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!
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.
- Never assume anything
- Listen hard
- Keep notes
- Research on your own
- Remember that what you believe is true is always an opinion
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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):
- Unsubstantiated opinions
- Bad research or advice (also known as ignorance)
- Apathy towards the opposition’s goals
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.
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.
- Is your automobile newer than a 2005 model?
- Is your vehicle one of the following – a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes or Audi?
- Are you younger than 35 years old?
- Did you take an ambulance to the emergency room from the scene of the accident?
- Were there any witnesses (other than your passengers, friends or family members) that saw the accident occur?
- Was the accident someone else’s fault?
- Were there more than two vehicles involved in the accident?
- Did you or any of your passengers bleed as a result of the accident?
- Have you had 2 or less auto accidents in your lifetime?
- Have you already filed a claim and spoken with an insurance adjuster?
- Did you lose any time from work as a result of the accident?
- Do you believe that staff adjusters at an insurance company are paid to settle claims for as low of an amount as possible?
- 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?
- Do you agree that it is true when a vehicle sustains damages to its frame that it should be totaled?
- 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!
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
- 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?
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.
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
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:
- Believe the kid
- Believe you
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here’s a new set of numbers reflecting a scenario that I have seen a hundred times or more:
- 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.
- The rental vehicle is returned to the rental company as it was before the trip.
- 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.
- 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.
- Your insurance company (if there is no endorsement relieving them of contractual liability) will have to “entertain” the claim.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
A Loss With Many Names
Most consumers know that this type of loss happens, but they just don’t know how to properly document the loss, and there are very few insurance companies that will offer to calculate it for the consumer because that would just mean more money out of the insurance company’s pocket.
When consumers search for help, they sometimes misspell the actual terms and come up with less than optimum help. It is not diminition of value….it has a “u” in it, hehe. I have seen such misspellings as demiciated value, depreciated value, diminishment of value, and depreciation of value. I had to put in all the possible variations so I could make sure you find us for the help you need – the spelling is tricky so make sure to spell it right and you will come across some better resources!
What Are The Factors That Must Exist For Diminished Value?
In almost every state in the US, it is possible to recover diminished value if certain circumstances exist. I will list out the most probable set of factors one must have in order to successfully recover diminished value but first, one must have a firm grasp on what diminished value is in order to properly document it for use in an actual claim.
1. Repair related diminished value
Repair related diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains due to improper or substandard work performed at a collision or repair facility.
Most repair shops will provide a written guarantee of their work, so this type of diminished value is becoming less and less available and repair techniques and available repair tools are becoming more and more advanced. Additionally, unless a consumer is forced into using a specific repair facility (which is illegal in most states), it is a very hard type of claim to pursue. If there are terrible repairs, then the problem is between the consumer and the body shop. It will likely require quite a bit of legwork and a professional to actually document the faulty repairs.
2. Estimate related diminished value
Estimate related diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains due to the manner a repair estimate is written.
This is not a super common type of diminished value, either, but it comes about when an appraiser or adjuster elects to write an estimate that includes things such as repairs when the part or component should have been replaced, or things like utilizing aftermarket parts that are not completely compatible with the subject vehicle. This kind of diminished value also requires special expertise in order to properly document.
3. Inherent diminished value
Inherent diminished value is the loss in value that a vehicle sustains simply because it has been in a wreck.
Ask most anybody whether or not they would like to pay $5000.00 for a 1998 Honda Accord with 100,000 miles on it that has never been wrecked, or if they would like to pay $5000.00 for an identical 1998 Honda Accord that was involved in a wreck and repaired. I would be willing to bet that most people would opt for the vehicle that was never wrecked. There is just a stigma associated with a vehicle being in a wreck, you know? Unfortunately, even this type of diminished value will probably require an expert to document.
So, you can see that the easiest and most common type is an inherent diminished value claim that is pursuable, so when can you successfully recover this type of loss?
Does Your Claim Qualify?
If the following factors apply to your claim, then it is probably worth it to hire a professional and have them write an official diminished value report:
- The accident was not your fault.
- The at fault party has insurance or you have uninsured motorist coverage.
- Your vehicle is newer than a 2002 model vehicle.
- The damage estimate was at least $2000.00.
- Your car was not deemed a total loss.
If you have all five factors above, then you need to ask your adjuster to address the diminished value and go from there. Most likely, the adjuster will require that you make a formal demand for the claim, so if that happens, just write a letter and ask the insurance company to pay you some amount of money for the diminished value. You could do some research, but if you are not a trained (and normally a license is required) adjuster the value you ask for won’t hold much water, so unless the company just offers up an acceptable amount, you need to find a specialist to write you a report.
