since you are a good person, you are not claiming any injury even though you may be sore for a while and could possibly incur some therapy bills.

 Now let’s also assume that coverage has been accepted. Since you are such a good person, you didn’t call the police so there’s no police report. Now it is up to the other person (let’s say they are an unlicensed 15 year old kid) to admit that the accident was their fault, or, in the alternative, it is up to the insurance adjuster to make a judgment call (based on common sense) on whose fault the accident was.

 Seems simple, right?

You were rear-ended, you have damages to the rear of your vehicle and the other person has damages to the front of their vehicle. It should be clear, right? Well, let’s add a common twist that I saw all the time. The kid lies.

First of all, he/she wasn’t supposed to be driving the vehicle. Next, they had a few friends with them (that’s why they rear-ended you, they were distracted), and they weren’t supposed to be hanging with friends on a school night. So instead of just telling the truth and saying they rear-ended you, they try to avoid further “trouble” at home and they lie and say that you had pulled out into the intersection a little and then backed up into them. At least the accident wasn’t their fault (I have heard it before, really).

When the adjuster calls you and tells you this, you can’t believe it!

The adjuster has three options:

  1. Believe the kid
  2. Believe you
  3. Just pay for your damages

What do you think will happen?

I’ll tell you.

If the adjuster is inexperienced and has a supervisor or manager that is immoral, they will deny your claim based on conflicting statements. This is a perfectly valid denial that they can get away with. They can play dumb and try and act like they really can’t tell whose fault it is. It’s valid because there is not any evidence to support either side of the story. It is word against word. They will deny the claim saying that they can’t determine liability.

Now surely if you filed suit, they would pay the claim because, I mean, come on….what jury is going to believe a 15 year-old who says they got backed into at an intersection? Especially if they had three other 15 year-olds in the car with them? The problem is that your damages are only $1200.00, and it is going to cost you to file suit.

 So what can you do?

If you are really sharp, you could use a small claims court to force the matter, but even the rules for small claims can be complicated, so most people end up just getting mad and bad mouthing the insurance company (rightfully so in my opinion).

The insurance company counts on this type of issue.

They play the numbers game.

Quite a few companies (even the big ones) take this approach. They have inexperienced adjusters who don’t think for themselves, and just ask the manager what to do. Once they have been told to handle it that way once, they just think that is how it works. Nobody ever seems to figure this out until they have been in the business a while. A manager is not going to explain it like I just did – they will just say “Well, deny the claim, you can’t tell whose fault it was!”. The adjuster is none the wiser. The manager knows they will pay if a suit is filed, but what the manager knows is that most people will give up and not fight because they don’t know how and the claim is not worth enough for an attorney to take the case.

In this case, the insurance company wins! They can deny these types of claims because they have inexperienced adjusters to thwart off common sense and they won’t make that judgment call to pay the claim.

 Fight Or Be Taken Advantage Of

Here’s the cold hard fact: If you don’t fight, you will get taken advantage of. You can avoid this type of issue if you know what evidence to secure at the scene, but how many of us are claims specialists and think to get a written statement from the kid at the scene?

You as the claimant have to learn how to fight for yourself when the claim is a small amount (say under $7500.00). I tell you, I never did this to people when I was handling 3rd party insurance claims. I used my head and I paid the claim because common sense told me the accident was the fault of the 15 year-old. I have always thought for myself. The story of someone backing into somebody at an intersection doesn’t hold much water for me unless there is some really good evidence or a witness that can confirm the story.

If you find yourself in this situation, you have a choice to make.

You can either accept the denial, or you can fight until you are blue in the face for what is right! If more people utilized the small claims court system, some of these “questionable” practices would be less profitable and we would all see a little higher quality adjuster on the front lines so that those judgment calls could be made with some common sense. It is up to the adjuster to decide if you are serious about suing or not, and if they don’t believe you have what it takes to get your money, then you will get a denial. Period.

P.S.

Don’t forget about filing a diminished value claim when making your 3rd party insurance claim – it is owed to you and companies like ours help consumers recover every day!

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Can you file uninsured motorist diminished value claims on your own insurance policy?

Info About Uninsured Motorist Diminished Value Claims

First Party Diminished Value Claim

Due to increasing litigation in the area of first party diminished value, there has arisen some confusion on this subject. Since this subject can be complicated and I want this article to be as informative and useful as possible, I am going to limit the information to Texas. This doesn’t mean that your State is not exactly the same as Texas, it just means that for sure, this is how it works in Texas. You would have to get a copy of your policy and thoroughly read the language in the uninsured/underinsured portion.

Let’s jump right in and address the title question:

 1)   The uninsured/under-insured portion of the standard Texas auto policy lays out the insuring agreement part as follows: (according to the Insurance Services Office)

 INSURING AGREEMENT

A. We will pay damages which a covered person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by a covered person or property damage caused by an accident. The owner’s or operator’s liability for these damages must arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle. Any judgment for damages arising out of a suit brought without our consent is not binding on us. If we and you do not agree as to whether or not a vehicle is actually uninsured, the burden of proof as to that issue shall be on us.

 2)   Now I will skip down a little in the standard policy to the next portion that is relevant to diminished value on an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim.

DEFINITIONS

C.   “Property Damage” as used in this Part means injury to, destruction of or loss of use of:

  • Your covered auto, not including a temporary substitute auto.
  • Any property owned by a “covered person” while contained in your covered auto.
  • Any property owned by you or any family member while contained in any auto not owned, but being operated, by you or any family member.

Interpreting The Terms

As an adjuster, the way I interpret this coverage is very clear. The wording is not confusing to me.

The definition of property damage in the standard policy under the uninsured/underinsured portion clearly says that injury to or destruction of property is covered so long as it was caused by a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Unless your policy has a special endorsement that specifically excludes diminished value as a part of an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, then it should be covered, right?

Diminished value is definitely injury to your vehicle! Most States have very similar wording in the uninsured/underinsured motorist portion of their policies, so it is worth taking a look at the specific language and endorsement on your policy to see if your policy is similar and will cover diminished value.

 As a little further clarification…

Keep in mind that Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is a first-party coverage, meaning the person making the claim also bought the policy or purchased the coverage. The confusion out there is that the Texas Supreme Court has made a ruling that says first-party diminished value cannot be recovered. This is only under the collision/comprehensive portion of the policy where the language reads that the insurance company will “repair or replace” the damaged property. The UM portion of the policy does not contain the repair or replace language, it is meant to pay the policyholder as if it were a liability policy for the uninsured or underinsured motorist. It is also notable that if there are multiple vehicles involved in a collision and the person that caused the accident has insurance, but not enough, then you can use your UM coverage to make up the difference, including diminished value!

First-party diminished value claims are not dead, they’re just hard to understand!

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How do I file a diminished value claim after an auto accident?

A Loss With Many Names

Most consumers know that this type of loss happens, but they just don’t know how to properly document the loss, and there are very few insurance companies that will offer to calculate it for the consumer because that would just mean more money out of the insurance company’s pocket.

When consumers search for help, they sometimes misspell the actual terms and come up with less than optimum help. It is not diminition of value….it has a “u” in it, hehe. I have seen such misspellings as demiciated value, depreciated value, diminishment of value, and depreciation of value. I had to put in all the possible variations so I could make sure you find us for the help you need – the spelling is tricky so make sure to spell it right and you will come across some better resources!

 What Are The Factors That Must Exist For Diminished Value?

In almost every state in the US, it is possible to recover diminished value if certain circumstances exist. I will list out the most probable set of factors one must have in order to successfully recover diminished value but first, one must have a firm grasp on what diminished value is in order to properly document it for use in an actual claim.

 1.  Repair related diminished value

Repair related diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains due to improper or substandard work performed at a collision or repair facility.

Most repair shops will provide a written guarantee of their work, so this type of diminished value is becoming less and less available and repair techniques and available repair tools are becoming more and more advanced. Additionally, unless a consumer is forced into using a specific repair facility (which is illegal in most states), it is a very hard type of claim to pursue. If there are terrible repairs, then the problem is between the consumer and the body shop. It will likely require quite a bit of legwork and a professional to actually document the faulty repairs.

 2.  Estimate related diminished value

Estimate related diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains due to the manner a repair estimate is written.

This is not a super common type of diminished value, either, but it comes about when an appraiser or adjuster elects to write an estimate that includes things such as repairs when the part or component should have been replaced, or things like utilizing aftermarket parts that are not completely compatible with the subject vehicle. This kind of diminished value also requires special expertise in order to properly document.

 3.  Inherent diminished value

Inherent diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains simply because it has been in a wreck.

Ask most anybody whether or not they would like to pay $5000.00 for a 1998 Honda Accord with 100,000 miles on it that has never been wrecked, or if they would like to pay $5000.00 for an identical 1998 Honda Accord that was involved in a wreck and repaired. I would be willing to bet that most people would opt for the vehicle that was never wrecked. There is just a stigma associated with a vehicle being in a wreck, you know? Unfortunately, even this type of diminished value will probably require an expert to document.

 So, you can see that the easiest and most common type is an inherent diminished value claim that is pursuable, so when can you successfully recover this type of loss?

Does Your Claim Qualify?

If the following factors apply to your claim, then it is probably worth it to hire a professional and have them write an official diminished value report:

  1.  The accident was not your fault.
  2.  The at fault party has insurance or you have uninsured motorist coverage.
  3.  Your vehicle is newer than a 2002 model vehicle.
  4.  The damage estimate was at least $2000.00.
  5.  Your car was not deemed a total loss.

If you have all five factors above, then you need to ask your adjuster to address the diminished value and go from there. Most likely, the adjuster will require that you make a formal demand for the claim, so if that happens, just write a letter and ask the insurance company to pay you some amount of money for the diminished value. You could do some research, but if you are not a trained (and normally a license is required) adjuster the value you ask for won’t hold much water, so unless the company just offers up an acceptable amount, you need to find a specialist to write you a report.

The cost for a diminished value report can be up to $400.00, but you can find good specialists to write a report for far less that will hold muster in front of a judge or jury. Do your research and find somebody that will talk to you over the phone and give you some assistance in preparing cover letters or at the very least, somebody that will actually inspect your vehicle and not just provide you with a formula or have you fill out an online form. The specialist should be willing to testify in court on behalf of their report if needed.

That’s it and good luck!

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Do rental cars have diminished value after a wreck?

Fleet Or Rental Cars And Diminished Value – Is It Real?

Yes and no.

Rental cars can have diminished value, but the diminished value must be documented properly. The majority of demands for diminished value on rental cars I received were very poorly documented. In fact, most had no supporting documentation at all. They would simply state that we owed such and such amount for diminished value. I never paid a rental company for diminished value on their vehicle if they did not provide evidence that the vehicle sustained it.

 Using The Law Of Numbers

The reason the rental company makes such a poor demand is that some insurance companies will simply pay it, especially if it is a low amount, like $250 or so. Some of the larger rental companies use this tactic in hopes of getting an easy partial reimbursement without a fight. They simply ask for diminished value, and if it is paid, then they get at least some money without having to invest any time or money into researching diminished value. What most rental companies fail to do is to actually fight for diminished value if their demand is rejected. Sure, the diminished value on a rental vehicle that has been wrecked is normally less than the it would be on a non-rental vehicle that has been wrecked, but the actual amount is likely to be much more than the boilerplate $250 demand that rental companies make.

 Here is the evidence against rental diminished value…

  1.  Consumers looking to buy a used vehicle generally view a prior rental vehicle as a vehicle that has been “ragged out”.
  2. Rental vehicles are not generally specialty or collector vehicles, so their demand is a general one.
  3. Rental vehicles normally have high mileage for their year model which decreases the average value within the same class of non-rental vehicles.

 Here is some evidence for rental diminished value (inherent)…

  1. Rental vehicles normally have very accurate maintenance records.
  2. Rental cars are detailed on a regular basis, and are normally very clean.
  3. Major damages to rental cars are almost always repaired professionally at certified body shops.
  4. Rental vehicles are almost always sold at dealer auctions where buyers are especially knowledgeable about evidence of collision repairs.

