Is a Car Considered Property Damage?
After a car accident, property damage usually refers to damage caused to a vehicle by the at-fault driver. However, property damage is not confined to cars in an insurance settlement.
You must file a property damage claim with your insurer. The insurance company will determine the fair market value (FMV) of the car, as of the time before the collision. The FMV is used to consider whether the vehicle is salvageable.
Property damage claims after a car accident are generally straightforward, but there are exceptions. If there is strong evidence that the insurance company is not valuing your property damage claim correctly, a Southern California car accident lawyer at Ellis Injury Law can help you receive compensation for the true value of your property. For more than 25 years, we have helped clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Repairable or total loss
Car accident property damage falls into two basic types:
- Repairs – If the insurance adjuster determines that the vehicle is worth fixing, it will authorize payment for such repairs. However, there is a deductible on the insurance policy, and that amount is deducted from the claim. For example, if the insurer authorized $5,000 in repairs, and your deductible was $1,000, you would only receive $4,000.
- Total loss – When the cost to repair the vehicle is more than its FMV, the insurance company declares it a “total loss.” You will only receive the FMV for the vehicle, even if you could not find a comparable car for that amount. Under California law, the value of the vehicle is based on at least two “comps” of similar vehicles listed as sold or for sale within the past 90 days.
If your vehicle is totaled, you may have the option of keeping it for its salvage value. Some drivers might think it worthwhile to pay for the repairs above the FMV out-of-pocket since the replacement of the vehicle is not easy. The check for the total loss is somewhat less, as it reflects the car’s salvage value. The owner must also apply for a salvage certificate from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It is not uncommon for the car owner to disagree with the insurance company’s valuation. Disputing this valuation requires evidence. The insurer is going by a basic Blue Book value for your vehicle. If you have recent photos and other proof that the car was in excellent condition, or that it was substantially upgraded, you may have a claim.
Classic vehicles are often worth more than their book value, especially if significant restoration takes place. A qualified appraiser can document the true value of the vehicle. An appraiser is necessary for any dispute over the property value of a car with an insurer.
An attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. If there is a huge differential between the car’s value and what the insurance company is willing to pay, consider filing a lawsuit.
Other types of property damage
Car accident attorneys will ask clients to list any other property damaged in the vehicle due to the accident. That might include laptops, phones, glasses, or other items. The value of these items becomes part of the property damage claim.
Property damage also involves damage to fences, walls, buildings, landscaping, and anything else marred at the scene of the accident. The party filing the claim in this instance is the owner or manager of the site.
The statute of limitations for filing a property damage claim in California is three years from the accident date.
Under California law, motorists must carry at least $5,000 in property damage liability (PDL) coverage. Even if the motorist carries more than the minimum, a crash causing significant damage may put the insured above their coverage limit.
If the driver had $10,000 worth of PDL coverage but your vehicle repair costs were twice that, the driver may prove responsible for the difference. You may have to file a lawsuit against the driver to recoup the balance of your expenses.
Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer
If your car was damaged due to another driver’s negligence, you need the services of the experienced car accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law. We will review your case during a free consultation. Schedule an appointment by calling or texting 24/7 or submitting our online form.