The first thing most victims of motor vehicle accidents are concerned about following a collision is not their health, it is their car. Initially, I thought this was very odd and somewhat frustrating when I started practicing law. I used to think that the victims should be more focused and concerned about their health and medical treatment as opposed to their vehicle, but now, I understand that many injured victims will try to “deal with their pain” so that they can return to work to support their families. However, they cannot return to work if they do not have a way to get there . . .
So what can you expect if your car has been damaged in a collision?
Report the Claim
I would ensure that the claim has been reported to the at-fault-driver’s insurance carrier. While the other driver may have provided their insurance information on the police report, it does not always mean that they have reported the accident to their insurance carrier. Take some time to go ahead and submit the claim to the insurance company yourself. Do not wait for someone to call you as this can take days if not weeks.
If the at-fault-driver’s insurance refuses to cooperate and/or accept liability, you can always submit the claim to your own insurance company and let them worry about getting paid back from the other insurance company. (This should not raise your rates so long as the collision was not your fault).
Body Shop Selection
I generally advise my client’s to take their car to any body shop that they feel comfortable with and not the recommended by the insurance carrier. While the insurance “preferred” body shop may be an excellent shop, it is your car and you are the one that has to be satisfied with the repairs, so I would recommend choosing the one you are comfortable with. It may even be the “preferred shop.”
However, if you were at-fault for the collision, your insurance contract may require you to use one of their “preferred” shops. If this is so, then they may have to guarantee the work.
Most clients are immediately concerned about whether or not they will receive a rental car as they still have to go to work, take care of their families and typically, do not have any other means of transportation.
If the other party was at-fault for causing the collision, then you will be entitled to a rental car for the reasonable time it takes to repair your vehicle. The responsible party has to pay for the reasonably incurred rental cost of a substitute vehicle. The substitute vehicle should be a vehicle that is similar to your vehicle.
Can I receive Compensation for Diminished Value?
Yes. Many clients are concerned that even if their vehicle is repaired properly, the value of their car will have been reduced since it has now been involved in a collision. The Ohio courts will allow you to pursue a claim for diminished value; however, these claims can be more difficult and timely to pursue.
What if my car is considered “totaled?”
In Ohio, a vehicle is considered a “total loss” if it is not repairable or when it is possible to repair the vehicle but the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the vehicle when it is restored. If your vehicle is considered a “total loss” and you were not at-fault for causing the collision, you are entitled to receive the fair market value of the vehicle immediately before the collision less the salvage value of the wreckage. You may also be entitled to applicable taxes, license fees as well as sales taxes on the purchase of another vehicle if it is purchased within 30 days of the property damage settlement.
How is the Fair Market Value Calculated?
The Ohio Administrative Code sets forth several ways for insurance companies to calculate the “fair market value”; however, most insurance companies will use one of three methods to determine your car’s actual cash value:
(1) the average cost of two or more comparable vehicles (same year, make, model with similar condition and miles);
(2) the average of two or more quotations from local dealers; or the most common
(3) an electronic database generated and maintained by a private company which reportedly maintains information about motor-vehicle prices in your local market.
(Note: there have been class action cases filed against similar companies such as: CCC Value Scope and/or CCC Information Services, so you will want to ensure that their reports are accurate).
Does the Insurance Company have to Pay What I Owe on the Car?
Unfortunately, the law in Ohio does not require the at-fault driver or their insurance company to pay for the balance of your car loan. As stated above, you are only entitled to recover the fair market value of your vehicle. Therefore, if you still owe $12,000.00 on the vehicle and the vehicle’s fair market value is only $10,000.00, then you will still owe about $2,000.00.
How can I determine How Much My Car is Worth?
There are a variety of sources on-line that can assist you in determining the approximate value of your car. For instance:
(3) www.dispatch.com (look at the classifieds for a similar year, make, model and mileage vehicle)
If you believe your vehicle is worth more than what the insurance company is offering you, you need to prove why it is worth more. Visit the sites listed above and/or any other similar sites, download examples of cars for sale in your local area which are similar year, make, model, and mileage to your car. If the insurance company’s estimates or evaluations are incorrect or do not adequately represent your vehicle, be sure to explain why to the insurance adjuster and have proof of why it is not correct.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of other issues related to property damages claims such as: the right to use new or used parts; GAP insurance; fair market value is less than the balance on the loan; do I have to accept their offer; and can I retain my “total loss vehicle?” If you have a question that has not been addressed here, please feel free to contact our office for further assistance.
If you, your family member or friend have any questions concerning these issues, please feel free to give me a call to discuss the matters in a confidential setting. You may reach our office toll-free at (855) 2-BUCKEYE or (855) 228-2539; locally at (614) 799-2800 or after normal working hours at (614) 515-5098. You can also send email requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also visit us online at: www.buckeyelaw and www.zandhlpa.com.
E. Ray Critchett, Partner.