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Automobile Damage FAQ

Car Repair Questions
Can I control whether my car is repaired or replaced?
How is the market value of my car determined?
What if I am "upside down" on the loan for my car?
Can I choose my own repair shop?
What kind of parts will be used in the repair?
What if my car already had some damage before the accident?
Will I have to pay the towing and storage costs?
What about license and registration fees that I had to pay to drive the car?

Rental Car Questions
What if I need a rental car? Do I have to pay for it while my car is being repaired?
What kind of rental car am I entitled to?
Should I purchase any extra insurance on the rental car provided to me?

Can I control whether my car is repaired or replaced?

This can be a difficult issue. For most people, getting back into their own vehicle, so long as it is safe, is a priority. Normally, the insurance company has the option to either repair or replace your vehicle, depending on whether it costs less to replace your vehicle than to repair it. If this is the case, the insurance company will declare your vehicle a "total loss," and take action to replace your vehicle. If your car is declared a "total loss," the insurance company buys your car for its market value (see below), which can be difficult to determine in some cases. If you wish to keep the wrecked car, you may purchase it back from the insurance company for its salvage value. The insurance adjuster can deduct the salvage value from the settlement and you can keep the car.

Often the situation is reversed, and the insurance company chooses to repair a vehicle rather than replace it. In this case, if you are concerned about the safety of the repaired vehicle, you should contact our office to discuss your options.

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How is the market value of my car determined?

You are entitled to recover the "fair market value" or the "actual cash value" of your vehicle immediately before the accident. One common source used to estimate fair market value is the Kelley Blue Book. Other sources of information are the local newspaper or the Auto Trader, which may list the for-sale price of cars of the same make, model, and year as yours. Occasionally, an expert vehicle appraiser is used to help prove the value of your vehicle.

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What if I am "upside down" on the loan for my car?

If you owe more money on the loan for the car than the fair market value of the car, you are "upside down" on the loan. Unfortunately, if your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company is not required to pay more money to you simply because you are "upside down" with your car loan. They are only obligated to pay the "fair market value" of your car.

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Can I choose my own repair shop?

Yes. You always have the right to decide who will repair your vehicle; however, the cost of the repair is not always determined by the estimate given by the repair facility of your choosing.

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What kind of parts will be used in the repair?

You have the right to demand that only original manufacturer parts be used in the repair. So if your car is a Pontiac, you should receive genuine Pontiac (GM) parts. Since your car was probably not new at the time of the accident, however, the mechanic may use refurbished or reconditioned parts.

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What if my car already had some damage before the accident?

If your vehicle had damage to it prior to the accident, it can be difficult to determine exactly what portion of the damage was caused by the accident itself. For example, if your car has a mechanical problem, the insurance company may claim that it existed prior to the accident if some evidence indicates that there was substantial pre-accident wear and tear. Therefore, it is important that you prove the connection between the auto accident and the damage you are claiming. Ordinarily, mechanics and collision repair personnel can help to prove the age of body damage or the cause of a mechanical failure. They can assist to convince the insurance company that the auto accident caused the damage you are claiming.

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Will I have to pay the towing and storage costs?

In most cases, unless there is a dispute as to who was at fault in the accident, the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident will pay the reasonable towing and storage costs (if necessary) of your car. After evaluating the vehicle, if the insurance company declares the car a total loss, they will have the car moved to a wrecking yard or a free storage area. If you refuse to allow the insurance company to move your car, however, you will have to pay the storage costs from the day of your refusal forward, or you can pay to have it towed to your home.

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What about license and registration fees that I had to pay to drive the car?

In order to drive your vehicle, you had to pay a tag fee and registration fees. In some states, you may be entitled to be reimbursed for the prorated amount of these costs that are unused. The insurance company may also reimburse you for tag transfer fees and, in some cases, a prorated amount of sales tax on the actual cash value of the car at the time of the accident.

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What if I need a rental car? Do I have to pay for it while my car is being repaired?

If you caused the accident, or if there is a dispute over who is to blame, then you must either pay for the rental car yourself or seek coverage under your own insurance policy if rental coverage is available. Many insurance contracts do not provide for rental coverage for their own customers, so you need to contact your insurance agent to determine what coverage exists. If the other driver is at fault, then we will demand that the insurance company for the person who caused the accident provide you with a rental car for the time needed to repair your vehicle. Sometimes, you must pay the rental car bill first, with reimbursement coming from the insurance company later.

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What kind of rental car am I entitled to?

The insurance company has to pay for the reasonably incurred rental cost of a substitute vehicle. Often, there are disputes as to what qualifies as a "substitute" vehicle. Essentially, it should be a vehicle of similar quality, within the confines of what is available for rent.

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Should I purchase any extra insurance on the rental car provided to me?

Your own insurance policy should cover you while driving the rental car, but you should call your insurance agent to be sure that you are covered. The other driver's insurance company is not required to pay for additional insurance if you choose to purchase it from the car rental company.

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