 Diminished value on a rental car is not a scam, it is real.

The way many rental companies demand it is a scam. Rental companies could decrease their losses if they spent a little money obtaining expert reports on diminished value.

If you are an individual, be sure to read your rental contract closely. You do not want an unsubstantiated diminished value charge showing up on your credit card bill. If you are rental car company, do the research on diminished value, it may be that you are owed more than you think, and obtaining an expert report could keep your losses to a minimum.

Sometimes, it’s just in the petty details!

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How do I calculate diminished value after an auto accident?

There Is No Formula!

Do not be fooled into believing that a formula can accurately determine your vehicle’s diminished market value.

 Diminished Value – It Takes Research….Lots Of It!

First of all, the reason formulas exist is to simplify the calculation of values. It is not simple to calculate diminished value in a reputable manner. It takes research, and a lot of it.

If an individual or company could prove that a formula would incorporate every factor that is relevant to diminished value, and if the formula would automatically adjust for past market trends and future market trends, then maybe (and I mean maybe) a formula might come close to determining an accurate diminished value on an automobile. There is simply no database that contains market trend data on every private passenger automobile from 10 years ago up to 10 years in the future. Unless one is a bonafide prophet and certifiable encyclopedia of past market trends, vehicle sales data and consumer mindsets, there is no way to create a formula that will reflect accurate diminished value.

 How To Calculate Diminished Value Accurately

So how the heck is diminished value calculated, you say? It is calculated on a case by case basis by taking into consideration the exact market in which the vehicle is housed, the damage that the vehicle sustained, the quality of the repairs that were made to the vehicle and expert research into the methods used by purchasers to value the subject vehicle within the applicable market.

I know that’s a mouthful, but that is what it takes. Not to mention knowing the tendencies of the venue if litigation is required and taking into consideration all the specialty condition adjustments that need to be made to properly evaluate a vehicle’s desirability within any applicable market.

I guarantee that one person’s 2005 Ford F-150 will have different options, dings and nicks, and usage history than another person’s 2005 Ford F-150. I would also be surprised to see the exact same mileage or ownership history on two vehicles of the identical make and model.

In conclusion, formulas for calculating diminished value are acceptable only if the victim of diminished value agrees that the final value is acceptable compensation, but the formulas are never acceptable on their own merit and are ridiculously lacking on actual data to support values that are just “plugged into the formula”. If there is a base loss of value percentage to be used (like in the 17c formula), wouldn’t you like to know how that percentage was calculated and if the data that was used to calculate the percentage was based upon the market for your specific vehicle? I would.

Sometimes it’s just in the Petty Details! Good luck.

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What are the basic steps to filing a diminished value claim?

4 Steps To Filing A Diminished Value Claim After An Auto Accident

 

How to properly file a claim is always the same, no matter what.

Here are the basic steps to filing a diminished value claim:

 1.  You first have to document your diminished value.

If you are an adjuster or auto appraiser, then depending on your training, you may be able to document your own diminished value, but if you are not adequately trained, or if you are not an adjuster or appraiser, then you will need a credible report from a professional expert in the field of diminished value.

I must say that when I was an adjuster, if I saw a report that did not include a vehicle inspection, I simply ignored it. In order to meet with the requirements set forth in official appraising practices, it is almost always required that an appraiser inspect the property and utilize an accepted evaluation method. If you document your damages poorly or improperly, you will not get a satisfactory settlement.

 2.  You now have to send the insurance company a written demand.

The way you present your diminished value demand can be crucial, I suggest putting a time limit on the demand. You should send a written demand explaining specifically how much you are demanding, and why you believe it is valid (like refer to the attached report), and indicate when you expect to receive a settlement offer. Most reputable diminished value companies can provide you with a sample demand letter to assist you.

 3.  Follow-up!

After documenting your diminished value claim and submitting a written demand for the money you deserve, give it two days and then call the claims department and as for a written status on your diminished value demand. If you are unable to get a written status, move up the chain of command and get a supervisor, and then the claims manager, and then the VP of claims, and then the claims President, and then. . . you get the idea.

 4.  While waiting on the insurance company to offer you a settlement or deny your claim, research your options in small claims court.

Unless you have a very expensive luxury vehicle, your diminished value should be within the limits of most small claims courts. Many insurance companies will “try their luck”. They will simply claim there is no diminished value, stick their feet in the mud, and either ignore you or simply tell you the same thing every time you call. In order to un-stick their feet, you may need to take legal action. Even a small claims suit will get their attention and require that they quit ignoring you. If the company hires its own diminished value expert, thoroughly compare the reports and make note of any differences.

Many experts work exclusively for insurance companies and will fail to do any research on the market; they will simply state there is no diminished value because the repair is proper.

This is not the case and they know it. They are trying to see if you will fight. Better to spend $100.00 to get an appraiser to say there is no diminished value and use that to offer you a ridiculous settlement than pay what the market really says you are owed.

Many people give up when the company hires an expert. Don’t give up! I would ask for the credentials of the expert and make sure I thoroughly understood how they arrived at a value. If they can’t explain it to you, how will they explain it to a jury?

 Conclusion

If your vehicle was in wreck and it is being repaired, then it has suffered diminished value.

Depending on your specific situation, and if you follow the steps above, you will get one of two things:

  1. A settlement check.
  2. A requirement to decide whether to fight for your money in court.

 Sometimes, it’s just in the petty details!

Fill out my online form.

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How do I determine my diminished value after an auto accident?

This is intended to help you understand what it takes and how you can increase your chances of actually recovering your diminished value claim.

 1.  Write a formal letter demanding payment for the lost value you believe you have sustained.

In this step, there is no need to actually determine the amount, simply demand more than you expect to receive. The trick to this step is to follow-up and get a written response to your demand. Do not give up! I’m telling you, the squeaky wheel gets the oil / grease! Maybe you will get paid just based off your initial letter (it has happened). If you get a written denial, move on to steps two through five and make another written demand with your revised findings after completing the steps.

2.   Call dealerships in your area and beg them to give you a written opinion on the lost value your vehicle has sustained.

If you are a smooth enough talker, you can normally convince a dealer to help you document your loss. I have never met a dealer that doesn’t agree that a vehicle loses value after being in an accident and repaired.

3.   In addition to trying to get dealer data, look up the value of your vehicle using industry standard guides, like NADA, Kelley Blue Book, or Edmunds.

These sources clearly indicate differences in value based on the condition and history of the vehicle.

 4.   Search online auctions and vehicle sale sites and call individuals that have similar vehicles for sale.

Ask individuals how they feel about the value of a vehicle after it has been wrecked and repaired.

 5.   Use the new information obtained in steps 2 through 4 to make a follow-up demand with new amounts.

If you get denied again and all else fails, hire a specialist to document your loss and prepare to sue. There are official rules about how one must document diminished value, and experts in this field know how to document your loss professionally so that it will hold up in a court of law. Most of the time after getting an expert report, the insurance company suddenly becomes a little more reasonable.

 Don’t Give Up On Your Diminished Value Claim!

In summary, if you don’t give up and you genuinely have a diminished value claim, then the insurance company will likely pay your claim without the need for you filing a lawsuit. If you can’t get your claim settled and you need to take legal action, either hire an attorney or learn how to use the small claims court system in your area. If you need professional assistance or just free information about how to get paid for diminished value after accident damages, then just remember that information is always free at Petty Details, LLC!

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What are some tips to help win a diminished value settlement?

Do you have tips to help win a diminished value settlement?

7 Tricks To Help You Cash In

In an effort to provide some genuine free help to the public, I have compiled the 7 most helpful tidbits relating to how to get your diminished value claim paid. This article assumes that you are either filing against your own uninsured motorist coverage or are filing against another person’s insurance policy.

Diminished Value Claims from beginning to end – let’s get right to it!

Tip #1:  Do not indicate that you want your vehicle totaled!

If the insurance company totals your vehicle, then you will not be able to recover diminished value and you will be stuck fighting about how much your vehicle is worth.

 Tip #2:  Don’t talk about diminished value

If the insurance company elects to repair your vehicle, do not even think about mentioning to the adjuster that you even know about diminished value.

 Tip #3:  Pick your own body shop

Don’t let the insurance company refer you to their DRP (direct repair facility). If you take your vehicle to a shop that has a deal with an insurance company, you will be left out of the loop on how the repairs are made.

 Tip #4:   Don’t argue about LKQ parts or aftermarket parts.

If your vehicle is not a luxury vehicle or brand new, let them use whatever parts they can find – it will help to keep your vehicle from being declared a total loss.

 Tip #5:   Check your vehicle repairs carefully

Do not sign a release or remove your vehicle from the shop until you are completely satisfied with the repair job.

 Tip #6:   Hire an expert

Once the repairs are complete and before you remove the vehicle from the shop, contact a reputable expert in diminished value and obtain a stand-alone report that includes market research data, actual sales data, and one that conforms to the uniform standards of appraisal practice. If the expert you contact cannot guarantee in writing that all of this criteria will be in their report, then look elsewhere for help. A quality diminished value report will cost at least $250.00 and should cost no more than $400.00 for a private passenger automobile. The final report should also include a title history check report.

 Tip #7:   Present a written demand for your diminished value to the insurance company

Include a time limit for the insurance company to respond, and be prepared to take your case to small claims court from the beginning. Do not believe for one minute that you cannot collect diminished value by suing. The only question will be how much you can recover, and if you are confident, well informed, stern in your demand, but willing to negotiate a little, you will do fine.

 If you will utilize these seven bits of information, you will be able to accomplish one of two things…

 1 – You will get paid for your diminished value

- or -

2 – You will find out that some insurance companies/adjusters are stupid, and you will have to sue to get your money

 Sometimes it’s just in the petty details! Good luck.

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What is the definition of diminished value?

Diminished Value Of A Car And A “Loss Of Value” Claim: The Definition

 

This is a trickier question than it may seem. Let me start by providing a general definition:

Diminished Value:

The amount of value lost on any item of value due to a change in the condition, age, or demand associated with the item.

Now, as it relates to the value of a car, diminished value is defined in different ways and there are different types of diminished value.

As used in most insurance claims litigation, diminished value is defined as:

“the difference in value of an automobile immediately prior to a collision and the value immediately following a collision”.

This definition is simply another way of saying that diminished value is simply the cost of repair. This may be well true, but if you further describe the type of diminished value by adding the words “residual” or “inherent” or “repair related” or “process related” then you have a whole new definition.

For the purposes of most people, the only type of diminished value they will be concerned with is the inherent or residual diminished value that their vehicle sustains following collision damages and repairs.

This type of diminished value is based upon the fact that a damaged and repaired vehicle is not as desirable as a vehicle of the same make and model and options that has not been damaged and repaired.

Less desire = less value

I think anybody that understands the concept of supply and demand will agree that this analogy is sound.

So, now you know what diminished value is, but now how do you get compensated for it if it has affected you?

Simple! You need to document your loss and demand payment for your damages! Most people enlist the services of an expert appraiser in the area of diminished value. If you need assistance or more information on your diminished value or loss of value claim, remember that information is always free at Petty Details, LLC and we will provide you with a free claim consultation to see what your claim is worth today!

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What’s the secret to recovering diminished value?

Trying to find the secret to recovering diminished value ?

There’s No Secret To Calculating Diminished Value Of A Car After An Auto Accident

Two Biggest Problems Consumers Have When They Try To Recover Their Loss Of Value Claim

I’ve seen quite a few articles about diminished value being the biggest secret in the auto insurance industry. I’m here to tell you that it is not a secret, it is just something that most insurance adjusters don’t understand. They all know about it, and so do you, or you wouldn’t have searched for it and found this article. The problem is that nobody seems to know how to properly calculate it. The 17c formula is a joke.

It just takes a little hard work and some credentials. There are few companies that utilize a proper scientific method for calculating diminished value. In 14 years of adjusting, I have seen less than five reports that would probably be good evidence in a civil trial.

