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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’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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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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How Are Insurance Rates Adjusted Based On Claims Histories And How Do Car Accidents Affect My Rate?

In my line of business, I get this question all of the time. So much so, that I decided to write this article to help answer some of the questions about this apparent enigma.

First of all, there is no magic formula for determining if, when, and how much your insurance rate will increase following an accident. In fact, some companies are offering a “free pass” for certain types of insurance claims.

The bottom line on this subject is this: If you report a claim to any insurance company, it is likely to show up on your official track record or claims history.

Most insurance companies report claims information to ISO (Insurance Services Office). If a claim has been reported to this massive database, then you can be sure that your insurer will have access to the information it contains.

 Okay, now to answer the article title question.

Insurance rates are adjusted based upon an actuarial formula. Normally, the title of a person that evaluates risk and determines appropriate rates is called an actuarial risk analyst. This person researches so many factors it is not even funny. After the actuary has pinned down the factors on which the company will evaluate risk (ie, accident history, age, location, vehicle type, employment status, credit history, family size, number of drivers, etc), then the actuary will create a formula that reflects the appropriate charge for each “class” of insured party. The formula is normally incorporated into an underwriting system. If any of your factors change, then it will be updated in the underwriting system and could possibly affect your rate. Many times, the formula allows for certain types of claims to be excluded, and underwriting policies can also affect how the actual rate is charged.

The only way an accident victim can determine if, when and how much their rate will change is to actually contact their insurance company’s underwriting supervisor and directly inquire. Most insurance companies categorize claim types by a point system, and then they base premium charges on the amount of points a person may have.

For example, at-fault claims that cost more than $1500.00 may be assigned two points, and the insurance company may assign a rate increase for every two points. So if you have one accident that is your fault and you caused over $1500.00 in damages, then you will move up on the “risky meter” one notch.

Contact your insurance company directly and ask for the underwriting supervisor, that person should be able to tell you what to expect on your insurance bill following an accident.

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What Does An Insurance Adjuster Do?

A Job Description And The Basic Adjusting Procedures

I’ve written this article to give the layman some basic information as it regards the claims adjusting process.

 What does an insurance Adjuster Do, really?

First let us define the main two types of claims that we will be dealing with, first party claims, and third party claims.

A first party claim means that the insurance policy which is supposed to cover the claim is the policy of the person making the claim. If you are getting paid by your insurance company, then you have a first party claim.

In third party claims, the insurance policy which is supposed to cover the claim is the policy of the person that caused the claim. So if you are getting paid by someone else’s insurance company, you have a third party claim.

It gets a little more complicated when you get into workers compensation claims and healthcare claims, but for this article we’ll stick with private property damage claims. Let me also say that there may be multiple adjusters assigned to any one claim depending on the scope of the claim, so the following rules apply to the claims adjusting process in general.

Basic Rules

 First party claims:

1.  Coverage determination

The insurance adjuster must first determine whether or not there is a valid policy. This may seem simple, but there are many factors that can affect coverage. If the policy is an auto policy, there may be excluded drivers on the policy, or the vehicle may be a work vehicle, or the policy may be a brand new policy and there are questions as to the time that payment was made. The adjuster will have to gather driver information, the date and time of the policy inception, and numerous other factors that could potentially affect the coverage on the policy. As the claim progresses, if new information is obtained that could affect the coverage, the adjuster should put the claim on hold until the coverage question is resolved.

 2.  Damage assessment

After coverage is confirmed, the insurance adjuster will have to figure out how much damage there is.Normally, there is an adjuster (the guy behind the desk), and an appraiser (the guy that goes and takes pictures of damages and writes an estimate).

To determine vehicle damages, an appraiser will most likely use a software program that allows him/her to punch in information about damages. After the appraiser has listed the type of property and the elements of the property that are damaged, the software will generate a dollar amount reflective of the cost to repair the damages. The software that an appraiser uses is very sophisticated and incorporates the “going rate” for labor and also houses a database of parts supplies, both new and used parts. The software that is available on the market today is very effective at determining the amount of labor needed and automatically finding the cheapest parts available.

 3.  Payment

After the adjuster has a damage report, he/she will have to determine if it is acceptable and then issue the appropriate payment. On first party claims, there is almost always a deductible, so provided the estimated damages are in line with what the policy covers, the adjuster will simply request a payment for the damages minus the deductible amount and will send the payment to the owner of the property or the policy holder if they are the same party.

 4.  Supplemental issues

After the damage payment has been issued, the claim should be complete, but many times the damages that are reflected in the repair estimate are not completely accurate. When the property is being repaired, the cost begins to increase due to items that were not on the estimate, or other issues such as weather related delays (when Houston flooded, many collision repair facilities were without power for a while) which may increase the time needed for repair.

If there are additional costs that are covered by the insurance policy, then those will have to be addressed as well. One of these additional costs could be rental car coverage, or in the case of a homeowner’s claim there could be temporary cost of living expenses that have to be adjusted. In any event, the final stage of any first party claim is the supplemental stage where the adjuster confirms the claim is complete or completes the adjustment of the claim by the supplemental charges.

Another item to note is that if a supplement arises due to a repair facility stating that there are more damages than are on the estimate, it is likely that the adjuster will send the appraiser back out to inspect the property and this can take from hours to days, so just be prepared for some delays if you are not using a facility that works with your insurance company all the time.

Insurance companies do not trust anyone, hehe.

 

Third Party Claims

1.  Coverage determination

This first step is always the same. If there is not a valid policy the adjuster can just close the claim down right off the bat, so the first step is always to gather the appropriate facts surrounding the claim to determine the five “w’s”, you know, who, what, when, where and why, except that why is usually replaced with how.

