Motor Vehicle Accidents – Property Damage Settlements

by Tyler Ernst

After being involved in a car accident in which you were not at fault, naturally questions arise about the steps that need to be taken to make sure that you are adequately compensated for the injuries and damages you have sustained. In this situation, there may be two separate components to your claim: (1) personal injuries; and (2) property damage. The focus of this article will be on the property damage component of the claim and the various elements that comprise this claim. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and have questions about your property damage claim, the Des Moines attorneys at LaMarca Law Group, P.C. are available for a free consultation to discuss your claim.

Is My Vehicle Totaled?

One of the first questions often asked following an accident is whether a vehicle can be repaired or if it will be deemed a total loss by the insurance company. The insurance company for the at-fault party will likely send an adjuster to inspect your vehicle to assess the damage. In some cases, the insurance company may request that you take your vehicle to a repair facility to obtain an estimate. It is important to note that you do not have any obligation to take your vehicle to a particular repair facility, even if it has been recommended by the insurance company. As the repair facility will be inspecting the vehicle and possibly performing the repairs to your vehicle, you will want to make sure that you are comfortable with the facility that you are bringing your vehicle to. If the vehicle can be repaired, the insurance company will issue a check for the amount needed to perform the necessary repairs.

After your vehicle has been inspected for damage following the accident, you may be informed that your vehicle is a “total loss.” In the State of Iowa, a vehicle is considered a “total loss” when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds 50% of the actual cash value of the vehicle prior to the damage. See Iowa Code § 321.52(4)(e). The threshold for the determination of a total loss varies by state, so make sure to research the total loss threshold for your particular state.

How Is the Value of My Vehicle Calculated?

Now that you have been informed that your vehicle is “totaled”, your next question is likely to be how much the insurance company is going to pay you for your vehicle. In calculating the value of your vehicle, you are entitled to “the actual cost…to purchase a comparable automobile including applicable taxes, license fees and other fees.” See Iowa Administrative Code § 191-15.43(a)(2). In determining the actual cost to replace your vehicle, insurance companies often utilize comparable automobiles in your metropolitan area and make adjustments for conditions, options, and mileage. See Iowa Administrative Code § 191-15.43(a)(2)(2).

If you are not satisfied with the total loss value being offered by the insurance company, first verify that the all of the options and add-ons were included for your vehicle in calculating its value. In addition, make sure that the comparable vehicles utilized by the insurance company are in fact comparable to your vehicle. If you remain unsatisfied with the figures offered by the at-fault party’s insurance or their assessment of liability is taking longer than you would like, remember that you also have the option of going through your own insurance if you have purchased collision coverage. However, the methodology used by different insurance companies is fairly similar, therefore the total loss value of your vehicle may not vary much between companies. In addition, you will have to pay your deductible if you decide to go through your own insurance company. Your deductible may be reimbursed at a later point if the other party is determined to have been at fault for the accident. If you decide to keep your vehicle after it has been totaled, the insurance company will subtract the salvage value of your vehicle from the total loss value before payment is issued.

Am I Entitled to a Rental Vehicle?

Following an accident, the loss of access to transportation can have a major impact on your daily life. If your vehicle is not drivable and the other party’s insurance company has accepted liability for the accident, you are entitled to the use of a rental vehicle. In the event your vehicle is repairable, the insurance company will provide you with a rental car for the period of time that your vehicle is being repaired. If your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will provide you with a rental vehicle until they have offered a total loss value and likely for a few days after those figures have been exchanged. If your vehicle is totaled, you will need to be prepared to replace your vehicle shortly after you are notified that your vehicle will be totaled. In the event that you are at fault for an accident or the other party’s insurance company is taking too long to conduct their liability assessment, you may also be able to obtain a rental vehicle through your own insurance, assuming that you have paid for this coverage. You should contact your insurance agent if you have any questions about the automobile insurance coverage that you have purchased.

Until the other party’s insurance company has completed their liability assessment, they will not provide you with a rental vehicle. If you do not have access to a rental vehicle through your own insurance or have not submitted a claim yet, you are likely to be without access to a vehicle during this time. After liability has been accepted by the other party’s insurance company, you have a claim for the “loss of use” of your vehicle during the time that you were without access to a vehicle. See Long v. McAllister, 319 N.W.2d 256, 261 (Iowa 1982). After the insurance company has made an offer regarding the damage to your vehicle, you should also inquire about damages for loss of use, which are typically calculated at the cost of a rental car multiplied by the number of days that you were without access to your vehicle.

Lost Profits from the Use of a Vehicle?

In the event that you were driving a vehicle that you utilize for commercial purposes at the time of an accident, you may also be entitled to lost profits from the use of that vehicle. For example, if a semi-tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle is taken out of service as a result of an accident that is the fault of another party, a claim exists for the income loss that was sustained due to the loss of the vehicle. You will need to have documentation regarding your past profits if you intend to pursue this type of claim. If you have questions regarding a claim for loss profits regarding the use of a vehicle, the attorneys at LaMarca Law Group, P.C. are here to assist you.

Conclusion

There are various aspects to a property damage claim that need to be considered. This article is a brief discussion of some of the most common questions individuals have after being involved in an accident. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and have any specific questions about your particular case, LaMarca Law Group, P.C. is here to assist you. Contact us at (515) 225-2600 with any questions or to set up your free consultation.

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