Simply because one has a lot of experience in auto claims or in selling vehicles or in appraising damages doesn’t mean that they can properly calculate diminished value. Additionally, nobody, no matter how much experience they have, can provide a diminished value without gathering market and sales data.

If there is anything like a secret when it comes to diminished value claims, then it has to be in the way a claimant negotiates. The biggest problem I run into is ignorant adjusters and the tactic that many companies use which is “playing dumb”.

Problem #1: The adjuster simply doesn’t understand diminished value.

This adjuster has been trained to deny payment and if that doesn’t work, then the “physical damage” department will come up with some ridiculous figure to offer and nobody will be able to argue the merit of their diminished value calculation. They will simply expect you to take their offer because they are the “experts”.

This is a hard scenario to overcome and it takes some specialized tactics. One would be well served to call someone that is a real expert in insurance claims and negotiation tactics, or an attorney.

Problem #2: The company plays dumb.

Their tactic is to just act like they have never heard of diminished value. Again this is a hard tactic to overcome. The best way of handling these companies is to be well informed. Sometimes, citing some case law precedence is the best way to let the insurance company know you are not playing their game. Believe me, there is no insurance company out that that is not aware of diminished value, but they all seem to handle it in a different manner.

 The bottom line on diminished value is that it exists, and there is a way to document and calculate it which will hold water in front of a jury. If you have a diminished value claim, your job is to find a reputable expert that will help you figure out how to get your money and that can write you a report that substantiates a diminished value calculation.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!

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General Claims (15)

What Is A Subrogation Demand Insurance Audit?

First Things First: What Is Subrogation?

First of all we have to loosely define subrogation, so. . .

It is the “stepping into another’s shoes” scenario that comes about when one party pays (due to legal or contractual obligation) for another parties wrongdoing.

A simple example can be seen in auto insurance. For example, let’s say you are in an auto accident and forced to file a claim under your own policy of insurance because the person that caused the accident (tortfeasor) either refuses to provide insurance information or simply doesn’t have insurance. In this scenario, your own insurance company has to pay for the wrongdoing of the tortfeasor and by virtue of their payment to you, they step into your shoes and inherit the right to sue the person that caused the claim.

Whew! Did you catch all of that?

Okay, so whether you did or didn’t follow the whole scenario is beside the point. Let’s just assume you get it, and so at this point if we use the above scenario, your insurance company could present a claim to “Mr. Accident Causer’s” insurance company (if he had insurance).

When your company makes this type of claim, it is called a subrogation demand.

How Does Auditing Come Into Play?

So now the company receiving the demand could possibly use a subrogation demand audit. The audit is just that, an audit of the demand made by your company.

Normally, an experienced adjuster or attorney will review the claim documentation and weed out any overpayment or cost difference based on administrative, statutory, or precedent based rules or laws. The auditor will search out the seemingly petty details that relate to claims cost and return a report to the claims office that received the subrogation demand.

The result of a thorough subrogation demand audit is normally a substantial savings for the company receiving the demand. Differences in contractual obligations and civil obligations can make a big difference, and such things as parts availability or the failure of a company to utilize sound economic claims handling can also make a substantial difference in the amount demanded and the amount actually owed.

Now you know what a subrogation demand audit is.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!

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What is a reservation of rights insurance clause?

There are ways around a reservation of rights defense, but you have to be stealthy and above all, you have to remain calm.

I’m going to speak on Texas and specifically on auto insurance as Texas is my home State and auto insurance is where I have the most experience, although the reservation of rights or its equivalent exists in almost every State in the U.S. and can come about on claims that are not automobile claims.

Dealing With The Reservation Of Rights Issue – Stay Calm!

Okay, so if you have found this article, either you are an insurance adjuster doing some research or you are involved in a claim and being advised that your claim is not being paid at this time and that they are putting the claim on a “reservation of rights”. Additionally, the damages you have sustained were most likely caused in a very clearly negligent manner and it is escaping you as to why the insurance company would not pay for the damages (sorta like you have been rear-ended, right?). On top of that, it is also clear that the person who hit you has a good insurance policy, right?

So what is the dang deal?

Why isn’t the insurance company paying you?

Don’t they know you could win a suit hands down?

Relax! Why are you so mad at the insurance company? Is it your insurance company? I don’t think so!

An Example Of Reservation Of Rights

The reservation of rights defense is best described with an example outside of insurance.

Think of it like this.

Imagine you have agreed with your friend Sam (in writing, too) that you will buy one apple at 123 Mart every time he buys one stick of gum from 123 Mart, okay? Also, as part of the deal, 123 Mart can call you directly every time Sam buys gum from them, and provided that they have a receipt showing the gum purchase, you have to buy the apples.

Now for the reservation of rights part…

As an additional part of the agreement you have with Sam, he agreed to confirm with you that he indeed bought gum every time 123 Mart asks you to buy apples. The problem is that Sam won’t return your calls, and he is not responding to mail, and he works all day, so you are having a hard time getting in touch with him for confirmation.

In order to keep from being hounded or sued by 123 Mart, you will be forced to send them a letter saying that Sam hasn’t kept his end of the deal and you can’t keep buying apples from them if Sam won’t confirm he has bought gum. Unless you trust that 123 Mart is completely honest and is not buying their own gum to produce a receipt, you will send that letter. That letter is the same as a reservation of rights letter.

If you are 123 Mart, and Sam has bought 1000 sticks of gum from you, how do you get your apple purchases?

The answer is simple….find Sam!

The other exceptions to the reservation of rights are when there is irrefutable evidence that Sam indeed purchased gum sticks (like 123 Mart has a video of him, or they have a signed statement from Sam saying he bought the gum).

If there is no question as to whether Sam bought the gum, then the reservation of rights letter shouldn’t be used.

 When Reservation Of Rights Shouldn’t Be Used

In an auto accident, it is normally not a valid defense to use a reservation of rights if there is a police report showing the driver of the at fault vehicle is the same as the named insured on the policy of insurance and the police report shows a clear fault scenario like a rear-ender.

I hope you now understand reservation of rights. It is the insurance company’s claim that their policy holder has failed to live up to their end of the insuring agreement, and they can legally hold off on payment until they have all the information they need to complete a coverage and liability investigation. The insurance company will not assume anything.

Now you know!

Sometimes It’s Just In The Petty Details!

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What’s my total loss worth?

What’s My Total Loss Worth ? Figuring Total Loss Car Value For Your Insurance Claim

 

How Much Will The Insurance Company Pay You For Your Total Loss? What Is The Real Value?

So the insurance adjuster has told you that your vehicle is a total loss, huh? How much are they going to pay you? As a licensed insurance adjuster and the owner of a company that certifies vehicle values, I should be able to shed some light on this subject for you. Let’s get right to it. The actual cash value of your vehicle is generally defined as the value a private purchaser would pay for a similar vehicle, if the purchaser is under no pressure to purchase, and the seller is under no pressure to sell. Even adjusters get confused about this subject. A retail vehicle price is different than a private vehicle price because of the factors incorporated into it. The retail price will always be greater than the actual cash value. Dealers have to advertise, make a profit, pay sales people, inspect vehicles for safety concerns, and they have to maintain a staff that can assist purchasers with obtaining credit and filling out paperwork. All of these costs are incorporated into a vehicle’s sales price when it is sitting on a dealers lot. Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle, and will not command the same price as a vehicle that is sitting on a dealer’s lot ready to sell. The law normally does not require the insurance company to pay you for the retail value of your vehicle (if you’re not sure, call us and we will tell you where to find your State’s information for free).

Market Reports

Many insurance companies use a third party vendor to provide reports that reflect a vehicle’s market value. The most prominent ones are CCC (Valuescope), and ADP Autosource. These reports generally do not depict actual sales data, rather they depict asking prices (one can ask whatever they want, but the sale price is what is important). Additionally, the vehicle specifications reflected in these reports totally rely on human input. If the adjuster / report requestor doesn’t enter correct information, or if they enter nothing at all, then default values are generated, and the final report value will not be reflective of the actual vehicle that is being evaluated. Watch these reports for inaccuracies. If everything is entered correctly, the best argument against a report from CCC or ADP is to review the “comparable” vehicles and point out where and why the comparable vehicles aren’t actually comparable.

National Publications

The national publications that can be used include NADA, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. There are more, but these are the main publications that are generally used. If you run the same vehicle with each one, you will come up with different figures. My suggestion is to average the three and use that value because then your value is supported by all three publications.

Real Data

The real data one can use consists of online vehicle auction sites or actual sales receipts from individuals. AutoTrader.com, and Cars.com will allow you to search for comparable vehicles in your area. The easiest way to use these sources is to do an advanced search and make sure you average only the really comparable ones. It can get complicated, but it’s normally worth the effort.   Once you have researched the value of your vehicle using national publications and real data, and picked apart any market evaluation done by a computer, then you should be ready to negotiate by using the average price you have calculated using the data you have. Be willing to accept a little less than you have calculated, but be professional and persistent in your negotiation.

Always negotiate in writing.

Send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster asking for a specific amount (the amount you calculated), and give them a time limit to respond to you. After you have sent the demand, follow up by telephone every couple of days. If the insurance adjuster or carrier refuses to negotiate, then you must either work your way up the chain of command, or begin doing your research for filing a small claims suit in your State. Proper negotiation and a willingness to accept a little less than you consider to be fair will keep you from spending extra money filing suit and arguing your case in front of a judge or jury. If you can get to within $800 of the average price calculated using publications and real data, I would suggest you settle and move on with your life! Good luck with your total loss negotiation. You can do it! Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!

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Are there any secrets to help settle a total loss ?

So you’re looking for secrets to help settle a total loss ?  Well, look no further!

Do It Yourself – Finding The Total Loss Value Of A Vehicle

Insider Secrets To Help You Through Your Car Insurance Claim

 

Total Loss

As the owner of a claim service company and a licensed adjuster who has settled thousands of total loss claims, I will reveal the tricks to getting an insurance company to take you seriously.

Let me dispel some common misconceptions that apply in almost every State.

Myth #1: Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle.

Myth #2: Frame damage has nothing to do with whether your vehicle is considered a total loss or not.

Myth #3: You cannot force the insurance company to total your vehicle, nor can you force them not to total it.

Myth #4: Any vehicle can be repaired; it is simply a matter of cost.

Myth #5: The salvage value of your vehicle is very important.

Myth #6: Insurance adjusters do not have the authority to change company policy, but claims managers, litigation adjusters, claims presidents, and vice presidents of claims departments usually do.

 Myth #7: Staff insurance adjusters are normally not experts on determining vehicle value and may not even have an adjuster’s license (ask them for their license number).

What dealers would ask for your vehicle is not what your vehicle is worth. Your vehicle is a private vehicle, and the value of your vehicle will be reflective of this fact.

Okay, if you understand those seven things then you are ahead of most people. I think most people believe (rightfully so) that insurance companies use computers and formulas to determine vehicle values. This practice is the main problem that consumers face.

How do you argue with a computer or formula?

I’ll tell you how – you have to call its bluff!

Each vehicle should be evaluated on its own merit, and the adjuster should be able to utilize common sense. Instead, processes, computers, and formulas keep adjusters from using logic, and when you (the victim) don’t agree with the result of the process, then the adjuster is trained to simply advise you that their offer is the final offer.

So what do you do? How do you call their bluff and get them to act human?

Do It Yourself Process For Total Loss

1. Gather every scrap of documentation on your vehicle that you can find and get it in front of you.

If you have no oil change receipts, other maintenance records, the purchase invoice, list of options, etc., then you will have a hard time proving your vehicle was taken care of and “above average” no matter how good it looks. You need to prove your vehicle doesn’t fit with the “formula”.

2. Demand a written salvage value quote from the insurance company (in writing).

If the adjuster verbally gives you a quote, write it down for comparison later.

 3. Use the internet!

Go to the websites for NADA, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, E-bay Motors, etc. Carefully document your vehicle’s value according to all of these publications. The more information you have, the harder it is for the insurance company / adjuster to argue with you.