The cost for a diminished value report can be up to $400.00, but you can find good specialists to write a report for far less that will hold muster in front of a judge or jury. Do your research and find somebody that will talk to you over the phone and give you some assistance in preparing cover letters or at the very least, somebody that will actually inspect your vehicle and not just provide you with a formula or have you fill out an online form. The specialist should be willing to testify in court on behalf of their report if needed.
That’s it and good luck!
There Is No Formula!
Do not be fooled into believing that a formula can accurately determine your vehicle’s diminished market value.
Diminished Value – It Takes Research….Lots Of It!
First of all, the reason formulas exist is to simplify the calculation of values. It is not simple to calculate diminished value in a reputable manner. It takes research, and a lot of it.
If an individual or company could prove that a formula would incorporate every factor that is relevant to diminished value, and if the formula would automatically adjust for past market trends and future market trends, then maybe (and I mean maybe) a formula might come close to determining an accurate diminished value on an automobile. There is simply no database that contains market trend data on every private passenger automobile from 10 years ago up to 10 years in the future. Unless one is a bonafide prophet and certifiable encyclopedia of past market trends, vehicle sales data and consumer mindsets, there is no way to create a formula that will reflect accurate diminished value.
How To Calculate Diminished Value Accurately
So how the heck is diminished value calculated, you say? It is calculated on a case by case basis by taking into consideration the exact market in which the vehicle is housed, the damage that the vehicle sustained, the quality of the repairs that were made to the vehicle and expert research into the methods used by purchasers to value the subject vehicle within the applicable market.
I know that’s a mouthful, but that is what it takes. Not to mention knowing the tendencies of the venue if litigation is required and taking into consideration all the specialty condition adjustments that need to be made to properly evaluate a vehicle’s desirability within any applicable market.
I guarantee that one person’s 2005 Ford F-150 will have different options, dings and nicks, and usage history than another person’s 2005 Ford F-150. I would also be surprised to see the exact same mileage or ownership history on two vehicles of the identical make and model.
In conclusion, formulas for calculating diminished value are acceptable only if the victim of diminished value agrees that the final value is acceptable compensation, but the formulas are never acceptable on their own merit and are ridiculously lacking on actual data to support values that are just “plugged into the formula”. If there is a base loss of value percentage to be used (like in the 17c formula), wouldn’t you like to know how that percentage was calculated and if the data that was used to calculate the percentage was based upon the market for your specific vehicle? I would.
Sometimes it’s just in the Petty Details! Good luck.
This is intended to help you understand what it takes and how you can increase your chances of actually recovering your diminished value claim.
1. Write a formal letter demanding payment for the lost value you believe you have sustained.
In this step, there is no need to actually determine the amount, simply demand more than you expect to receive. The trick to this step is to follow-up and get a written response to your demand. Do not give up! I’m telling you, the squeaky wheel gets the oil / grease! Maybe you will get paid just based off your initial letter (it has happened). If you get a written denial, move on to steps two through five and make another written demand with your revised findings after completing the steps.
2. Call dealerships in your area and beg them to give you a written opinion on the lost value your vehicle has sustained.
If you are a smooth enough talker, you can normally convince a dealer to help you document your loss. I have never met a dealer that doesn’t agree that a vehicle loses value after being in an accident and repaired.
3. In addition to trying to get dealer data, look up the value of your vehicle using industry standard guides, like NADA, Kelley Blue Book, or Edmunds.
These sources clearly indicate differences in value based on the condition and history of the vehicle.
4. Search online auctions and vehicle sale sites and call individuals that have similar vehicles for sale.
Ask individuals how they feel about the value of a vehicle after it has been wrecked and repaired.
5. Use the new information obtained in steps 2 through 4 to make a follow-up demand with new amounts.
If you get denied again and all else fails, hire a specialist to document your loss and prepare to sue. There are official rules about how one must document diminished value, and experts in this field know how to document your loss professionally so that it will hold up in a court of law. Most of the time after getting an expert report, the insurance company suddenly becomes a little more reasonable.
Don’t Give Up On Your Diminished Value Claim!
In summary, if you don’t give up and you genuinely have a diminished value claim, then the insurance company will likely pay your claim without the need for you filing a lawsuit. If you can’t get your claim settled and you need to take legal action, either hire an attorney or learn how to use the small claims court system in your area. If you need professional assistance or just free information about how to get paid for diminished value after accident damages, then just remember that information is always free at Petty Details, LLC!
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:
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
- 1. In order to file a small claims suit in Texas, your total damages cannot be more than $10,000
- 2. You can only sue for monetary damages, not for the return of property or for an order to make somebody do something
- 3. You can only sue for your own damages, not for somebody else’s, even if they assign you the right to sue.
- 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. Unless you are suing for the breach of a contract, you only have 2 years to initiate suit
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Make it short and sweet. No more than 1 minute should be used to make your opening statement.
- Tell the judge who did what, when they did it, and how much damage it caused you, and then shut up.
- 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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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).
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
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!