Whether you were injured in a car accident or not, you still need to deal with the property damage to your vehicle. How do you get full and fair value for the damage to your vehicle? How do you make sure that the insurance company is not taking advantage of you?
Our lawyers represent represent clients in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. As part of our service for our clients, we also help them get fair value for the damage to their vehicles from their insurance companies.
You can call 612-338-0202 for a free case review with one of our lawyers.
10 Tips for Getting Fair Value for Your Car Damage
- Get a Copy of the Insurance Company Appraisal. When the insurance adjuster finds out that your vehicle is a total loss, they contact a company that performs a market survey of vehicles similar to yours to determine its value. They do this by keeping a database of classified advertisements, inspecting some vehicles at dealerships, and looking at past evaluations of similar vehicles. Insurance companies often do not include vehicles that are priced higher than what they want to pay in their survey; thus, the average price they generate is often lower than actual market conditions. You have a right to a copy of this report. When the person from the insurance company contacts you (the adjuster) and makes an appraisal of your vehicle, request a copy of it.
- Don’t Accept First Offer. Do not accept the insurance company’s first offer. If you do some research, you can probably get more.
- Do Your Own Research or Contact One of Our Auto Accident Attorneys. You should do your own market research right away. The best place to start is by searching the Internet. Thousands of automobiles are advertised on the Internet at any given time. Search the internet by car make, model, and location within a certain mile radius. Look at the prices within 40 miles of your home that are the same make and model as yours (although keep in mind that a year older or newer than yours is also considered “comparable”). Click on the listing to get more detailed information. Print out the details for the 10 highest priced. Also look in the auto classified section of your local paper. Make copies of ads that favorably price your vehicle. If all else fails, call an auto dealer and ask what they believe is the market price of the same year, make and model of your vehicle equipped with similar options. Have them fax or write their answers to you. Average all the figures to get an idea of the true market value.
- Find Out the Blue Book Price. “They didn’t offer me Blue Book price, why not?” This is a common question. The answer is that no law requires an insurer to pay for the loss of your automobile based on the Kelly Blue Book or any other price/value book. It is simply evidence of what a reasonable sum might be and for that reason you should also use it in coming up with a counter proposal to the insurer’s offer. Chances are, the Blue Book value is higher than what the insurance company offered you. Find your vehicle’s Blue Book value, and let the adjuster know what that is.
- Send the Insurance Adjuster Information on Comparables. When the insurance company sends you its market survey results, chances are that none of the “comparables” you found will be on it. You should then mail or fax your research to the insurance adjuster and ask him/her to raise the original offer in light of the higher values your research has uncovered.
- Read the Insurance Company Report. Read the insurance company report very carefully. It’s supposed to contain comparable values for vehicles available in your area. Many of the vehicles they claim are available in the local market area are neither available nor in the local market. Highlight vehicles that are over 75 miles away. Also highlight ads that are over 3 months old. When you write or speak with the adjuster, tell him/her how many vehicles were either not available or not in the local market. Explain that this makes the report flawed. In addition, certain vehicles on the report may have extra information to document the comparison between it and your vehicle. Verify all this information by calling the dealer or source. If the company claims to have made an inspection, call the dealer to see if they remember anyone inspecting it. If you have time, go look at the vehicle yourself. It may be in far worse condition than yours.
- Get Value for Options. Options make a world of difference in valuation. Everyone knows that a car with power windows, power locks, air conditioning, a cassette player, deluxe interiors, etc. is more valuable than one lacking those options. The problem is that insurance companies do not figure in options at their full value in determining fair market value. By Minnesota Statute (§72A.201 Subd. 5(9)), it is an unfair settlement practice to “reduce or attempt to reduce for depreciation any settlement or any offer of settlement for items not adversely affected by age, use, or obsolescence.” When insurance companies add on only a few hundred dollars at most for all the options you have, they are depreciating them. For example, if the car has a working AM/FM cassette, you should get the full value of that AM/FM cassette player, not something far less. Use Kelly Blue Book to find the retail value as the car was actually equipped. Then compare it with the same model lacking those options. The difference between the two is what you should argue the insurance company should add to the value. This can be a significant amount.
- Send Pre-Crash Pictures. Emphasize the good points. If your automobile is older, but with low mileage, this should add value. The same is true if it was in good shape. If you have pictures of it from before the crash, make sure you send copies to the adjuster.
- Be Polite, Yet Firm. The way you present yourself can influence the insurance company’s willingness to offer a fair price. Be polite, yet firm. If all goes well, they will probably offer a higher amount. If you don’t get a reasonable offer, the law allows you to take them to small claims if the amount in question is under $7,500. Advise the adjuster that you are willing to take that step, if necessary.
- Know the Law. Every state has laws governing traffic collisions and auto insurance. An attorney will help you understand your legal rights and remedies under Minnesota law.
We hope these tips about your property damage claim help you achieve a fast and fair settlement of your claim.
Below is additional information:
- Which Attorney Should I Hire?
- Failure to Yield Right-of-Way in Minnesota
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
- Can I Sue a Drunk Driver?
- Minnesota Truck Accident Lawyer