 4. Pick up the telephone and call auto salvage lots in your area.

Ask them to give you a salvage bid on your wrecked vehicle. Do this with at least three salvage dealers, even if you have to call dealers that are over 100 miles away from you. Document at least three bids on the salvage for your vehicle, and if possible, ask the salvage company if they maintain auction sales records and see if they will give you an average sale price for vehicles like yours that have been sold at auction in the last 6 months to a year.

Document all of this and determine your vehicle’s salvage value so that you can compare it with the value the insurance company gave you in step 3. Most of the time, insurance companies/adjusters simply use a percentage of the car’s value to determine salvage value (crazy and inaccurate!).

Okay, so if you have completed steps 1 through 4, you should be ready to move on. If you haven’t completed steps 1 through 4, then this is probably why you need help with your settlement; you can’t follow directions.

Just kidding! Moving on……. 

5.  Write a well thought out demand letter and give the insurance company a time limit for responding.

Indicate in your demand that your offer to settle will be rescinded at the end of your time limit, then follow up by telephone every two business days until your time limit expires.

6. When calling the insurance company, unless the adjuster is responding favorably, just request to speak with the vice president of claims, and then settle for a claim supervisor.

Unless you are an experienced negotiator, try to avoid getting into a detailed conversation with the claims department – simply ask them when you can expect a written response to your demand. Try and get the supervisor to provide you with a fax number or e-mail and then correspond only in writing. If they will not provide you with a fax number or e-mail address (some won’t), then try and record your conversations with the claims office, and advise them that you’re recording the conversations, not because it’s required, but because they will be more likely to be careful if they know they are being recorded. Of course, you can use snail mail, but who wants to wait on the mail? The point is to document what you are doing so you can review it later if you need to.

7. Be willing to give in a little bit on the value that you expect to receive.

If the insurance company is increasing their offer to you, then in the spirit of fair business dealings, you should reduce your demand. Always move in small increments…don’t give away the house or settle for too little (insurance adjusters are trained to move as little as possible to try and settle low, so why shouldn’t you do the same, but in an attempt to settle high?).

Be confident in your negotiation, but don’t be over-confident. Remember if you fight for every penny, you will likely spend at least a few hundred dollars fighting, you know? And it is possible that you have overlooked something that an adjuster or attorney has already found.

8. If all else fails, hire a qualified expert to write a detailed and industry accepted market value report.

Submit the report to the insurance company along with a final demand letter and a small claim petition.

That’s it! If you can follow the steps outlined in this article, you can get a fair settlement for your auto total loss. There are people like us out there that will help you to navigate through your claim for free, you just have to find them.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details! Good luck!

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How can I be sure you’re a true diminished value expert?

How do I know you’re a true diminished value expert ?

You can’t! You have to have a little bit of trust in your gut.

You  have to talk to the expert and come up with the hard questions to see how they handle them!  Ask about small claims, ask about phone calls to the adjuster after the report has been submitted.  Don’t hire someone who will take your money, write you a report and then SCRAM!  Lots of guys just tell their clients they have to get an attorney if they get a denial and that is simply NOT TRUE!  For the smaller claims, it is impossible to find that kind of help from an attorney because it just isn’t worth it to them.  We take up the slack in that area and consult with accident victims throughout the process so they walk away with their diminished value claim settled!

We are the real deal, believe it or not. Our founder has over 17 years experience evaluating property damages, making us uniquely qualified to handle even the most difficult and complex of damage scenarios with ease. Our services help settle property damage disputes daily and are used by attorneys and individuals alike. Let us give you a free claim consultation and you decide for yourself whether or not we’re experts.

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What To Look For In A Certified Public Adjuster

Public Adjusting Pros And Cons

To answer that, sometimes it can be, but sometimes it can be very beneficial.

Here are a few tips about public adjusters in general.

 1. Make sure you have a valid first party claim (a claim against your company, and not another’s).

A public adjuster represents policy holders against their own insurance company only. They are supposed to be highly trained and in most States, they are required to be licensed, although in some States acting as a public adjuster is illegal. The main benefit to having a public adjuster is that they will do the legwork and negotiation for you, and they will make sure you obtain the maximum benefit your policy provides.

 2. Evaluate the potential value of your claim.

The cost of using a public adjuster varies, but if you have a good and ethical one the cost should be worth the benefit. If you have a claim that is valued at less than $5000.00, then the adjuster should be ethical enough to explain the potential loss you would incur by paying for public adjusting services. Most public adjusters charge around 10% of the claim value, so a $5000.00 claim would cost you approximately $500.00. If the adjuster can’t increase your claim value by at least his or her fee, then it is only logical to assume the service they provide is not worth the fee.

 3. Read up on the law regarding public adjusters in your State.

If a license is required, make sure you check to see if the adjuster is properly licensed.

 4. Ask to see the adjuster or firm’s liability insurance policy or a copy of a liability bond.

If they don’t have one or the other, run.

 5. Use your head.

If the adjuster or firm won’t answer your questions over the phone, or they have solicited you, then think again. A good public adjuster builds his or her business on word of mouth, and not by monitoring catastrophe’s and soliciting victims of property damage.

 6. Public adjusters cannot represent anybody for an injury claim, and they are not supposed to refer you to an attorney.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you find out if you need a public adjuster and how to hire a reputable one!

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Critical Thinking After A Car Accident

How To Deal With Your Claim After An Auto Accident

Most of us will be involved in an auto accident within our lifetimes.

This means that we are likely to have a claim with an insurance company, either our own insurance company or someone else’s insurance company. After nearly 15 years of experience in the field of insurance (most as a claims adjuster), I have come to realize that the majority of the public just doesn’t get it (the claims process, that is).

Additionally, I also believe that the majority of auto claims adjusters don’t get it. When I first began to speak with people about insurance claims nearly 15 years ago, the problem was not so apparent, but as more attorneys and less experienced adjusters come on the market, claimants get fed a lot of misinformation.

Do this for me: Search the internet for auto accident claims help or some similar string of search words. You will quickly become confused on how to best approach getting a fair settlement on your insurance claim.

 So How Do You Get Started With An Auto Insurance Claim?

In my own opinion, the best approach is the simplest approach when dealing with claims. As the title of this article indicates, critical thinking is the key to a successful insurance claim negotiation. As an adjuster who has handled almost every type of claim imaginable, I will attempt to give some pointers on critical thinking that we should all remember when we are dealing with a claim, adjusters and claimants alike.

  1.  Never assume anything
  2.  Listen hard
  3.  Keep notes
  4.  Research on your own
  5.  Remember that what you believe is true is always an opinion
  6.  Don’t settle unless you understand why you are settling (aka: ask direct questions)

During a claim negotiation, I find that sticking to these six rules almost always creates the best platform for getting what you want, a fair settlement. The problem arises when one party isn’t aware of the rules….funny but true. The good news is that if you stick to the rules, sooner or later the use of them will result in a good settlement.

Below I have provided an example of each of the 6 rules I have listed so you can better visualize how the rules work. The obstacles can be overcome with a proper understanding of the rules.

 1.  Assumption

Don’t assume that because a person does not know their own phone number, that they are not intelligent. They may just be logical. Einstein did not know his own telephone number, and when asked why, he basically said that he just never needed to call himself.

 2.  Listening

That man’s father is my father’s son. Is that possible? Who is that man? (it may not be the way you would say it, but can you figure out who that man is?) Break it down on paper, but make sure you listened correctly and write down the problem correctly.

 3.  Notes

When did you first speak with your adjuster? What did he/she ask you to provide? Without notes, you may not recall and this could delay your claim.

 4.  Research

My chocolate cookies are sweet. Do you believe me? What if I used bakers chocolate? Taste the cookies for yourself, don’t take anybody else’s word except your own, including written words. Test any alleged factual statement on your own ground by reading multiple opinions on the fact/statement and formulating your own unique understanding of the opinions. Facts are simply what the majority of people believe at any certain point in time, and many facts have been overturned by critical thinkers (remember when the Earth was flat? Do you believe that the Earth is round?)

 5.  Opinion

See number four, hehe. Really though, there are not really any cold hard facts. Think about this statement: “Something is only impossible until somebody does it.” Everything is an opinion, you will have to come to grips with this and be satisfied with the opinion that has the best evidence with it.

 6.  Be satisfied

Yeah, I know you make $40K per year, so with three days of missed work for going to the doctor, I will pay you $80.00 per day. You should understand the calculation, so ask how the $80.00 was calculated, in writing, and then study it. If you can’t get it in writing, ask for the formula until you have it properly written down and then study it. If there is not a good reason or a proper calculation, I would not be satisfied.

 

What Holds You Back

Here are some obstacles you will surely run into (just try not to be the one creating the obstacle):

  • Ego
  • Patronization
  •  Unsubstantiated opinions
  •  Bad research or advice (also known as ignorance)
  •  Impatience
  •  Apathy towards the opposition’s goals
  •  Greed

The above obstacles are just the first to come to my mind when I think about those hard claims negotiations I have had, and for sure there are many more. Since insurance claims can be complicated, I will not provide a claim scenario (I think it would just generate questions). No two claims will be exactly alike, and therefore the method to a successful resolution will be slightly different.

Okay, I guess that is the best I can do! Critical thinking and negotiation is an art – keep a list of the rules in front of you if find yourself needing to negotiate for anything. Sometimes just having them available will help you to stick to them, even if you never look at them.

 To conclude, I will leave you with this “fact” about the claims process so you can “get it”:

 If the right information is available to both the adjuster and the person filing a claim, then every claim will be settled fairly. It is your responsibility as either the adjuster or the person filing the claim to make sure the right information is available.

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Do I Need An Attorney?

Advice On Insurance Claims And Auto Accidents

This article is based on my 15 years of claims adjusting experience. I have developed a simple little formula that will help you decide if you need an attorney or not.

Keep in mind, this quiz is tailored for auto accidents only, and I make no warranties or guarantees that your result is a foolproof answer. Ultimately, the only person that can decide if you need an attorney is you. With that being said, simply answer the following 15 questions and then add up your answers.

 All of these questions are yes or no questions. Whatever answer you have the most of is your answer to the title of this article.

  1.  Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
  2.  Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
  3.  Are you younger than 35 years old?
  4.  Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
  5.  Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
  6.  Was the accident someone else’s fault?
  7.  Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
  8.  Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
  9.  Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
  10.  Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
  11.  Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
  12.  Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
  13.  If you suffered $5000.00 in damages to your vehicle, didn’t take an ambulance, but did incur over $2000.00 at a chiropractor’s office, do you believe your total claim is worth at least $10000.00?
  14.  Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
  15.  Do you agree that even a low speed rear-end impact can cause a low back disc herniation?

I hope you wrote your answers down! If you didn’t, go back and write them down this time! (hehe) Now, just add up the yes’s and the no’s. Whichever answer has the highest number is the answer to the question “Do I need an Attorney?”.

Good luck with your claim!

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What do I need to know when dealing with my repair after an auto accident?

Collision Repair After An Auto Accident

7 Things You Need To Know About Car Accident Repair Costs & Auto Body Repair Estimates

 

In nearly 15 years as an adjuster I have seen some doozies when it comes to collision repair.

 As a short example, let me tell you this . . .

When I was an adjuster, I caught a body shop and a rental car company conspiring to defraud the insurance company.

 What they did was this:

The rental company would file a claim for undercarriage damage, and we would inspect the vehicle, find the damages, write the estimate for the collision repair and pay the body shop for the repairs.

What I figured out is that instead of the damages happening like the rental company said (like a renter hit a curb, or hit some debris in the road), it was being caused by the body shop.

The shop would have their technician put the car on a lift and then he would get under it with a sledge hammer and damage the oil pan or some other component, then they would give the car back to the rental company and they would file the claim. We would pay the shop to replace the damaged component, but they would just go in and repair the component and pocket the money for the parts that we paid them. They sometimes made $400.00 or $500.00 on one scam by just faking invoices for parts that they had damaged to begin with. They would then repair the part or replace it with one they had lying around and pocket the insurance money.