 2.  Liability assessment

So remember we are talking about someone else’s insurance policy that is paying you, and therefore this extra step is involved. Liability can be terribly complex and many times the insurance company will have a little more experienced adjuster handling claims that involve liability. In simple terms, liability just means “who is at fault”. The adjuster will have to review the facts of the claim and interview all the parties to the claim as well as witnesses. Additionally, depending on the complexity of the claim scenario, the adjuster may have to get specialty reports such as a cause and origin report, or complete a scene investigation, or any number of other factors that could affect “who is at fault”.

 3.  Damage assessment

This is the same as in first party claims with one big exception…fault!

The adjuster not only has to determine the damage that is visible, they also have to figure out any other related costs or “intangible” damages that have occurred as a result of the “negligence” or “fault” of their policy holder. This can be complicated if injuries exist, and even more complicated depending on the severity of the injuries and even the location where the accident occurred. What most adjusters won’t say is that there are different views in different areas of the country and depending on what area an accident occurred in, some of the damages that can’t be documented (like pain and suffering or mental anguish) will have a substantially different value.

For example, in New Orleans Parish, LA, it is customary to pay auto accident victims large amounts of money for pain and suffering and mental anguish even if the accident wasn’t that bad and there is not much documentation to show the person incurred an injury. In the alternative, in Dallas County, TX it is much more conservative and if there is a minor injury, there is not going to be a large pain and suffering and mental anguish award.

 4.  Payment and supplements

The processes are the same on third party claims as they are on first party claims when it comes to making payments. Adjusters have monitor repairs and make sure all the related damages are paid for. On a third party claim, one can expect a little more scrutiny when it comes to supplemental payments. The adjuster on a third party claim will review very closely whether or not any additional damage is actually related to the accident in question and will almost always require a re-inspection if damages can’t be repaired for the initial amount that was written on the estimate.

 That’s the basics!

I would like to make the point that whether you have a first party claim, or a third party claim, you have the right to question any damage assessment if it doesn’t seem reasonable. Keep in mind that if you challenge the damage amount as assessed by the insurance company, you will have to pay for another independent or public adjuster to assess the damages for you. A body shop can only negotiate damages based on actual repairs, but a licensed and trained adjuster can write a report that reflects differences of opinion which will force the matter into discussion. On first party claims, look in your policy for a section related to disputing damages (sometimes called the “umpire” clause). For third party claims, make sure you ask for diminished value and get a report from a reputable company like mine (shameless plug) to prove your loss of value after being in an accident!

Good luck!

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What are some tips for dealing with the rental car company after an accident?

Rental Car Companies

How To Note Damages On An Inspection Sheet, Damage Waivers And Tricks Of The Trade

 

Maybe you are on a business trip and have flown to your destination and need a car to get back and forth to the office. Maybe your car has been damaged by a hit and run driver, and you are having to rent a car while yours is getting repaired. Whatever the reason for renting a car, please take heed to the message I am sending in this article.

Rental car companies are tricky!

I use the word tricky because it is the nicest word I can think of to describe what some rental car companies do. Here are some very good tips to use when you are forced to utilize a rental car.

Tip #1:  Make sure you are covered!

First of all, make sure your auto insurance policy will cover a rented vehicle. There are new policies out there that have endorsements added to them that alleviate the insurance carrier from “contractual” liability a.k.a. rental car agreements.

Tip #2:  Inspect, Inspect, Inspect!

Make sure, and I mean make sure, you insist on a pre-rental vehicle inspection form being filled out and get a signed copy of it from a rental company employee (and that employee’s business card if possible). This is normally a sheet that has a very simple drawing of a vehicle on it which the rental company will rush you through filling out. They will normally ask you to place an “x” anywhere on the picture where you see damage on the vehicle.

 Tip #3:  Take your time

During your pre-rental inspection of the vehicle, take your time! Don’t let them rush you and do not miss anything at all, no matter how small it seems. I have experienced rental company employees suggesting that certain damages don’t need to be written down on the inspection form because they are too small to worry about. Do not believe it. Write down everything.

In fact, here are some common areas people miss:

  • Windshield chips and cracks.
  • Stains or tears in the interior upholstery.
  • Rock chips on the front bumper cover or hood.
  • Scratches on the rear bumper.
  • Door handle on rear doors or passenger side doesn’t operate.
  • Rearview mirror is loose.
  • Wheels have scuffs or scratches on them.
  • Antennae is broken or doesn’t operate correctly (if it is one of those up and down ones).
  • Minor door dings.

 Tip #4:  If your insurance doesn’t cover contractual liability, then either bite the bullet and purchase the “damage waiver” from the rental company, or be warned!

 

Okay, so the point is that you might not have coverage for damage to a rental vehicle, and even if you do, make sure that the damage that is already on the vehicle can’t be claimed against your insurance policy. As an insurance adjuster for companies that excluded contractual liability and for companies that paid it, I have seen some crazy claims made by rental companies. I won’t name names, but some of the larger rental car companies are the worst about trying to generate revenue by making what the industry would call “non-meritorious claims”, but not provable as fraud.

