Can I Sue If There Are No Injuries in a Car Accident?
Car accidents happen every day in San Antonio. Some of these cause serious injuries, while others leave victims with only damage to their vehicles. Even when a car crash doesn’t cause injury, significant property damage can be a huge burden for accident victims. When this is the case, those involved often wonder if they can file a lawsuit for those damages alone.
Personal injury law, as its name suggests, does require that a victim has suffered an injury for there to be a case. As such, filing a lawsuit is not usually appropriate when a crash only caused property damage.
However, property damage is still a loss, and as the property owner, you may be entitled to compensation for that loss. To get it, you can file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company and possibly even your own insurance company. Due to the fact that you don’t typically need the help of an attorney with these claims, below are some tips for dealing with the insurance company.
Property Damage Claims Vs. Personal Injury Claims
Many people think that property damage claims and personal injury claims are one and the same. They are not. While a personal injury attorney will often take on a property damage claim in conjunction with a personal injury claim, they typically will not take on a property damage claim alone. This is for several reasons.
Liability: The first is that the dispute in a property damage claim typically revolves around the value of the loss. Personal injury claims, on the other hand, revolve around determining liability. Insurance companies don’t usually argue over the fact that someone is entitled to compensation in a property damage claim. They only disagree with the amount the property owner is requesting.
Value: Property damage claims are also valued at far less than personal injury claims. This is one reason insurance companies are typically more likely to pay out on them. Property damage claims rarely exceed $5,000, with most being valued at around $2,000. Personal injury claims, however, can require much higher compensation amounts. This is why it’s worth it for victims to have a personal injury attorney on their side.
Time: With large personal injury claims, investigations are required and accident reconstruction must often take place. There is a period of discovery and possible depositions. Personal injury claims can take up to a year or more to be resolved, and an attorney in these situations can actually expedite the process. None of that is necessary with a property damage claim. As such, property damage claims are typically settled very quickly, without an attorney, usually in a matter of days or weeks.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault?
Many times, when people are in a car accident that was not their fault, they assume they don’t need a lawyer. Whether or not that’s true depends on the situation.
If you were injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you should speak to a personal injury attorney. These claims are complicated and will rely on you proving the other driver was liable. You’ll also need the compensation provided in a personal injury claim if you are missing work due to your injuries and are dealing with medical expenses. Personal injury claims involve a lengthy process and many resources to prove your case. An attorney can speed up the process and provide those resources, such as expert witnesses.
Due to the fact that property damage claims are not as complex, you likely don’t need an attorney for that. You will, however, need to know how to handle a property damage claim.
Tips for Handling a Property Damage Claim
While the insurance company will likely agree to pay for property damage to your car, they may dispute the amount. They are still an insurance company, and still trying to make a profit, which means offering low settlements. The following tips will help you negotiate the full amount you are entitled to receive.
- Get an estimate: Unless you’re a mechanic, you likely won’t have any idea what to ask the insurance company for until you get the opinion of a professional. If the insurance company requires you to use their repair shop, know you have the right to get a second opinion.
- Determine the fair market value for your vehicle: If your vehicle is a total “write off,” the insurance company will decide it’s better for you to replace the vehicle rather than repair it. When this is the case, you need to know the fair market value for your vehicle.
- Claim the loss: If you can’t use your vehicle, you are entitled to claim that loss, even if you rented another vehicle in the meantime.
Once you understand what you need to know, you can then prepare to negotiate with the insurance company.
How to Negotiate with Your Insurer on a Property Damage Claim?
You should assume, from the first time you speak to the insurance company, that they will dispute the amount of compensation you are requesting. As such, you’ll need to enter into negotiations with them. This is sometimes intimidating, but you’ll be more successful if you follow these tips.
- Know your number: Once you know the fair market value of your car, or how much repairs will cost, you can then ask the insurance company for that amount. Also be sure to include any other losses, such as the fees for a rental car. Don’t tell the insurance adjuster this amount. Just know it’s the amount you’re willing to take.
- Don’t accept the first offer: Insurance companies will never state their best offer right upfront. They expect you to come back with another number, at which point they can increase their first offer slightly.
- Offer a little higher than the number you calculated: Just as you won’t accept the insurance company’s first offer, they likely won’t accept yours, either. Leave yourself some space so you can still get the fair settlement you deserve.
- Ask for explanations: When an insurance adjuster offers a low settlement, ask them why they are valuing your claim is low. If they can provide arguments, you can adjust your demand. You can also make your own arguments about why your claim is worth more than they are saying.
- Get it in writing: Once you and the adjuster have agreed on a settlement number, make sure to get it in writing. This will prevent the insurance company from going back on their word.
After following these tips and coming to a settlement agreement through negotiations, you should receive your payment in a matter of days, or possibly a couple of weeks.
How Is Fair Market Value Determined?
If your vehicle is too costly to repair, or if it cannot be repaired safely or legally, the insurance company must provide you fair market value for the total loss. Most of the time, an insurance company will compare the cost of repairing the vehicle with the value of the car. If the repairs are going to cost more than the value, the insurance company will determine it’s not worthwhile to replace it. When this is their decision, it’s important to know how to determine the fair market value of your car.
The Kelley Blue Book has been the go-to standard for determining the fair market value of vehicles for decades. You can determine the value of your car by simply visiting their website and filling out some basic information about your vehicle. You will need to know the make, model, and year of your car, as well as the mileage on it.
When you are in a dispute with the insurance company over the fair market value of your vehicle, the Texas Department of Insurance can be a great help. This agency has many resources designed to help with insurance-related issues. It also provides a lot of information on accident claims and valuation of losses.
What If I Had Made After-Market Improvements on My Car?
Sometimes, people make after-market improvements on their vehicles. These improvements include parts that were not created by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). They can include stereos and rims, or simply generic parts that were cheaper to replace than parts from the OEM. When this is the case, it’s important to understand that insurance companies may not cover the cost of damage to these after-market improvements.
Can I Sue Someone for Crashing into My Car?
There may come a time when you want to sue someone directly for crashing into your car. In Texas, you can do this through small claims court. These civil courts handle cases involving damages valued at less than $10,000. Typically, attorneys are not involved in the small claims process. If you do wish to have counsel present to protect your rights, they will typically charge a small fee rather than work on a contingency basis.
Still Have Questions About Your Claim? Call Our Personal Injury Attorneys
If you were hurt in a car accident, call our personal injury attorneys now. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, we are committed to helping those hurt in car accidents claim the compensation they are entitled to receive. Contact us online today for your free consultation.