Not all shops are crooks, but body shops, like any other business, are in business to make money. Most people are not experts on collision repair, and body shops know this. Taking your car to a body shop is sort of like going to the doctor or hiring an attorney. You kind of have to trust what the doctor or lawyer says because they are specially trained. It is the same for a body shop, you kind of have to trust what they tell you because they are specially trained.

If you’re cool with trusting a collision repair facility, then fine, go find another article to read. But if you are like me, you want to learn how to avoid having to trust a body shop (the concept could apply to doctors and lawyers, too).

 Try to avoid using a shop if:

 1.  You were referred to the shop by an insurance company

 Here’s why:

  •  The shop has an agreement with the insurance company, and if you are able to get a copy of the agreement between the shop and the insurance company, you are impressive.
  •  The insurance company has a vested interest in making sure repairs are as cheap as possible.
  •  Questions that would normally be directed to the vehicle owner, like “should we fix this wiring while we’re at it?”, or “hey, did this happen in the accident?” will be directed to the insurance company and not the customer. The owner is left out of the loop.

2.  The shop is dirty or unorganized

I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of people just overlook that aspect because they think repairing vehicle damages is a dirty job. It’s not, a good shop will be clean and organized. Dirty and unorganized implies to me that the shop is used to cutting corners to save money.

 

 Dealing With The Shop

Okay, so the above two things are things to watch out for if you haven’t picked a shop.

What? You say your vehicle is already at a body repair shop that the insurance company referred you to?

Don’t panic!

Here are some things that you can do that will help you keep the shop honest:

1.  Ask the shop manager to provide you with a copy of all the invoices for parts they had to purchase to fix your car, and then compare the parts list with the cost listed on the insurance company’s collision repair estimate.

 2.  Ask the shop for a written repair guarantee.

 3.  Ask the shop if they are a direct repair facility for more than one insurance company (just asking this will make them think twice about cutting a corner at your expense). If they are, ask them for the list.

 4.  Bluntly ask if they have used new Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts (OEM), used OEM parts, or aftermarket parts.

 5.  Ask the shop to explain “betterment” to you, just because you are curious. This is just to show them that you are reading up on the repair process.

 If you picked a dirty and unorganized shop, well, that was silly :), but you could still use the 5 tips above to help keep them honest.

In conclusion, be curious. Force yourself into the loop. A customer who is actively asking questions and is curious about what is going on will help to keep the shop on their toes. If you still think the shop is not treating you right, get a professional involved to check out the repairs after they are complete and tell you if the repair is sufficient. A good shop should be able to repair your vehicle back to within the original factory specifications.

 Good luck!

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What do I need to know about Insurance Adjusters and 3rd party claims?

Car Accidents: 3rd Party Insurance Claims For Auto Accidents & Myths About Insurance Adjusters

If the at fault party has liability insurance, then when you file a claim with their insurance company you have a 3rd party claim.

I have read quite a few articles that give a lot of bad information about adjusters. The thing I have noticed most about those articles is that none of them were written by an insurance adjuster! I’d be willing to bet that if you have not been an insurance adjuster, then you believe they are almost as bad as used car salesmen or attorneys, hehe. It is a common view.

 What Is The Norm?

I can’t speak for every single insurance claims office out there, but I can say that I have worked for 5 different non-standard companies as an adjuster, and I have worked on contract for many standard companies as a recovery specialist with a firm.

I have never been instructed to deny any valid claim, nor have I been advised to “low-ball” claimants. This might happen at some companies, but it is definitely not the norm.

Insurance adjusters (if they care about their license) will usually try very hard to fairly resolve claims. I will say that I have definitely dealt with some companies that have some “questionable” practices. I won’t name names, but some of these companies simply attempt to cut costs by hiring inexperienced adjusters and giving them a “rule-book”. It is the inexperience of the adjuster in interpreting the “rules” that causes the majority of the issues.

One common unwritten rule at these companies is “deny claims with conflicting statements”. An adjuster that doesn’t understand when they can and when they can’t deny a claim makes it very frustrating for a claimant to successfully negotiate a fair settlement. In my opinion, adjusting takes an inordinate amount of common sense, but the test to get a license (at least in Texas) doesn’t really test for common sense. An adjuster can know all the rules and still be a really crappy adjuster. Believe me, I have dealt with some adjusters that give a terrible name to the profession. I’m not trying to defend those adjusters. I have heard conversations between inexperienced adjusters and claimants, and it is appalling. I have overheard adjusters just confidently misinform claimants of their rights, or confidently base their coverage or liability decision on misinformation, or just poor investigation.

Just realize that is not the norm.

 Common Sense and How To Use It To Resolve Your Insurance Claims Issues

An Example

With that previous rant off my chest, let me tell you a practice that falls into that category of having a “no common sense” adjuster and that is (in my opinion) unethical and inappropriate. The main scenario that causes a claimant to be “screwed” is when the damages are not very severe. For example, let’s say you were rear-ended, but since you are a good person, you are not claiming any injury even though you may be sore for a while and could possibly incur some therapy bills.

 Now let’s also assume that coverage has been accepted. Since you are such a good person, you didn’t call the police so there’s no police report. Now it is up to the other person (let’s say they are an unlicensed 15 year old kid) to admit that the accident was their fault, or, in the alternative, it is up to the insurance adjuster to make a judgment call (based on common sense) on whose fault the accident was.

 Seems simple, right?

You were rear-ended, you have damages to the rear of your vehicle and the other person has damages to the front of their vehicle. It should be clear, right? Well, let’s add a common twist that I saw all the time. The kid lies.

First of all, he/she wasn’t supposed to be driving the vehicle. Next, they had a few friends with them (that’s why they rear-ended you, they were distracted), and they weren’t supposed to be hanging with friends on a school night. So instead of just telling the truth and saying they rear-ended you, they try to avoid further “trouble” at home and they lie and say that you had pulled out into the intersection a little and then backed up into them. At least the accident wasn’t their fault (I have heard it before, really).

When the adjuster calls you and tells you this, you can’t believe it!

The adjuster has three options:

  1. Believe the kid
  2. Believe you
  3. Just pay for your damages

What do you think will happen?

I’ll tell you.

If the adjuster is inexperienced and has a supervisor or manager that is immoral, they will deny your claim based on conflicting statements. This is a perfectly valid denial that they can get away with. They can play dumb and try and act like they really can’t tell whose fault it is. It’s valid because there is not any evidence to support either side of the story. It is word against word. They will deny the claim saying that they can’t determine liability.

Now surely if you filed suit, they would pay the claim because, I mean, come on….what jury is going to believe a 15 year-old who says they got backed into at an intersection? Especially if they had three other 15 year-olds in the car with them? The problem is that your damages are only $1200.00, and it is going to cost you to file suit.

 So what can you do?

If you are really sharp, you could use a small claims court to force the matter, but even the rules for small claims can be complicated, so most people end up just getting mad and bad mouthing the insurance company (rightfully so in my opinion).

The insurance company counts on this type of issue.

They play the numbers game.

Quite a few companies (even the big ones) take this approach. They have inexperienced adjusters who don’t think for themselves, and just ask the manager what to do. Once they have been told to handle it that way once, they just think that is how it works. Nobody ever seems to figure this out until they have been in the business a while. A manager is not going to explain it like I just did – they will just say “Well, deny the claim, you can’t tell whose fault it was!”. The adjuster is none the wiser. The manager knows they will pay if a suit is filed, but what the manager knows is that most people will give up and not fight because they don’t know how and the claim is not worth enough for an attorney to take the case.

In this case, the insurance company wins! They can deny these types of claims because they have inexperienced adjusters to thwart off common sense and they won’t make that judgment call to pay the claim.

 Fight Or Be Taken Advantage Of

Here’s the cold hard fact: If you don’t fight, you will get taken advantage of. You can avoid this type of issue if you know what evidence to secure at the scene, but how many of us are claims specialists and think to get a written statement from the kid at the scene?

You as the claimant have to learn how to fight for yourself when the claim is a small amount (say under $7500.00). I tell you, I never did this to people when I was handling 3rd party insurance claims. I used my head and I paid the claim because common sense told me the accident was the fault of the 15 year-old. I have always thought for myself. The story of someone backing into somebody at an intersection doesn’t hold much water for me unless there is some really good evidence or a witness that can confirm the story.

If you find yourself in this situation, you have a choice to make.

You can either accept the denial, or you can fight until you are blue in the face for what is right! If more people utilized the small claims court system, some of these “questionable” practices would be less profitable and we would all see a little higher quality adjuster on the front lines so that those judgment calls could be made with some common sense. It is up to the adjuster to decide if you are serious about suing or not, and if they don’t believe you have what it takes to get your money, then you will get a denial. Period.

P.S.

Don’t forget about filing a diminished value claim when making your 3rd party insurance claim – it is owed to you and companies like ours help consumers recover every day!

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Injury Claims (1)

How do I calculate the value of my soft tissue injury?

Soft Tissue Injuries And Auto Accident Injury Settlements – Calculate The Value!

If you have been involved in an auto accident, the chances are you may suffer some discomfort and pain in your neck and back. If you don’t have a severe injury, then what is most likely is that you have what they call a “soft tissue” injury. Essentially, the physics involved with two vehicles colliding is what has caused this. Inertia, you know? Soft tissue injuries are hard to detect with conventional medical equipment. X-rays will not show a muscle sprain or strain. This is the problem with soft tissue injuries, they’re hard to document. So, if you have a soft tissue injury, then what is the pain and suffering worth?

What Can I Expect From The Insurance Company?

Many people would say that there is no dollar amount you can put on someone’s physical pain and suffering, but insurance adjusters and “adjusting software” do it every day. What are you supposed to expect in the way of actual money from the insurance company for the person that caused the auto accident and your soft tissue injury?

 1.  They do not actually tell you how to calculate your estimated injury settlement.

Most of the e-books out there on this subject make statements like “every injury is different”, “some people’s pain and suffering is different than others”, “depending on your circumstances”, and so forth. These statements are needed to make people aware of the diverse way in which a claim may be settled, but just making these statements and not going into detail about what circumstances, what kind of people, and what types of injuries demand higher settlements, is cheating the book purchaser.

 2.  No follow-up availability.

Since every claim is different, how can anybody put into a book all of the scenarios and values? They can’t! Along with injuries, people and circumstances being different, juries are also different. Providing a live person to answer some basic questions for free is a valuable asset to an e-book about how much injury claims should be worth.

In nearly 15 years of claims adjusting, I have handled claims of just about every type. From fatalities, to soft tissue injuries. The methodology for determining the value of the injury is always the same.

In my e-book, I reveal the methodologies that are incorporated into every injury adjuster’s, and every computer program’s procedure for determining an injury value as it relates to the pain and suffering portion.

The goal of purchasing a book that is supposed to tell you what your injury claim is worth should be to give the consumer a dollar amount that they can use to negotiate their settlement. By utilizing standard methodologies and describing some common accident injury scenarios, I have developed a formula and specific method for the victim to use.

The adjuster has these tools, so why shouldn’t you?

Fill out my online form.

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Public Adjusting (1)

What To Look For In A Certified Public Adjuster

Public Adjusting Pros And Cons

To answer that, sometimes it can be, but sometimes it can be very beneficial.

Here are a few tips about public adjusters in general.

 1. Make sure you have a valid first party claim (a claim against your company, and not another’s).

A public adjuster represents policy holders against their own insurance company only. They are supposed to be highly trained and in most States, they are required to be licensed, although in some States acting as a public adjuster is illegal. The main benefit to having a public adjuster is that they will do the legwork and negotiation for you, and they will make sure you obtain the maximum benefit your policy provides.