An Example

Here’s a new set of numbers reflecting a scenario that I have seen a hundred times or more:

  1.  The renter rents a car (doesn’t see any damage and probably just signed off on a damage inspection form without even knowing it or didn’t notice the little stuff) and has an uneventful trip.
  2.  The rental vehicle is returned to the rental company as it was before the trip.
  3.  The rental company now goes over the vehicle with a fine toothed comb and locates three door dings, multiple scratches on the rear bumper, and three chips in the windshield that have to be repaired. They get the damages estimated and total damages are $742.00. On top of the repair cost, the vehicle will have to be in the shop for three or four days to get all the repairs done, and during the time the vehicle is in the shop, the rental company is “losing money” because they can’t rent the vehicle out.  This is another $120.00 of lost earning potential, and they might even try to claim that the car since it has to be repaired will have suffered some inherent diminished value. Oh, and don’t forget administrative fees because of the time they had to spend preparing the claim and such, that’s another $50.00. They will try whatever they can to make a buck or two at your expense.
  4.  The rental company (if you didn’t get the damage waiver) then makes a claim against your insurance company for the damages (now at over $1000.00) plus the $100.00 it cost them to get the damage appraised.
  5.  Your insurance company (if there is no endorsement relieving them of contractual liability) will have to “entertain” the claim.
  6.  During the entertainment phase, your insurance company is supposed to contact you to see if they can find out what happened (even though no matter what happened you owe the damages because of the rental contract which says you do).
  7.  Since you have no idea what happened and hadn’t read this article, so you don’t have a copy of a pre-rental inspection form showing all the damages were already there, your insurance company will likely make a payment for around $500.00, the real cost of the labor associated with repairing the rental vehicle.
  8.  If you tell your insurance company that the damages were there when you rented the car, and they refuse to pay the rental company, then the rental company will get mad that their trick didn’t work, and they will try to collect the money directly from you, and could even attempt to get it on your credit if you don’t pay. If that happens to you, my advice is to look into your legal remedies under the deceptive trade practices act or consult an attorney.

 

Don’t Get Taken By The Trick

To conclude, by being “tricky”, and being nice to you when you are renting the vehicle as well as when you turn it back in, the rental company has taken advantage of your confidence in them, and either fixed all the wear on their rental vehicle or simply pocketed the money (and will do the same thing on the same vehicle over and over again). All this done at the expense of your claims history and insurance premiums. Did you know that even if an accident is not your fault, it still counts against you if you have to use your own insurance? Most insurance companies assign a point system to the type and severity of a claim.

If you get run into two or three times within a year or two (through no fault of your own), or if you are the victim of theft or vandalism, you can bet that you will be flagged as a high risk because of your “luck” and will eventually have a higher premium. Additionally, most insurance companies have the right to just cancel your policy flat if you have an accident within the first 30 to 60 days of the policy term, even if the accident is not your fault. Don’t let a rental car company trick you, embarrass you, or cause your insurance rates or credit score to be negatively affected!

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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 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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Is there such a thing as a free diminished value report?

Secrets To Success In Finding Your Vehicle’s Loss Of Value

Loss of market value, diminished value, and diminution of value are the most common terms used to describe the difference in resale value your vehicle is likely to incur due to a collision.

Determining the loss of value that vehicle has incurred is a complex job and requires quite a bit of data. Since our company specializes in determining this type of lost value, I thought I would share some secrets that help our customers succeed in recovering diminished value.

1.   Don’t believe for one minute that a free diminished value report will convince an insurance company to pay you any money.

Think about it….if it’s free then where is the company getting money to stay in business? These companies utilize marketing tactics to draw you to their free (and worthless) product and then bombard you with advertisements or try to sneak in a place where you provide your e-mail so that they can advertise to you later.

The worst of them simply get you to fill out their form, then instead of providing you with a report, they just tell you how much you might expect – if you want an official report then pay so and so amount and call so and so number. This is where they make money, on advertising.

They offer what seems to be the best deal in the world and get a lot of visitors to their website, and in turn they use those traffic numbers to convince other companies to advertise on their site for a fee or try and get you to buy a diminished value report from them. They make money, and you get a free report or diminished value range that is generated by a computer with no knowledge of your specific vehicle’s condition, damage amount, or market.

 2.   Be willing to, and expect to negotiate a little bit.

There is no way to determine the exact amount of diminished value a vehicle will realize when it is sold. There are too many factors (the seller’s need to sell, the buyer’s need to buy, the availability of maintenance records or actual damage estimates / repair invoices from previous damages). If you go into the fight with the determination to settle instead of with the determination to get every penny you are owed, then that attitude will spill over to the adjuster and you will likely get an adjuster who is also willing to negotiate a little bit.

 3.   Negotiate only in writing!

Adjusters get practice verbally arguing all day everyday.

Don’t play on the home court, you know?

Most adjusters are much more apprehensive about writing something derogatory or illegal than they are about saying something derogatory or illegal. Additionally, utilizing written correspondence will keep you from hearing the tone of the adjuster’s voice and may keep you from blowing your top because of the perceived arrogance of some adjusters. Ask for an e-mail or fax number to speed things up, and if they refuse that information, just use the mail and follow-up religiously with phone calls asking if they have received your correspondence. Don’t engage in a conversation regarding the correspondence if they attempt to start discussing it, rather, nicely ask them to put their response in writing so you can review.

 4.   Purchase an expert report only after speaking directly with the expert and confirming with your adjuster that an expert report is needed!

If you can’t get your expert on the phone, then RUN AWAY!!

If your insurance adjuster says that an expert report will not change their mind, then you will likely need to file a suit or hire an attorney. If you get this kind of adjuster / company, decide if your suing first, then get your report. Good insurance adjusters will simply pick up the phone and call the diminished value expert to try and get a feel for their real expertise. If you have a good expert, then you will likely get at least an offer from the company. If your expert isn’t so great, they probably can’t convince you that they are an expert, will not give you straight answers to your questions, and they will not be able to explain themselves to an adjuster, judge or jury.

Even the best experts should not charge more than a total of $350.00 for their continued help, their inspection of your vehicle, and their official report.

Want to know what your claim is worth now?

Request a free claim consultation and find out free of charge!

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Where are the official rules to file a diminished value claim ?

Looking for the official rules to file a diminished value claim ?

We have never seen an official rule book about diminished value. Even in Georgia, there is no rule. Each case involving diminished value must be evaluated on its own merit.

