First, I hardly ever handle lawsuits over car damage alone. People usually find a way to work things out with the insurance company, and lawyers are more expensive than it’s worth in property damage cases.
But when I was starting out as a lawyer, I tried a lot of car damage cases. And I learned a whole lot. Here it is in a nutshell.
Rule 1: Get an estimate from a body shop you trust. This might be a dealer, or a shop you’ve been going to for a long time. Get this before you let the insurance adjuster look at the car to get his estimate. Also get the shop to tell you how long it will take to fix the car – you’re entitled to rental.
Rule 2 – If your car is repairable, let the body shop deal with the insurance adjuster. They’re probably better at it than you are.
Rule 3 – If your car is a total loss:
• Make sure that the adjuster knows everything you did to improve it after you bought it. Get him receipts. The $1200 rims? The $500 tint job? The new tires? They can affect how he values the case.
• Figure the sales tax on the value – you’re entitled to that, too.
• There are cases in Ohio that say that you are not entitled to be paid the cost of your rental if your car is totaled. Why not? Because theoretically, you can just go out and buy a new – or used – replacement car right away. (The courts don’t always live in a real world.) Despite this, most insurance companies will voluntarily pay you for a rental car for a “reasonable” period of time. What’s reasonable? At least the period from the time of the accident until the company decides your car is a total loss. I think it would be fair to also allow rental while you are looking for your “new” or replacement car; but I’m not a judge.
Rule 3 – You don’t have to do anything the other driver’s insurance company says. On the other hand, the other driver’s insurance doesn’t have to pay you anything until you get a judgment against the other driver. That means a lawsuit, attorney fees, and a lot of delay. So you’re almost always better off reaching an agreement with them.
Rule 4- Your last option is turning the claim into your own collision or comprehensive insurance. Your own insurance may evaluate the loss a lot differently than the other driver’s insurance. The downside is that you will have to pay your deductible, and your rates may rise. (On the other hand, your deductible may get refunded if your insurance company seeks compensation from the other driver’s insurance, and some companies don’t increase rates when the accident is the other driver’s fault. Talk to your agent.)
I’m not the last word on this; as I said, I don’t even handle lawsuits over automobile damage. And the Consumer Federation has published suggestions on how to deal with adjusters on your own. But when you work with personal injury cases on a daily basis, you pick things up. I thought you could use this.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Car accidents hurt you a lot of different ways. If you have a personal injury case in Cincinnati, Ohio or if you want to know what your lawsuit is worth, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Injury Lawyer about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.