 2. Evaluate the potential value of your claim.

The cost of using a public adjuster varies, but if you have a good and ethical one the cost should be worth the benefit. If you have a claim that is valued at less than $5000.00, then the adjuster should be ethical enough to explain the potential loss you would incur by paying for public adjusting services. Most public adjusters charge around 10% of the claim value, so a $5000.00 claim would cost you approximately $500.00. If the adjuster can’t increase your claim value by at least his or her fee, then it is only logical to assume the service they provide is not worth the fee.

 3. Read up on the law regarding public adjusters in your State.

If a license is required, make sure you check to see if the adjuster is properly licensed.

 4. Ask to see the adjuster or firm’s liability insurance policy or a copy of a liability bond.

If they don’t have one or the other, run.

 5. Use your head.

If the adjuster or firm won’t answer your questions over the phone, or they have solicited you, then think again. A good public adjuster builds his or her business on word of mouth, and not by monitoring catastrophe’s and soliciting victims of property damage.

 6. Public adjusters cannot represent anybody for an injury claim, and they are not supposed to refer you to an attorney.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you find out if you need a public adjuster and how to hire a reputable one!

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Small Claims Court (6)

Do I Need An Attorney?

Advice On Insurance Claims And Auto Accidents

This article is based on my 15 years of claims adjusting experience. I have developed a simple little formula that will help you decide if you need an attorney or not.

Keep in mind, this quiz is tailored for auto accidents only, and I make no warranties or guarantees that your result is a foolproof answer. Ultimately, the only person that can decide if you need an attorney is you. With that being said, simply answer the following 15 questions and then add up your answers.

 All of these questions are yes or no questions. Whatever answer you have the most of is your answer to the title of this article.

  1.  Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
  2.  Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
  3.  Are you younger than 35 years old?
  4.  Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
  5.  Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
  6.  Was the accident someone else’s fault?
  7.  Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
  8.  Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
  9.  Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
  10.  Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
  11.  Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
  12.  Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
  13.  If you suffered $5000.00 in damages to your vehicle, didn’t take an ambulance, but did incur over $2000.00 at a chiropractor’s office, do you believe your total claim is worth at least $10000.00?
  14.  Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
  15.  Do you agree that even a low speed rear-end impact can cause a low back disc herniation?

I hope you wrote your answers down! If you didn’t, go back and write them down this time! (hehe) Now, just add up the yes’s and the no’s. Whichever answer has the highest number is the answer to the question “Do I need an Attorney?”.

Good luck with your claim!

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Do you have some small claims settlement tips for Texas?

Small Claims Settlement Tips

Tips For Using Small Claims Court In Texas

Limits, Forms And Court Info

I think an attorney would tell you that it is never beneficial, but I am not an attorney so I say it is beneficial when one can’t afford an attorney and has the time to invest in a little research.

Small claims courts are for the people, so the people should use them. I can’t speak for the rules in States other than Texas (they are very similar), but I have been in front of a few small claims courts in Texas, Florida and Arizona, and for the most part, they are worthwhile provided you follow the rules. The rules in Texas can be found in Chapter 28 of the Government Code.

Chapter 28

This chapter of the Government Code sets forth the rules of battle. I will try and give some pointers about the rules in as simple a manner as possible for the benefit of the public reading this article.

Keep in mind that this article is not legal advice, just some pointers on procedure that I have gleaned from my experience as a corporate litigation specialist for insurance companies.

Before I go into the pointers for suit, I would like to say that a great alternative to filing a suit (if you are actually in contact with the person you have the dispute with) is an agreed mediation. The cost might be a little more than what a suit would cost, but going to a mediation doesn’t have the “bully” effect that going to court has. Nobody likes a bully. People and businesses that are hard to deal with may fight even harder if you file a suit, but a lot of times they are not as defensive if you are open to the idea of alternative forms of settlement.

With that being said, here are some basics as they relate to Texas small claims suits. These pointers are not all inclusive and meant solely as a guide for those wishing to embark on a suit without the help of an attorney. Surely winning your suit will take much more time and research than you can get from this article.

 Basic Qualifications

  1.  1. In order to file a small claims suit in Texas, your total damages cannot be more than $10,000
  2.  2. You can only sue for monetary damages, not for the return of property or for an order to make somebody do something
  3.  3. You can only sue for your own damages, not for somebody else’s, even if they assign you the right to sue.
  4.  4. You can only sue the person or business that actually caused the damages (you can’t sue the insurance company of the person that hit your car, only the person that hit your car and in some cases, the owner of that car if it wasn’t the same person).
  5.  5. Unless you are suing for the breach of a contract, you only have 2 years to initiate suit

Getting Started

1.  First and foremost, you have to have know who to sue.

If it is an individual, then it’s simple, just make sure you have their proper name and address. If it is a company, then you need to figure out who the “agent for service of process” is. You still have to name the business on the actual petition (the official complaint requesting suit), but you have to know who to send the complaint to so that it will count.

Normally, if the business is a corporation you can call the Secretary of State and they will tell you who the agent is, or if you can’t track the information down on the agent, then name the president of the company or the highest officer of the company as the person you want to have the court “serve”.

 2.  Once you know who to sue and who is going to get the suit papers, you have to figure out the correct precinct based on the address where the person you are suing lives.

You will need to determine what County the address is in and then look up in the phone book the number to any of the Justice of the Peace courts, or the municipal court in that county. Once you have one of the courts on the phone, ask them for assistance in determining what precinct the specific address falls into. Now you have the right precinct, just make sure you file the suit in the Justice of the Peace Court for the right precinct in the right county.

The Paperwork

 1.  The petition is the first thing you need in order to get a suit going. It is the actual complaint that tells the court who you are suing and why. Don’t forget to include the date that the “action” occurred which caused you the damage you are suing for. The Government code sets forth what has to be in the petition and a lot of times if you talk to the right court clerk, they will either provide you with a form to fill out, or answer basic questions about procedure (they cannot give legal advice).

 2.  So if all has gone well, you have been able to find the proper precinct and either fill out a basic petition or write one up based on the way the Government Code dictates, and now you just need to mail the form to the court.

The Cost

The cost of a small claims suit is relatively cheap. There is some minor fluctuation in the cost based on the charge for service (the act of actually giving the sued person notice of the suit), but in general a small claims suit can be initiated for less than $100. The court will charge a filing fee of around $17 and then the constable will charge between $50 and $65 to actually deliver the notice of suit or citation (a brief note that the court produces that mainly says “you have been sued” and provides the person being sued with some basic instructions and deadlines for defending themselves.

In most cases, you can just combine the payment for filing and service of the citation into one payment and make it all payable to the Justice of the Peace. You can also ask the court to include your filing and service cost in the award that you win, provided you win. That’s it! Pretty cheap.

The Deadline

After you have filed the suit, you will need to give the court a few days or even a week or so to get the paperwork out to the person you sued. You will have to call the court and ask the clerk for a status on service.

Once the paperwork has been properly delivered, the clerk will tell you when “service has been perfected”. Once you have this date, write it down because the person you sued has a limited time to defend themselves. In Texas, the small claims courts give them 10 (business) days following the first Monday after the date they were served. This is not a lot of time and many people fail to file an answer to the suit within the deadline. If you are on top of things you can “move” or ask the court (in writing) for a default judgment (an order stating you won because the other person didn’t fight).

The good thing about small claims court is that they are normally not sticklers about the form of the requests you send them. The government code allows the Judge to determine the rules, pretty much, so most Justices of the Peace realize that the layman is not trained in proper legal form. If a person just asks for the right thing at the right time, the court will normally help by either providing you with a form, or telling you where to look for an answer. I find that Judges and court clerks truly want to see justice served in most cases. If you are sincere and really needed to file the suit in the first place, they can tell and will try and point you in the right direction.

 The Details

Sometimes, the person being sued will hire an attorney to answer the lawsuit for them. In this case, you will probably be a little bit confused as the attorney will most likely request a jury trial and commence with some discovery.

Keep in mind, if you get a request from an attorney saying you have to answer a bunch of questions because of discovery, the rules of small claims court allow for only reasonable discovery which is approved by the Judge (check out the government code). A good way to get around a bunch of paperwork from an attorney is to immediately write a letter to the court and ask that the Judge review what the attorney is asking for and limit the questions to what is reasonable. The court will look it over and send it back to you in an amended form. Normally they will allow 5 to 10 questions unless your case is really complicated and you have witnesses or other questionable evidence.

If you have a complicated case, then small claims court isn’t the place for you. If the Judge says you have to answer questions, remember that you also have the right to ask some basic questions, so just take your lead from the attorney and make sure you know at least as much as about the person you are suing as the attorney is getting about you. If there is no attorney involved, then the court will just set up a time to have a hearing. Unless somebody asked for a jury and paid a small jury fee, the hearing will be a bench trial, meaning the Judge will be the decider of the facts.

The Best Way To Win

The best way to win a small claims suit is to be right, hehe. If you are right and the person actually owes you money, then make sure you have evidence that supports your claim. Small claims court is a civil venue and the burden of proving the case is on the person suing, so that means you. It’s not like a criminal court where you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. You will only have to prove that it is “most likely” the fault of the other person that you suffered the damages you are trying to recover, but you have to support your story with evidence like a witness statement, photos, estimates of damages or a receipt, and so on and so on.

Just use your head and bring with you what you need to show that you did sustain damages, how much they are, and that the other person caused them. Judges have a knack for picking out a liar, so if all you have is the truth, that’s okay, but make sure it’s the truth.

The Hearing

Your day in court can be scary. The advice I have for you is to speak only when spoken to, and to make sure you get to your point quickly. Judges are very busy and somebody that can’t clearly explain why they are there will quickly get on the Judges nerves, and that is not a good thing. Prepare and practice saying what you need to say before you go up there. Don’t worry about what the other person is going to say, just make sure you say what you need to say.

The Judges in small claims courts are normally very patient, but if you are prepared and you have all your evidence in line when he asks you why you are suing, then you will do much better.

As the person suing, you will be asked to give your case first.

When this happens remember the following tips:

  1.  Make it short and sweet. No more than 1 minute should be used to make your opening statement.
  2. Tell the judge who did what, when they did it, and how much damage it caused you, and then shut up.
  3. Offer your evidence after you have given your short statement.

 Here’s an example of what I would consider a good opening statement:

“Your honor, on June 19th, at the intersection of Main St. and Park St, Mr. Smith ran a red light, rammed into my car, and caused $2518.00 in damages. He has refused to pay for my damages. Here is the repair invoice, estimate, police report, the letters I wrote to him, the rental car bill and pictures of mine and Mr. Smith’s car after the wreck.”

Conclusion

Small claims court is not that difficult to utilize, but it takes a little research, and good nerves and good record keeping. Any type of litigation is nerve racking and without the help of an attorney it can be confusing, but if you can read and are willing to research for the answers you need, you can find them. All the answers you need are available for free, and in most cases on the internet.

Don’t sue unless you have tried everything else. Litigation is a last resort but sometimes if you have someone or some company that is ignoring you and hoping you will go away, or just refusing to do the right thing and pay for damages they caused, then initiating a suit will force them to address the problem. Sometimes they will even go ahead and pay you instead of taking the time to fight in court.

My experience with small claims court is unique in that I represented the interests of an insurance company and had many suits going at once. I got a lot of practice, and I filed a lot of suits. The normal person would rarely have more than one or two small claim suits within their lifetime, but the rules are written so that the people can have access to the courts for matters that are not of too much consequence (up to $10K).

If you have to use the court, then use it…otherwise try and work out your differences in a friendly manner. You would be surprised what the right approach to resolving a conflict can produce. You can find a copy of the Texas Small Claims Statute at www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.28.htm.

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Do I need an attorney?

Chances are, if you have found us it is because you can’t find an attorney to help you with a small valued claim or your attorney has directed you to call us for help!  We are not attorneys and never give legal advice but we have helped many savvy customers navigate their way all the way through small claims court to get settlement and we aren’t afraid of a fight.

If you aren’t willing to put in the time and you have a fairly large claim ($8500 and up), then it is probably wise to get an attorney on your side.  If you are injured and need help with that side of your damages, you should definitely seek out the help of legal defense.