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How much does your service cost?

You get a free claim consultation right up front where we determine what your claim is worth, explain our process & answer your questions.

If your claim is valued below $1650:

$85 for our PDVO service

If your claim is valued at $1650 or above:

$300 for our USPAP report and Inspection

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Can I use auto dealer quotes to prove my diminished value?

Diminished Value And Auto Dealer Quotes – The Solution

This can be very difficult for the average accident victim. Knowledge of the proper methodologies and form for presenting valid supporting data eludes most laymen. As a licensed adjuster and owner of a claim services company, I can attest to how hard it is to document diminished value in a credible manner.

Let’s face it, the only way to document diminished value on a vehicle that has been in a collision and then repaired is to research the market for that vehicle and gather as much data as possible about how an accident history affects the value of the vehicle as seen by consumers and retail auto dealers. Adjusters will ask you for real data that supports your claim, not just the opinion of some so called expert. That should be easy enough, right? You can bet that if you take your vehicle in to a dealer to trade in on a new vehicle, the dealer will run a title history check and will physically inspect the vehicle for signs or evidence that the vehicle has been in an accident and repaired.

If it is discovered that your vehicle has an accident history, the dealer will surely reduce their trade in offer.

They will cite problems such as their inability to certify the vehicle due to repaired parts, or the fact that they are required by law to disclose accident history to prospective purchasers, or issues relating to the voiding of manufacturer’s warranties due to damaged and repaired components, or safety related components such as air bag modules which cannot be economically tested for reliability after being replaced or repaired.

The dealer will reduce your vehicle’s value dramatically if it has been in a wreck.

You know what is strange, though? They don’t want to admit that they do that in writing. They will verbally tell you all day that they will reduce the value of a vehicle and can tell you exactly how much they will reduce the value. I have even had dealers discuss diminished value with me on specific vehicles for 30 minutes or more and detail to me the manner in which they determine trade in values on a previously wrecked vehicle. They are very familiar with the concept of diminished value and commonly utilize it to make great deals on trade-ins, but most won’t put it in writing!

This is where the documentation problem comes in.

Auto dealer quotes would be great documentation for diminished value, but it is almost impossible to get enough dealers to quote a diminished value so that an average can be determined. I understand that dealers don’t want to look bad, but they have to pick a side, you know? On one hand, you can’t reduce vehicle values because of damage histories if you don’t publicly want to admit that you do it. At the very least, I think that if the dealer is going to reduce your vehicle’s value due to an auto accident, they should also document their decision in writing. It seems like common sense, but in my experience, it is like pulling teeth to get a dealer to go on record about diminished value. In fact, I have had dealers give me information and opinions on vehicles with the understanding that I was going to use that information in official reports. Then when they see the information in the report with the threat that they will have to testify in court, they retract or dispute their statements.

Seriously, as soon as it seemed like they might be called in to testify on a court case, they began to backpedal and make statements like “I didn’t give specifics”, or “I only discussed diminished value in general and didn’t give a quote”. One reason for this is that the dealer’s opinion of actual diminished value is almost always less than what they will actually reduce from a trade in.

I recently had a case where a Range Rover was damaged. The damage was limited to cosmetic issues with the front bumper and one fender. The total damage was barely $1500.00 and most of the cost was for labor. When I spoke with dealers, they advised me that a cosmetic issue like that would reduce the value of the vehicle, but not so much that it would be a huge loss. Out of 7 dealers, the highest amount one would likely deduct because of this damage was about $3000.00. After documenting the average diminished value and writing the official report that incorporated some of the opinions, the owner of the vehicle was not happy and felt the diminished value was much more because when they actually tried to trade in the vehicle, the dealers they dealt with wanted to deduct between $4K and $7K because of the damage history.

What the owner doesn’t know is that they have to negotiate!

The real diminished value is much less than the dealers are quoting them. Come on guys! It’s the rule of negotiation, start high, settle in the middle, you know? The point is that dealers won’t put their opinions in writing, they don’t want it to be exposed that they start way higher than they actually believe when it comes to deducting for diminished value. The dealer will do whatever they have to in order to avoid being put in the spotlight when it comes to quoting how they determine diminished value.

Here’s the solution we came up with and why our diminished value reports are the most credible around…

  1. We contact dealers and discuss diminished value on specific subject vehicles.
  2. Since we’ve had some unhappy dealers because of litigation threats (no real suits), we now advise the dealers that we will not disclose their name or where we have obtained our data unless the data is subpoenaed as part of an officially filed lawsuit.
  3. We agree that the data we obtain from the dealer is just that, data, not quotes.
  4. We agree that if litigation results that includes our official report, then we will testify that the report is our opinion based on actual market research, but will not testify that the dealer quoted us any specific value, just a diminished value range.
  5. We explain the litigation process in detail to dealers. They normally do not understand that even if they are required to testify as to their opinion, the opinion is not a quote and that they are not going to be held responsible for actually purchasing a vehicle based on our report findings.
  6. We certify our findings on an official report written by a licensed adjuster in accordance with accepted practices and submitted in the most widely accepted form by insurance companies.

It is time consuming and hard work to get around the auto dealers’ anxiety about providing written diminished value quotes. It requires some begging for information and a lot of slick talking to convince them to assist consumers by providing market data to our company. We also maintain our market data and update it as necessary, but many times, we have already conducted research on your specific model of vehicle and have ready to use data for our reports.

Use these tricks to document your diminished value, and you may be able to get paid without employing a professional. If you are informed, then you are a threat!

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Do I have a first or third party claim ?

Need to know whether you have a first or third party claim ?

If you are filing a claim against your own insurance company, whether it is a uninsured / underinsured motorist claim, or a collision / comprehensive claim, then you have a first party claim.

