Do you have to repair your car after an accident?
Car insurance will reimburse drivers for medical expenses they incur to treat injuries they received in an accident, and for repairs to their damaged vehicles. When an auto accident causes no medical injuries, an insurance company may just send the driver a check to cover the repair costs for vehicle damage.
Accident victims have asked the Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Law Corporation if they have to repair their cars after an accident. In some cases you might not be required to use insurance funds to repair your damaged car, but your decision not to repair your car can have adverse consequences. You may want to discuss the specifics of your situation with a personal injury attorney.
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You should repair your car if you are financing or leasing it
In all likelihood, your car loan or lease agreement obligates you to maintain and repair your car while the loan or lease is pending. The lender or leaser might even be listed as an additional party in your car insurance, and may require you to take the car to an authorized repair facility to complete the repairs. Review your loan or lease contract if you are not sure of your obligations. If you do not understand that contract, ask an experienced car accident attorney for assistance and advice. In all cases you will remain responsible for the balance on the loan regardless of damage to the car.
Failure to repair your car might cause a problem if you have another accident
Insurance reimbursement for damage to a car is generally specific to individual accidents or events. If your car suffers damage in a second accident, an insurer can deny reimbursement for repairs to damages that were caused by a prior accident. If the damages are not easily distinguished, an insurer might reduce the total amount of reimbursement for damages caused in the second accident.
An insurance company can terminate damage coverage if you do not repair the car
Your insurance contract might obligate you to make repairs after an accident as a condition to continue your insurance coverage for physical damage to your car. Your insurance agent or car accident lawyer can review your insurance contract to clarify this obligation for you.
You should repair your car if accident damages affect the car’s safety systems
The car will probably be undriveable if the accident deployed the car’s airbags or if other critical safety systems were affected. You might be tempted to ignore other damage, such as small windshield cracks or broken headlamps. If you are in another accident in California or any other comparative negligence state, however, your failure to make repairs can be used against you to argue that your lack of diligence was a contributing factor in a potential subsequent accident. Your damages can then be reduced in proportion to your fault in causing that second accident.
For very minor repairs, you may not want to file an insurance claim.
Insurance claims can increase your car insurance premiums. Talk to your insurance agent to determine how much of an premium increase you will face if you file a claim and compare that increase to the repair costs. If the damage to your car is minor and no other vehicles were involved in an accident, you might consider foregoing any repairs or just paying for the repairs yourself without making a claim on your insurance.
Failing to make repairs will reduce the value of the vehicle
Regardless of whether you make an insurance claim, a damaged car obviously has a lower value than a car that is repaired and well-maintained. If you are turning that car in at the end of the lease, you will probably be charged more for the repairs at that time. If you are trading the car in for another vehicle, the unrepaired car’s trade-in value will be substantially lower.
Do not commit insurance fraud
Under California’s insurance regulations, an insurance company can issue a check that is payable jointly to the driver and the repair shop. If the repair shop’s name is on the check, you should not attempt to cash the check and use the funds for anything except repairs to the car.
Call the Ellis Law Corporation before you accept an insurance company’s settlement offer
Andy Ellis is an experienced attorney who leads a team of expert injury lawyers at Ellis Law Corporation. He has helped hundreds of car accident victims recover damages for their injuries and compensation to cover the full costs of repairing their cars after automobile accidents. Call us or see our website to schedule an appointment with Mr. Ellis or one of his Los Angeles team members if you have questions about how to use reimbursements from car insurance companies, or you want information about any other aspect of recovering the maximum compensation that may be available after you have had a car accident in California. One of the Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Law will provide a complimentary review of your case.