I Can’t Drive My Car. Now What?
Getting into an automobile accident can leave you with debilitating injuries. It’s easy to focus on receiving compensation for lost wages and your pain and suffering since they are immediate needs. Don’t forget about recouping the loss of your vehicle.
It may be weeks or even months before you can drive again, so the condition of your vehicle (and whether it’s a complete loss or can be repaired) may be the furthest thing from your mind. Waiting to act can leave you stranded without transportation.
Property damage liability for car accidents
Automobile insurance providers require property damage liability coverage. It pays for any damages to another person’s property when you’re involved in an accident. Other vehicles, homes, fences, and any personal property inside the vehicle at the time of the accident are included under property damage liability insurance.
Sometimes the insurance payout doesn’t adequately cover all damage costs. When that happens, you can sue for the balance.
Property damage liability vs. collision coverage
There’s a difference between property damage liability and collision coverage for automobiles. Property damage liability pays for repairs when you destroy someone else’s property. Collison coverage pays to repair your vehicle (after the deductible) if you’re the at-fault party or the other driver doesn’t have insurance coverage.
Auto insurance requirements in New Mexico dictate that all drivers must carry insurance coverage while behind the wheel. New Mexico has minimum auto liability insurance amounts:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person.
- $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons.
- $10,000 for property damage in any one accident.
Additional coverage for physical damage is available and advisable if you have a newer vehicle. Insurance agents can best advise on how much coverage is needed. Keep in mind that just because you’re well-insured doesn’t mean the at-fault driver in the crash carries the same coverage. That’s when it’s time to consult an attorney skilled in property damage liability cases.
Property damage claims vs. personal injury claims
Some accident victims mistakenly assume that a personal injury claim covers the loss of their vehicle. Not true. The only commonality between personal injury and property damage claims is that they often come from the same incident. However, they require very different courses of legal action to recoup your losses.
Personal injury claims address things like medical treatment for your injuries and any ongoing care required to fully recover. They also can seek reimbursement for lost wages and fair compensation for your pain and suffering.
Property damage claims strictly cover damage to your property, including your vehicle and any personal effects inside that were destroyed during the accident.
Not all attorneys handle property damage claims. At Cameron & Russell, our attorneys are skilled in both personal injury and property damage lawsuits. We can ensure you’re fully covered on both fronts if a lawsuit becomes necessary.
Property damage claims: four factors
If you’ve decided to consult with an attorney about recouping the difference between the damage amount and what the insurance pays, there are four factors your attorney considers when preparing your car accident property damage claim.
Your vehicle’s diminished value
When you’re involved in an accident – even when someone else is at fault – your vehicle loses value. All accidents reported to insurance companies and police departments are added to your CARFAX history report. Your vehicle is worth less at resale or trade-in time thanks to someone else’s carelessness. You can recoup those costs as part of a property damage claim.
Your loss of use costs
Losing the use of your vehicle might be the furthest thing from your mind after an accident, especially if you have serious injuries. You’re unlikely to think about it until you need reliable transportation and don’t have it. Some families only have one vehicle, so loss of use can be devastating.
A competent property damage attorney can include loss of use costs into a claim against the at-fault driver. The sooner action is taken, the better the outcome.
Your total repair costs
If the insurance company doesn’t deem your vehicle a total loss, it may offer a settlement amount for making repairs. Oftentimes, the sum they suggest doesn’t cover the cost of all repairs. The last thing you need is to pay the balance when someone else was at fault for the damages.
Never pay out of pocket when this happens. Experienced property damage liability attorneys know how to go after the responsible party for the difference.
Your total loss value
One of the worst things that can happen is to have a vehicle end up a total loss after an accident. Then, you’re stuck trying to find a replacement. Insurance companies may not pay for the full value of your car. Even if they do, it still may not be enough to find a suitable replacement in today’s marketplace, where the value of used cars has jumped more than 40 percent.
Filing a car accident property damage claim is your best recourse. Your attorney can negotiate a higher settlement to ensure you don’t have to pay out of pocket to replace your damaged property.
Rely on the personal injury experts
Not many personal injury law attorneys bother with advising their clients about the importance of addressing the damage to their vehicles during case consultations. Some don’t see it as worth their effort because it’s not a money-making service.
Bill Russell cares about his clients and wants to ensure they have all the help they need following a car accident.