If you are filing a claim against someone else’s insurance, you have a third party claim.

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What’s the difference between contract and tort claims?

Diminished Value Insurance Claims After An Accident

Contract (1st Party) Or Tort (3rd Party)

If your vehicle has been damaged in an accident and subsequently repaired, then in most cases it has suffered some inherent diminished value.

The informed accident victim may attempt to seek recovery for the cash value of the diminishment, and in some cases they completely have the right to recover diminished value, but in other situations diminished value is not a payment for which they can receive compensation.

Understanding The Difference

In the title of this article, you will find the terms contract and tort. These terms are extremely important to understand as they relate to diminished value. In most States of the U.S. (Georgia being the prime exception), there is no contractual coverage for diminished value, but in every State there is coverage for the tort of diminished value. Now, I do not want to patronize my readers, but it seems that the difference between contract and tort is not such a simple concept to grasp. If you totally get it, then this article is not for you, but if you are still wondering how to figure out if you have a contract issue or a tort issue, then read on my friend.

 Contract – 1st Party Diminished Value

First of all, a contract is between two parties and requires the signature of both parties. You cannot create a contract by being involved in an accident. So, if you purchased a policy from an agent, online, or by making a telephone call, then you made a contract. Unless you live in Georgia or a few other places, then you cannot collect diminished value from your insurance policy (but maybe from uninsured motorists coverage…..call an expert!).

 Tort – 3rd Party Diminished Value

A tort is a civil wrong. It means that somebody was negligent and caused damages for which they are now responsible. You can indeed create a tort by being involved in an accident. If someone failed to timely apply their brakes and rear ended you, then they were negligent and are liable to you for the damages their negligence caused. If that negligent party purchased insurance for their automobile and their liability, then their insurance should pay for their legal liability to you (including your diminished value claim).

 

Okay, so if someone created a tort against you, then the contract that they purchased will cover the tort liability, get it? You are a third party to the contract that the tortfeasor (negligent party) has with his/her insurance. This is where the third-party / first party terminology comes into play. You read all about first party and third party coverages as they relate to diminished value, and maybe now you can refer back to this article and determine the difference as it relates to your specific case.

 To briefly recap…

 CONTRACTS

1. If you are filing a claim against a policy that you purchased, you are a first party to the contract and will most likely be unable to collect for diminished value with certain exceptions (uninsured motorists coverage will probably pay for diminished value, and in a few States in the U.S. the courts allow for first party diminished value recovery).

 TORTS

2. If you are filing a claim against someone else’s insurance policy because that person was negligent, then you are third party to the contract, and you are entitled to recover diminished value.

I hope this has given a little clarity on the first party / third party confusion, and if it doesn’t clear it up for you, contact an expert like me who has a background in insurance claims and ask them to explain it to you. Any good and reputable company should have enough concern for their potential customers to answer the phone and provide honest feedback.

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

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Am I REALLY owed diminished value after an auto accident?

owed diminished value

Are you really owed diminished value?

What do you think?  Do you think your car is worth less after an auto accident, even though the repairs are complete.  How do you know the problems that lie down the road?

If you live in a couple of privileged States, then the answer is ALWAYS yes (if there is actually any lost value), whether the accident was your fault or not! If you live anywhere in the US, then if you have a third party claim, the answer is always yes (if you actually have any lost value)!

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How do I find out what really happens when you file a diminished value claim?

Diminished Value Or Loss Of Value Claim: Getting Past The Hype

You may have come across this article in a Google or Yahoo search, but I would be willing to bet that this article was not the first result that popped up if you searched for diminished value, diminution of value, loss of value claim or something of the sort. If one searches directly for those terms, undoubtedly there will be tons of results that seem to be perfectly valid. You will likely locate many places or companies that claim to be able to calculate diminished value on an automobile loss. So how do you know who can and who can’t help you?

Diminished Value Research

My best advice: Do some research and don’t settle on that company that has spent all their money on marketing so that they can be first on the search list.

Companies that utilize those types of marketing tactics are normally places that have jumped on a bandwagon to make money on diminished value claims, and they will take your money and provide you with a substandard report. If you are looking to properly document a vehicle’s diminished value, then you need to know what the insurance company’s attorney will be looking for in the documentation.

 Localized Information Is Key

Every vehicle has a different market, and every location in the U.S. has a different market. Do not believe that you can punch some information into a computer and magically get a diminished value calculation that the insurance company will accept. The only way the victim of an auto accident can successfully negotiate for a proper settlement is to utilize scientific methods to support their claim.

In the insurance industry, expert witnesses are called upon for many occasions when a claim is escalated to litigation – experts such as doctors, engineers, physicists, mechanics, appraisers, and adjusters. In each case, if an expert is to be taken seriously, the opposing side will request a “Daubert” challenge. In short, it is simply a way of making sure an expert really is an expert. Most companies that generate diminished value reports do not have the credentials, nor do they utilize a proper method in calculating diminished value.

In closing, use your noggin’ folks!

If you can’t get the diminished value expert on the phone, or if you are punching in numbers on a website and expecting to get paid for diminished value, then you’ll have a frustrating time getting your claim paid by any reputable insurance company.

Sometimes it’s just in the petty details.

Register to download our Free Diminished Value Claim Guide to get a compilation of all the information you are looking for to get your claim settled.

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General Claims (15)

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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How Are Insurance Rates Adjusted Based On Claims Histories And How Do Car Accidents Affect My Rate?

In my line of business, I get this question all of the time. So much so, that I decided to write this article to help answer some of the questions about this apparent enigma.

First of all, there is no magic formula for determining if, when, and how much your insurance rate will increase following an accident. In fact, some companies are offering a “free pass” for certain types of insurance claims.