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You aren’t in my local area. Can you still help?

YES!   With the help of professional appraisers across the U.S., we are able to help clients in any state.  If you hire us to help you, we use an inspector from our trusted network of professional appraisers to perform a Post Repair Inspection (if needed) and use that report to develop our report.  From there, we are available via phone, email, even webcam to discuss your claim and help you move to resolution.

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If I don’t win my diminished value case, can I still deduct my loss of value from my taxes?

We definitely don’t claim to be tax professionals so it would probably be wise to discuss that topic with a trusted accountant/tax preparer.

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Can you represent me to help get my claim settled?

We are not attorneys so we never give legal advice or claim that we will represent you to get your claim settled.  What we WILL do is answer all of your questions throughout the process, explain your options and make phone calls with you to discuss our report and methodology to try to facilitate settlement of your property damages.

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Total Loss (9)

Do I Need An Attorney?

Advice On Insurance Claims And Auto Accidents

This article is based on my 15 years of claims adjusting experience. I have developed a simple little formula that will help you decide if you need an attorney or not.

Keep in mind, this quiz is tailored for auto accidents only, and I make no warranties or guarantees that your result is a foolproof answer. Ultimately, the only person that can decide if you need an attorney is you. With that being said, simply answer the following 15 questions and then add up your answers.

 All of these questions are yes or no questions. Whatever answer you have the most of is your answer to the title of this article.

  1.  Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
  2.  Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
  3.  Are you younger than 35 years old?
  4.  Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
  5.  Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
  6.  Was the accident someone else’s fault?
  7.  Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
  8.  Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
  9.  Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
  10.  Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
  11.  Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
  12.  Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
  13.  If you suffered $5000.00 in damages to your vehicle, didn’t take an ambulance, but did incur over $2000.00 at a chiropractor’s office, do you believe your total claim is worth at least $10000.00?
  14.  Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
  15.  Do you agree that even a low speed rear-end impact can cause a low back disc herniation?

I hope you wrote your answers down! If you didn’t, go back and write them down this time! (hehe) Now, just add up the yes’s and the no’s. Whichever answer has the highest number is the answer to the question “Do I need an Attorney?”.

Good luck with your claim!

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Does my total loss settlement include diminished value?

To answer “Does my total loss settlement include diminished value ? “

No!

I think most people get this, but I get this question all the time, so I am writing this in an attempt to properly explain why a total loss settlement does not include diminished value.

  1. Let us define Diminished Value: It is the loss in re-sale value of a vehicle after it has been in a wreck and then repaired.
  2. Let us define Total Loss: This happens when the insurance company decides that they are not going to repair your vehicle.

There are a few things to realize when you are dealing with an automobile claim.

First, the insurance company is trying to get out for as cheap as possible. If you rant and rave right at the beginning of your claim about diminished value and rental and such, you will have a much higher probability that your vehicle is determined to be a total loss.

Next, don’t think that an insurance adjuster can’t change their mind. If they first tell you that your vehicle is repairable and then after they look at it a little better they decide that it is a total loss, there isn’t much you can do about it.

Third, don’t believe anybody that says there is a law about total losses. I am a licensed adjuster and have been handling claims for nearly 15 years and I am here to tell you there is no law about total losses. There is a law about when a vehicle title has to be flagged as a salvage vehicle, so maybe people are calling that law the total loss law, but be warned, the insurance company can declare your vehicle a total loss at any time prior to repairs being completed, and if they are brave, even after the repairs are done, but that gets a little sticky and will normally result in a lawsuit.

Total Loss – An Attractive Option

The total loss is attractive to insurance adjusters especially if they are dealing with a “difficult” customer. When a vehicle is totaled, in most States, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for any more rental, so there is one big expense avoided.

Additionally, if they pay you for the fair market value of your vehicle BEFORE it got wrecked, then they are done with the claim. They paid you for your loss and you’re done. If you don’t agree with the value they quote you, it takes a bit of knowledge to get them to negotiate very much. Sure you can argue and argue and they may move up on the offer just a little to get you out of their hair, but it will not be a substantial difference.

You’ll have to hire an expert to really argue, and in my experience, people hire experts in the wrong situations.

You have to understand that the value an insurance company will pay you is based on how much you could get for your vehicle on the “private” market. You are not a dealer, you cannot get a retail price for your vehicle. You most likely don’t offer financing, can’t give a “certified” used car stamp, don’t do a 25 point inspection and do not have a huge marketing expense. The value you paid for your car, or the value of other cars sitting around on a dealer’s lot is not what the private value of your car is. Keep that in mind. If you disagree by $1500 or less, the insurance company is probably right about the value of your car, and you should give up the fight.

So How Do I Get Paid For Diminished Value or Loss Of Value After An Auto Accident?

The only time there is diminished value is if your vehicle is being repaired. If you are dealing with somebody else’s insurance company on the repair of your vehicle, and you don’t have a clunker, then you should research diminished value.

If you are dealing with your own insurance company, you could still qualify to get diminished value, but I would suggest you get an expert to give you some advice on whether or not you can successfully recover diminished value against your own carrier (see our article about first party diminished value claims). A lot of policies simply exclude that type of coverage. It is a matter of contract law vs. tort law, and I don’t know how to put it in any simpler terms.

In conclusion, a total loss never has diminished value.

It is a loss, therefore there is no more property available to have a value to diminish, get it? If you car is repairable, then yes, it will most likely suffer some diminished value, but whether you can collect it is based on contract law and tort law and varies according to the State where the accident occurred.

I hope this helps clear it up for you!

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How much is my auto accident injury settlement worth?

Advice On Car Insurance Injury Claims

Let me first start by saying if you have been injured in an auto accident, you should seek proper medical attention without regard to your insurance claim.

The failure to do this is where many people fall to the wayside.

Think about it. If you didn’t seek medical care, what was the problem, how can you document your injury? Insurance adjusters are normally trained on the best arguments for the type of scenario where no treatment was sought, and you will likely be rejected if you attempt to file an injury claim. There is simply no excuse for not seeking medical treatment for an injury.

What? You were hurt but you don’t have insurance or any money to spare and couldn’t get treated?

 The adjuster’s answer to this is simple: If you didn’t go to the hospital, then your injury wasn’t very bad and you incurred no cost, therefore there is not even a pain and suffering aspect.

Have you heard of the “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act”? Almost all adjusters have. Briefly, this is a law that was enacted by Congress in 1986. It is a Federal law. What it means is that if you have any type of emergency or if you are a woman and in active labor, then almost all hospitals and ambulance services must provide you treatment, no matter if you are an illegal alien, or if you have no insurance or money at all.

The most you could expect if you didn’t seek treatment would be what adjusters call a “nuisance value” settlement, no more than $500, and only if you seem to be sincere and the adjuster is nice.

You think that’s not fair?

If you are hurt, then you should get paid, right? Even if you didn’t go to the hospital you can still be hurt, right? The answer is…..sort of. If you have what they call a “soft tissue” injury, then it may not warrant emergency care. The problem is that treatment for soft tissue injuries is debatable. Chiropractors will tell you that you need to undergo some treatments, exercises or adjustments to speed up the healing and alleviate the soreness or pain. Liability claims are paid based on a complete injury evaluation which means you have to be finished with your treatment before you can get a settlement.

If you don’t go to the hospital because you don’t have insurance or think you can’t afford it, you have made a bad mistake and there is nothing for the adjuster to evaluate.

The deciding question (in the back of their mind) for a jury and for an insurance adjuster is “Regarding treatment for your injury, would you have taken the same action if you knew there was no insurance available?” If the answer to this question is yes and the evidence supports that answer, then you most likely have an injury claim that is worth pursuing. Now, to determine the value of your injury claim you will have to account for many factors.

To answer the question posed by the article title, you should add up all your medicals, research the venue, and evaluate all the factors that are provided in my popular ebook.

This article is the first paragraph in my full e-book that explains everything you need to know!

Fill out my online form.

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What’s my total loss worth?

What’s My Total Loss Worth ? Figuring Total Loss Car Value For Your Insurance Claim

 

How Much Will The Insurance Company Pay You For Your Total Loss? What Is The Real Value?

So the insurance adjuster has told you that your vehicle is a total loss, huh? How much are they going to pay you? As a licensed insurance adjuster and the owner of a company that certifies vehicle values, I should be able to shed some light on this subject for you. Let’s get right to it. The actual cash value of your vehicle is generally defined as the value a private purchaser would pay for a similar vehicle, if the purchaser is under no pressure to purchase, and the seller is under no pressure to sell. Even adjusters get confused about this subject. A retail vehicle price is different than a private vehicle price because of the factors incorporated into it. The retail price will always be greater than the actual cash value. Dealers have to advertise, make a profit, pay sales people, inspect vehicles for safety concerns, and they have to maintain a staff that can assist purchasers with obtaining credit and filling out paperwork. All of these costs are incorporated into a vehicle’s sales price when it is sitting on a dealers lot. Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle, and will not command the same price as a vehicle that is sitting on a dealer’s lot ready to sell. The law normally does not require the insurance company to pay you for the retail value of your vehicle (if you’re not sure, call us and we will tell you where to find your State’s information for free).

Market Reports

Many insurance companies use a third party vendor to provide reports that reflect a vehicle’s market value. The most prominent ones are CCC (Valuescope), and ADP Autosource. These reports generally do not depict actual sales data, rather they depict asking prices (one can ask whatever they want, but the sale price is what is important). Additionally, the vehicle specifications reflected in these reports totally rely on human input. If the adjuster / report requestor doesn’t enter correct information, or if they enter nothing at all, then default values are generated, and the final report value will not be reflective of the actual vehicle that is being evaluated. Watch these reports for inaccuracies. If everything is entered correctly, the best argument against a report from CCC or ADP is to review the “comparable” vehicles and point out where and why the comparable vehicles aren’t actually comparable.

National Publications

The national publications that can be used include NADA, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. There are more, but these are the main publications that are generally used. If you run the same vehicle with each one, you will come up with different figures. My suggestion is to average the three and use that value because then your value is supported by all three publications.

Real Data

The real data one can use consists of online vehicle auction sites or actual sales receipts from individuals. AutoTrader.com, and Cars.com will allow you to search for comparable vehicles in your area. The easiest way to use these sources is to do an advanced search and make sure you average only the really comparable ones. It can get complicated, but it’s normally worth the effort.   Once you have researched the value of your vehicle using national publications and real data, and picked apart any market evaluation done by a computer, then you should be ready to negotiate by using the average price you have calculated using the data you have. Be willing to accept a little less than you have calculated, but be professional and persistent in your negotiation.

Always negotiate in writing.

Send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster asking for a specific amount (the amount you calculated), and give them a time limit to respond to you. After you have sent the demand, follow up by telephone every couple of days. If the insurance adjuster or carrier refuses to negotiate, then you must either work your way up the chain of command, or begin doing your research for filing a small claims suit in your State. Proper negotiation and a willingness to accept a little less than you consider to be fair will keep you from spending extra money filing suit and arguing your case in front of a judge or jury. If you can get to within $800 of the average price calculated using publications and real data, I would suggest you settle and move on with your life! Good luck with your total loss negotiation. You can do it! Sometimes it’s just in the petty details!

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How do I deal with my total loss claim?

Insurance Help And Claims Advice: Total Loss Claim Values

What Can You Do?

Total loss disputes are common.

The value of your vehicle is very important to you, but it may not be as important to your insurance company or the insurance company of that guy or girl that hit your car and totaled it.

What Are Your Options When Dealing With Total Loss Of Your Vehicle?

There are some options to help you advocate for the best value on your vehicle. The most common and accepted is to employ the services of a non-interested professional. If the professional is truly a non-interested expert, then their opinion should be based on accepted appraisal methods and proper training and experience. The value you get from an certified independent appraiser should be in line with the actual value of your vehicle as it relates to the terms of the insurance claim.

