Know Your Rights – When Your Vehicle Is Damaged in an Accident

When your car or truck or other vehicle is involved in an accident, it is important to understand your rights. The personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Manza & Moceri explain important facts you should know about dealing with auto repair shops, insurance estimates, insurance companies and other parties involved in the accident.

If your vehicle has been damaged in a collision and is considered repairable:

  1. You have the right to choose a repair shop. The insurance company must make a good faith effort to honor your request to have your vehicle repaired at the shop you choose. No insurance company can lawfully deny your request in an arbitrary manner. If an insurance company directs you away from the repair shop of your choice, it must document in writing its good faith reason for doing so. It is arbitrary for the insurance company to deny your choice of shop solely because the hourly rate is higher, unless the hourly rate is the reason for an overall increase in the total cost of repair beyond what is reasonable. If the insurance company asks you to obtain estimates to repair your vehicle, be sure to take your vehicle only to shops at which you would consider having the repair work performed.

  2. Insurance estimates must be reasonable. If an insurance company prepares an estimate of repairs to your vehicle, the estimate must be in an amount reasonably expected to satisfactorily repair the damage. You have a right to a list of the repair shops convenient to you who will satisfactorily complete the repairs at the price estimated by the insurance company.

  3. If your insurance company insists on its repair shop, it must fully and promptly complete the repairs. If you have a claim against your own insurance company for damages to your vehicle and your insurance company designates a specific repair shop where it wants the vehicle repaired, the insurance company must restore the car to its condition prior to the damage at no cost to you other than stated in your policy (such as a deductible), and must do so within a reasonable time.

  4. You cannot be required to travel unreasonably. An insurance company cannot require you to travel unreasonably for an inspection, estimate, or repair of your vehicle or for a temporary rental car while your vehicle is being repaired.

  5. Strict rules apply to "Betterment" deductions. When the repair requires that parts be replaced, deductions for betterment and depreciation are permitted only for parts normally subject to repair and replacement during the useful life of the vehicle. For example, if a tire and a car door are damaged in an accident, the insurance company can make a deduction for replacing an old tire with a brand new tire, but it cannot make a deduction for replacing the car door because car doors don't normally wear out during the life of the car. If the tire replaced was a 40,000 mile tire and it had been driven 20,000 miles, you can expect the insurance company will replace the tire with another 40,000 mile tire, but it will only pay for half of the tire's cost. The insurance company's calculations on betterment, depreciation, and related matters must be retained in your claim file for your review.

  6. The other person's insurance company cannot give you the "run-around." Where you have a claim against another party's insurance company for payment of damages to your vehicle, the other party's insurance company cannot lawfully recommend that you first make the claim under your own insurance policy just to avoid paying you.

  7. Insurance companies are not allowed to mislead. In every case and in all dealings with you, every insurance company is required to deal in good faith, not to mislead you or misrepresent any of your rights.

  8. Fairness is the standard. You are entitled to a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of your claim whether you are dealing with your own insurance company or an insurance company for the person who caused the damage to your vehicle.

If your car is totaled:

The more information you have about the condition of your car, truck or other vehicle before the collision, the better off you are. Should your vehicle be considered a total loss, contact a dealer of your make of vehicle, and ask at what price he/she is selling your make and year of vehicle. Dig out any recent receipts of improvements you have made on your vehicle, such as new tires, new brakes, etc. These items add to your vehicle's value. Look at the newspaper's classified advertisements for like vehicles or check the Kelly Blue Book.

These are your rights. Insist on them!

When you are involved in a car, truck, motorcycle or other vehicle accident, if you are seriously injured or if someone you love dies as a result of his injuries, contact Manza & Moceri at 253.473.2771 or 877.473.2771 for a hassle free case evaluation. Our law firm has been helping injured people since 1949. We can help you too.

Manza & Moceri, PS
2928 S. Union Ave., Tacoma, WA 98409
(Conveniently located off of Interstate 5 and Highway 16)
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