The bottom line on this subject is this: If you report a claim to any insurance company, it is likely to show up on your official track record or claims history.

Most insurance companies report claims information to ISO (Insurance Services Office). If a claim has been reported to this massive database, then you can be sure that your insurer will have access to the information it contains.

 Okay, now to answer the article title question.

Insurance rates are adjusted based upon an actuarial formula. Normally, the title of a person that evaluates risk and determines appropriate rates is called an actuarial risk analyst. This person researches so many factors it is not even funny. After the actuary has pinned down the factors on which the company will evaluate risk (ie, accident history, age, location, vehicle type, employment status, credit history, family size, number of drivers, etc), then the actuary will create a formula that reflects the appropriate charge for each “class” of insured party. The formula is normally incorporated into an underwriting system. If any of your factors change, then it will be updated in the underwriting system and could possibly affect your rate. Many times, the formula allows for certain types of claims to be excluded, and underwriting policies can also affect how the actual rate is charged.

The only way an accident victim can determine if, when and how much their rate will change is to actually contact their insurance company’s underwriting supervisor and directly inquire. Most insurance companies categorize claim types by a point system, and then they base premium charges on the amount of points a person may have.

For example, at-fault claims that cost more than $1500.00 may be assigned two points, and the insurance company may assign a rate increase for every two points. So if you have one accident that is your fault and you caused over $1500.00 in damages, then you will move up on the “risky meter” one notch.

Contact your insurance company directly and ask for the underwriting supervisor, that person should be able to tell you what to expect on your insurance bill following an accident.

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What Does An Insurance Adjuster Do?

A Job Description And The Basic Adjusting Procedures

I’ve written this article to give the layman some basic information as it regards the claims adjusting process.

 What does an insurance Adjuster Do, really?

First let us define the main two types of claims that we will be dealing with, first party claims, and third party claims.

A first party claim means that the insurance policy which is supposed to cover the claim is the policy of the person making the claim. If you are getting paid by your insurance company, then you have a first party claim.

In third party claims, the insurance policy which is supposed to cover the claim is the policy of the person that caused the claim. So if you are getting paid by someone else’s insurance company, you have a third party claim.

It gets a little more complicated when you get into workers compensation claims and healthcare claims, but for this article we’ll stick with private property damage claims. Let me also say that there may be multiple adjusters assigned to any one claim depending on the scope of the claim, so the following rules apply to the claims adjusting process in general.

Basic Rules

 First party claims:

1.  Coverage determination

The insurance adjuster must first determine whether or not there is a valid policy. This may seem simple, but there are many factors that can affect coverage. If the policy is an auto policy, there may be excluded drivers on the policy, or the vehicle may be a work vehicle, or the policy may be a brand new policy and there are questions as to the time that payment was made. The adjuster will have to gather driver information, the date and time of the policy inception, and numerous other factors that could potentially affect the coverage on the policy. As the claim progresses, if new information is obtained that could affect the coverage, the adjuster should put the claim on hold until the coverage question is resolved.

 2.  Damage assessment

After coverage is confirmed, the insurance adjuster will have to figure out how much damage there is.Normally, there is an adjuster (the guy behind the desk), and an appraiser (the guy that goes and takes pictures of damages and writes an estimate).

To determine vehicle damages, an appraiser will most likely use a software program that allows him/her to punch in information about damages. After the appraiser has listed the type of property and the elements of the property that are damaged, the software will generate a dollar amount reflective of the cost to repair the damages. The software that an appraiser uses is very sophisticated and incorporates the “going rate” for labor and also houses a database of parts supplies, both new and used parts. The software that is available on the market today is very effective at determining the amount of labor needed and automatically finding the cheapest parts available.

 3.  Payment

After the adjuster has a damage report, he/she will have to determine if it is acceptable and then issue the appropriate payment. On first party claims, there is almost always a deductible, so provided the estimated damages are in line with what the policy covers, the adjuster will simply request a payment for the damages minus the deductible amount and will send the payment to the owner of the property or the policy holder if they are the same party.

 4.  Supplemental issues

After the damage payment has been issued, the claim should be complete, but many times the damages that are reflected in the repair estimate are not completely accurate. When the property is being repaired, the cost begins to increase due to items that were not on the estimate, or other issues such as weather related delays (when Houston flooded, many collision repair facilities were without power for a while) which may increase the time needed for repair.

If there are additional costs that are covered by the insurance policy, then those will have to be addressed as well. One of these additional costs could be rental car coverage, or in the case of a homeowner’s claim there could be temporary cost of living expenses that have to be adjusted. In any event, the final stage of any first party claim is the supplemental stage where the adjuster confirms the claim is complete or completes the adjustment of the claim by the supplemental charges.

Another item to note is that if a supplement arises due to a repair facility stating that there are more damages than are on the estimate, it is likely that the adjuster will send the appraiser back out to inspect the property and this can take from hours to days, so just be prepared for some delays if you are not using a facility that works with your insurance company all the time.

Insurance companies do not trust anyone, hehe.

 

Third Party Claims

1.  Coverage determination

This first step is always the same. If there is not a valid policy the adjuster can just close the claim down right off the bat, so the first step is always to gather the appropriate facts surrounding the claim to determine the five “w’s”, you know, who, what, when, where and why, except that why is usually replaced with how.

 2.  Liability assessment

So remember we are talking about someone else’s insurance policy that is paying you, and therefore this extra step is involved. Liability can be terribly complex and many times the insurance company will have a little more experienced adjuster handling claims that involve liability. In simple terms, liability just means “who is at fault”. The adjuster will have to review the facts of the claim and interview all the parties to the claim as well as witnesses. Additionally, depending on the complexity of the claim scenario, the adjuster may have to get specialty reports such as a cause and origin report, or complete a scene investigation, or any number of other factors that could affect “who is at fault”.