First Party: The “Appraisal” or “Umpire” Clause

If you have a first party claim (meaning you are using your own insurance), then your policy likely has an “appraisal” clause. You can use this clause to effectively argue the value of your vehicle. The problem with this clause is that it normally dictates that the cost of a third party appraiser has to born by both the insurance company and the policyholder.

In addition to normally having a deductible apply, the “split the cost” requirement ensures that minor disputes such as differences of less than $500 are not worth pursuing. I mean if you have a $500 deductible and then you will have to also pay $200 of a third party appraisal fee, then you’d have to have a difference in opinion of at least $700 to just break even, you know?

Sometimes, the insurance company will agree to bear the cost and just take your part out of your settlement so you don’t actually have to come up with the money, you just lose it in the settlement. If you employ this technique, insist upon shopping around for an agreeable appraiser that is as cheap as possible, but still qualified and professional.

Ask about the experience of the appraiser, and whether or not they have an adjuster’s license. Insurance companies will inquire about this, so you should, too. There are quality services available for as little at $150, you just have to hunt around a little.

If you still can’t come to an agreement on the value of your vehicle and you are sure you are being messed with, then the other option you have is to seek out a public adjuster who specializes in low dollar representation and then get that adjuster to handle the claim for you. Some public adjusters will charge a nominal flat fee to represent you on a total loss property damage claim and waive the normal 10% contingency agreement.

Third Party: The “Certified” Appraisal

If you have a third party claim, the rules are based on tort law, not on a policy contract. You’re entitled to receive what the negligent party is legally responsible for causing due to the negligent operation or use of a motor vehicle. This means that if you have a dispute with a third party carrier, you will have to bear the entire cost of an appraisal from a third party.

In addition to the cost being solely born by the claimant (you), the report will have to be a stand-alone report since the appraiser won’t be working with you and your carrier, but with you alone. The report will have to be self explanatory and will need to be produced in accordance with accepted standards within the insurance and appraisal industry. Again, check the credentials of any service provider. Make sure you trust who you are dealing with and that they will treat you like a person and not a number. Call them to see how easy it is to deal with them and make sure the report has an official “certification” section.

Sometimes It Pays To Have A Professional

If you think you are being ripped off on the total loss value of your vehicle, then it may be worth it to seek out some professional assistance.

In my own experience, the difference in the initial offer amount and the amount offered after getting an independent professional involved is almost always more than the cost of employing the professional in the first place, and it will give you a feeling of self achievement because you didn’t have to give any of your money to an attorney (who likely won’t take a total loss case anyway).

Good Luck!

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Are there any secrets to help settle a total loss ?

So you’re looking for secrets to help settle a total loss ?  Well, look no further!

Do It Yourself – Finding The Total Loss Value Of A Vehicle

Insider Secrets To Help You Through Your Car Insurance Claim

 

Total Loss

As the owner of a claim service company and a licensed adjuster who has settled thousands of total loss claims, I will reveal the tricks to getting an insurance company to take you seriously.

Let me dispel some common misconceptions that apply in almost every State.

Myth #1: Your vehicle is not a retail vehicle.

Myth #2: Frame damage has nothing to do with whether your vehicle is considered a total loss or not.

Myth #3: You cannot force the insurance company to total your vehicle, nor can you force them not to total it.

Myth #4: Any vehicle can be repaired; it is simply a matter of cost.

Myth #5: The salvage value of your vehicle is very important.

Myth #6: Insurance adjusters do not have the authority to change company policy, but claims managers, litigation adjusters, claims presidents, and vice presidents of claims departments usually do.

 Myth #7: Staff insurance adjusters are normally not experts on determining vehicle value and may not even have an adjuster’s license (ask them for their license number).

What dealers would ask for your vehicle is not what your vehicle is worth. Your vehicle is a private vehicle, and the value of your vehicle will be reflective of this fact.

Okay, if you understand those seven things then you are ahead of most people. I think most people believe (rightfully so) that insurance companies use computers and formulas to determine vehicle values. This practice is the main problem that consumers face.

How do you argue with a computer or formula?

I’ll tell you how – you have to call its bluff!

Each vehicle should be evaluated on its own merit, and the adjuster should be able to utilize common sense. Instead, processes, computers, and formulas keep adjusters from using logic, and when you (the victim) don’t agree with the result of the process, then the adjuster is trained to simply advise you that their offer is the final offer.

So what do you do? How do you call their bluff and get them to act human?

Do It Yourself Process For Total Loss

1. Gather every scrap of documentation on your vehicle that you can find and get it in front of you.

If you have no oil change receipts, other maintenance records, the purchase invoice, list of options, etc., then you will have a hard time proving your vehicle was taken care of and “above average” no matter how good it looks. You need to prove your vehicle doesn’t fit with the “formula”.

2. Demand a written salvage value quote from the insurance company (in writing).

If the adjuster verbally gives you a quote, write it down for comparison later.

 3. Use the internet!

Go to the websites for NADA, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, E-bay Motors, etc. Carefully document your vehicle’s value according to all of these publications. The more information you have, the harder it is for the insurance company / adjuster to argue with you.

 4. Pick up the telephone and call auto salvage lots in your area.

Ask them to give you a salvage bid on your wrecked vehicle. Do this with at least three salvage dealers, even if you have to call dealers that are over 100 miles away from you. Document at least three bids on the salvage for your vehicle, and if possible, ask the salvage company if they maintain auction sales records and see if they will give you an average sale price for vehicles like yours that have been sold at auction in the last 6 months to a year.

Document all of this and determine your vehicle’s salvage value so that you can compare it with the value the insurance company gave you in step 3. Most of the time, insurance companies/adjusters simply use a percentage of the car’s value to determine salvage value (crazy and inaccurate!).

Okay, so if you have completed steps 1 through 4, you should be ready to move on. If you haven’t completed steps 1 through 4, then this is probably why you need help with your settlement; you can’t follow directions.

Just kidding! Moving on……. 

5.  Write a well thought out demand letter and give the insurance company a time limit for responding.

Indicate in your demand that your offer to settle will be rescinded at the end of your time limit, then follow up by telephone every two business days until your time limit expires.

6. When calling the insurance company, unless the adjuster is responding favorably, just request to speak with the vice president of claims, and then settle for a claim supervisor.

Unless you are an experienced negotiator, try to avoid getting into a detailed conversation with the claims department – simply ask them when you can expect a written response to your demand. Try and get the supervisor to provide you with a fax number or e-mail and then correspond only in writing. If they will not provide you with a fax number or e-mail address (some won’t), then try and record your conversations with the claims office, and advise them that you’re recording the conversations, not because it’s required, but because they will be more likely to be careful if they know they are being recorded. Of course, you can use snail mail, but who wants to wait on the mail? The point is to document what you are doing so you can review it later if you need to.

7. Be willing to give in a little bit on the value that you expect to receive.

If the insurance company is increasing their offer to you, then in the spirit of fair business dealings, you should reduce your demand. Always move in small increments…don’t give away the house or settle for too little (insurance adjusters are trained to move as little as possible to try and settle low, so why shouldn’t you do the same, but in an attempt to settle high?).

Be confident in your negotiation, but don’t be over-confident. Remember if you fight for every penny, you will likely spend at least a few hundred dollars fighting, you know? And it is possible that you have overlooked something that an adjuster or attorney has already found.

8. If all else fails, hire a qualified expert to write a detailed and industry accepted market value report.

Submit the report to the insurance company along with a final demand letter and a small claim petition.

That’s it! If you can follow the steps outlined in this article, you can get a fair settlement for your auto total loss. There are people like us out there that will help you to navigate through your claim for free, you just have to find them.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details! Good luck!

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Can you take payment out of my settlement?

Unfortunately, we can’t.  In our reports, we have to certify that we are a disinterested third-party that has no stake in if your claim is paid or not.  Therefore, we charge a flat fee up front and give great follow up service after our report is delivered to help you come to a conclusion on your claim!

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What forms of payment do you accept?

We accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Paypal and can even send a Quickpay request via Chase.  We also accept checks but services won’t be rendered until the check is received in our office.

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You aren’t in my local area. Can you still help?

YES!   With the help of professional appraisers across the U.S., we are able to help clients in any state.  If you hire us to help you, we use an inspector from our trusted network of professional appraisers to perform a Post Repair Inspection (if needed) and use that report to develop our report.  From there, we are available via phone, email, even webcam to discuss your claim and help you move to resolution.

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Vehicle Repair (1)

What do I need to know when dealing with my repair after an auto accident?

Collision Repair After An Auto Accident

7 Things You Need To Know About Car Accident Repair Costs & Auto Body Repair Estimates

 

In nearly 15 years as an adjuster I have seen some doozies when it comes to collision repair.

 As a short example, let me tell you this . . .

When I was an adjuster, I caught a body shop and a rental car company conspiring to defraud the insurance company.

 What they did was this:

The rental company would file a claim for undercarriage damage, and we would inspect the vehicle, find the damages, write the estimate for the collision repair and pay the body shop for the repairs.

What I figured out is that instead of the damages happening like the rental company said (like a renter hit a curb, or hit some debris in the road), it was being caused by the body shop.

The shop would have their technician put the car on a lift and then he would get under it with a sledge hammer and damage the oil pan or some other component, then they would give the car back to the rental company and they would file the claim. We would pay the shop to replace the damaged component, but they would just go in and repair the component and pocket the money for the parts that we paid them. They sometimes made $400.00 or $500.00 on one scam by just faking invoices for parts that they had damaged to begin with. They would then repair the part or replace it with one they had lying around and pocket the insurance money.

Not all shops are crooks, but body shops, like any other business, are in business to make money. Most people are not experts on collision repair, and body shops know this. Taking your car to a body shop is sort of like going to the doctor or hiring an attorney. You kind of have to trust what the doctor or lawyer says because they are specially trained. It is the same for a body shop, you kind of have to trust what they tell you because they are specially trained.

If you’re cool with trusting a collision repair facility, then fine, go find another article to read. But if you are like me, you want to learn how to avoid having to trust a body shop (the concept could apply to doctors and lawyers, too).

 Try to avoid using a shop if:

 1.  You were referred to the shop by an insurance company

 Here’s why:

  •  The shop has an agreement with the insurance company, and if you are able to get a copy of the agreement between the shop and the insurance company, you are impressive.
  •  The insurance company has a vested interest in making sure repairs are as cheap as possible.
  •  Questions that would normally be directed to the vehicle owner, like “should we fix this wiring while we’re at it?”, or “hey, did this happen in the accident?” will be directed to the insurance company and not the customer. The owner is left out of the loop.

2.  The shop is dirty or unorganized

I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of people just overlook that aspect because they think repairing vehicle damages is a dirty job. It’s not, a good shop will be clean and organized. Dirty and unorganized implies to me that the shop is used to cutting corners to save money.

 

 Dealing With The Shop

Okay, so the above two things are things to watch out for if you haven’t picked a shop.

What? You say your vehicle is already at a body repair shop that the insurance company referred you to?

Don’t panic!

Here are some things that you can do that will help you keep the shop honest:

1.  Ask the shop manager to provide you with a copy of all the invoices for parts they had to purchase to fix your car, and then compare the parts list with the cost listed on the insurance company’s collision repair estimate.

 2.  Ask the shop for a written repair guarantee.

 3.  Ask the shop if they are a direct repair facility for more than one insurance company (just asking this will make them think twice about cutting a corner at your expense). If they are, ask them for the list.

 4.  Bluntly ask if they have used new Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts (OEM), used OEM parts, or aftermarket parts.

 5.  Ask the shop to explain “betterment” to you, just because you are curious. This is just to show them that you are reading up on the repair process.

 If you picked a dirty and unorganized shop, well, that was silly :), but you could still use the 5 tips above to help keep them honest.

In conclusion, be curious. Force yourself into the loop. A customer who is actively asking questions and is curious about what is going on will help to keep the shop on their toes. If you still think the shop is not treating you right, get a professional involved to check out the repairs after they are complete and tell you if the repair is sufficient. A good shop should be able to repair your vehicle back to within the original factory specifications.

 Good luck!

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