 3.  Damage assessment

This is the same as in first party claims with one big exception…fault!

The adjuster not only has to determine the damage that is visible, they also have to figure out any other related costs or “intangible” damages that have occurred as a result of the “negligence” or “fault” of their policy holder. This can be complicated if injuries exist, and even more complicated depending on the severity of the injuries and even the location where the accident occurred. What most adjusters won’t say is that there are different views in different areas of the country and depending on what area an accident occurred in, some of the damages that can’t be documented (like pain and suffering or mental anguish) will have a substantially different value.

For example, in New Orleans Parish, LA, it is customary to pay auto accident victims large amounts of money for pain and suffering and mental anguish even if the accident wasn’t that bad and there is not much documentation to show the person incurred an injury. In the alternative, in Dallas County, TX it is much more conservative and if there is a minor injury, there is not going to be a large pain and suffering and mental anguish award.

 4.  Payment and supplements

The processes are the same on third party claims as they are on first party claims when it comes to making payments. Adjusters have monitor repairs and make sure all the related damages are paid for. On a third party claim, one can expect a little more scrutiny when it comes to supplemental payments. The adjuster on a third party claim will review very closely whether or not any additional damage is actually related to the accident in question and will almost always require a re-inspection if damages can’t be repaired for the initial amount that was written on the estimate.

 That’s the basics!

I would like to make the point that whether you have a first party claim, or a third party claim, you have the right to question any damage assessment if it doesn’t seem reasonable. Keep in mind that if you challenge the damage amount as assessed by the insurance company, you will have to pay for another independent or public adjuster to assess the damages for you. A body shop can only negotiate damages based on actual repairs, but a licensed and trained adjuster can write a report that reflects differences of opinion which will force the matter into discussion. On first party claims, look in your policy for a section related to disputing damages (sometimes called the “umpire” clause). For third party claims, make sure you ask for diminished value and get a report from a reputable company like mine (shameless plug) to prove your loss of value after being in an accident!

Good luck!

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What are some tips for dealing with the rental car company after an accident?

Rental Car Companies

How To Note Damages On An Inspection Sheet, Damage Waivers And Tricks Of The Trade

 

Maybe you are on a business trip and have flown to your destination and need a car to get back and forth to the office. Maybe your car has been damaged by a hit and run driver, and you are having to rent a car while yours is getting repaired. Whatever the reason for renting a car, please take heed to the message I am sending in this article.

Rental car companies are tricky!

I use the word tricky because it is the nicest word I can think of to describe what some rental car companies do. Here are some very good tips to use when you are forced to utilize a rental car.

Tip #1:  Make sure you are covered!

First of all, make sure your auto insurance policy will cover a rented vehicle. There are new policies out there that have endorsements added to them that alleviate the insurance carrier from “contractual” liability a.k.a. rental car agreements.

Tip #2:  Inspect, Inspect, Inspect!

Make sure, and I mean make sure, you insist on a pre-rental vehicle inspection form being filled out and get a signed copy of it from a rental company employee (and that employee’s business card if possible). This is normally a sheet that has a very simple drawing of a vehicle on it which the rental company will rush you through filling out. They will normally ask you to place an “x” anywhere on the picture where you see damage on the vehicle.

 Tip #3:  Take your time

During your pre-rental inspection of the vehicle, take your time! Don’t let them rush you and do not miss anything at all, no matter how small it seems. I have experienced rental company employees suggesting that certain damages don’t need to be written down on the inspection form because they are too small to worry about. Do not believe it. Write down everything.

In fact, here are some common areas people miss:

  • Windshield chips and cracks.
  • Stains or tears in the interior upholstery.
  • Rock chips on the front bumper cover or hood.
  • Scratches on the rear bumper.
  • Door handle on rear doors or passenger side doesn’t operate.
  • Rearview mirror is loose.
  • Wheels have scuffs or scratches on them.
  • Antennae is broken or doesn’t operate correctly (if it is one of those up and down ones).
  • Minor door dings.

 Tip #4:  If your insurance doesn’t cover contractual liability, then either bite the bullet and purchase the “damage waiver” from the rental company, or be warned!

 

Okay, so the point is that you might not have coverage for damage to a rental vehicle, and even if you do, make sure that the damage that is already on the vehicle can’t be claimed against your insurance policy. As an insurance adjuster for companies that excluded contractual liability and for companies that paid it, I have seen some crazy claims made by rental companies. I won’t name names, but some of the larger rental car companies are the worst about trying to generate revenue by making what the industry would call “non-meritorious claims”, but not provable as fraud.

An Example

Here’s a new set of numbers reflecting a scenario that I have seen a hundred times or more:

  1.  The renter rents a car (doesn’t see any damage and probably just signed off on a damage inspection form without even knowing it or didn’t notice the little stuff) and has an uneventful trip.
  2.  The rental vehicle is returned to the rental company as it was before the trip.
  3.  The rental company now goes over the vehicle with a fine toothed comb and locates three door dings, multiple scratches on the rear bumper, and three chips in the windshield that have to be repaired. They get the damages estimated and total damages are $742.00. On top of the repair cost, the vehicle will have to be in the shop for three or four days to get all the repairs done, and during the time the vehicle is in the shop, the rental company is “losing money” because they can’t rent the vehicle out.  This is another $120.00 of lost earning potential, and they might even try to claim that the car since it has to be repaired will have suffered some inherent diminished value. Oh, and don’t forget administrative fees because of the time they had to spend preparing the claim and such, that’s another $50.00. They will try whatever they can to make a buck or two at your expense.
  4.  The rental company (if you didn’t get the damage waiver) then makes a claim against your insurance company for the damages (now at over $1000.00) plus the $100.00 it cost them to get the damage appraised.
  5.  Your insurance company (if there is no endorsement relieving them of contractual liability) will have to “entertain” the claim.
  6.  During the entertainment phase, your insurance company is supposed to contact you to see if they can find out what happened (even though no matter what happened you owe the damages because of the rental contract which says you do).
  7.  Since you have no idea what happened and hadn’t read this article, so you don’t have a copy of a pre-rental inspection form showing all the damages were already there, your insurance company will likely make a payment for around $500.00, the real cost of the labor associated with repairing the rental vehicle.
  8.  If you tell your insurance company that the damages were there when you rented the car, and they refuse to pay the rental company, then the rental company will get mad that their trick didn’t work, and they will try to collect the money directly from you, and could even attempt to get it on your credit if you don’t pay. If that happens to you, my advice is to look into your legal remedies under the deceptive trade practices act or consult an attorney.

 

Don’t Get Taken By The Trick

To conclude, by being “tricky”, and being nice to you when you are renting the vehicle as well as when you turn it back in, the rental company has taken advantage of your confidence in them, and either fixed all the wear on their rental vehicle or simply pocketed the money (and will do the same thing on the same vehicle over and over again). All this done at the expense of your claims history and insurance premiums. Did you know that even if an accident is not your fault, it still counts against you if you have to use your own insurance? Most insurance companies assign a point system to the type and severity of a claim.

If you get run into two or three times within a year or two (through no fault of your own), or if you are the victim of theft or vandalism, you can bet that you will be flagged as a high risk because of your “luck” and will eventually have a higher premium. Additionally, most insurance companies have the right to just cancel your policy flat if you have an accident within the first 30 to 60 days of the policy term, even if the accident is not your fault. Don’t let a rental car company trick you, embarrass you, or cause your insurance rates or credit score to be negatively affected!

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How much does a subrogation specialist make?

Insurance Claims Careers: Subrogation Professionals

What Is Subrogation Recovery?

Across the nation there are a plethora of companies that specialize in subrogation recovery. In simple terms, subrogation is the pursuit of reimbursement on insurance claims that should have been paid by somebody else. Essentially, as a subrogation specialist, one would be representing an insurance company by attempting to recover claim payments from the parties that should have paid them in the first place.

As a simple example, imagine that you have been involved in an automobile accident that was not your fault, and that the person that caused the accident is uninsured, so you had to file a claim with your own company.

Here is what the subrogation specialist at your company (if they have a subrogation department) should do:

1.  The specialist will first locate the “at fault” individual and attempt to contact them.

This can be a pretty hard job. Locating people is the main specialty of a good subro specialist. They will have to become an exceptional skiptracer. Skiptracing is the art of locating people that are either hiding or simply “not that stable”.

People that don’t have insurance are probably people that are in the lower income brackets, and they just can’t afford insurance. It is implied that if they can’t afford insurance, then they probably can’t afford a house, and may have a cheap method of staying in touch with friends and family. This presents a problem as they may move frequently, and finding a good mailing address or phone number is going to be hard. Even if you find a good mailing address, the chances are slim that you are going to get a response from sending a letter that says they owe money, hehe (I would throw unknown mail in the trash). So believe me, this is an art, and finding a good phone number is the key, which is where the next point comes into play.

 2.   So if one is unable to locate a good address, then they should start by researching the “common sense” avenues for finding a good address or number, such as canvassing the last known address information, or other tricks I won’t give away, hehe.

If a specialist is working for a valid company, then they will have access to some “special” databases which will provide them with a last known address. The good specialist will search for telephone numbers to businesses and addresses that are nearby to the subject’s address. Practice will make gleaning information from these nearby’s invaluable and soon, the seasoned specialist will have an avenue of contact. Time, training and practice is all it takes; it’s not that hard.

 3.   After locating an avenue of contact, the primary goal is to get the “tortfeasor” on the phone or at least corresponding.

After this contact, the goal is to negotiate some type of resolution to the pending lawsuit (if authorized) or subrogation claim. The thing that is “hard” or maybe I should say “missing”, is the skiptracing and negotiation training.

After location, the negotiation tools of a subrogation specialist make the negotiation part a little easier than it would be for your average consumer debt collector. The thing about subrogation is that it has a little more “teeth” than other types of “collection” (it’s really a tort claim and not a consumer debt except that Washington and Colorado disagree).

In almost every state, there is a law that can allow the subrogation specialist to set into motion a driver license suspension as a result of the “uninsured motorist’s at fault, and uninsured accident”. There are not many specialists that are “exemplary” or highly knowledgeable in this field. Traditionally, a specialist is trained from scratch by a subro company because the pay rate for a specialist is not as high as that of a seasoned and practicing adjuster (which may not make a good recovery specialist anyway). It is changing, but for a long time, the subro adjuster was looked at as a “sub-par” adjuster.

Subrogation is definitely a specialty field, and hands on training, or specialty training is the only way to go. Having some claims adjusting experience is a definite plus, but the right training can make up for the lack of adjusting experience. It is not required to have an adjuster’s license to practice subrogation as the specialist will not actually be adjusting claims.

4.   After having the proper training, an individual with no adjusting experience (or license) can make up to or more than $65K per year.

 Subrogation – Up and Coming Career

If you are looking for a career change and want to get into a specialty, then all you need to do is a little research. Subrogation is still up and coming, and many small insurance companies still do not have an in house specialist. With the proper training, a person can start an awesome career that can help keep everybody’s insurance rates in check. You’d be doing a public service, and the subrogation industry is gaining recognition. Many attorneys now do nothing more than pursue recovery of subrogation claims.

Someone who gets good at the “ins and outs” of subrogation can move up in the world and create a substantial nest egg for themselves while building respect within the humongous insurance industry!

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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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