Property damage is a type of economic damage. It includes damage to your vehicle because of a car accident. You may also include damage to personal property caused by the wreck in your property damage claim.
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Property Damage Car Insurance Coverage in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania drivers must purchase a minimum of $5,000 of property damage liability insurance. A liability insurance policy pays to repair or replace damage caused by a car accident that is your fault. You may purchase higher policy limits.
The law also requires drivers to have minimum bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000 ($30,000 per accident). This coverage compensates an accident victim for injuries sustained in a car crash you cause.
You may also purchase optional insurance coverage to cover damage to your vehicle. For example, collision coverage pays the cost to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in a traffic accident that is your fault. The insurance company charges a $500 deductible unless you request a higher deductible to save money on insurance premiums.
Comprehensive is another type of property damage insurance coverage you may purchase. It pays for the damage to your vehicle because of theft, vandalism, or acts of nature (i.e., flood, fire, hail, etc.). Most lenders require drivers to have comprehensive and collision coverage when the vehicle secures a loan.
Who is Responsible for Property Damage After a Car Accident?
Generally, the party who caused the accident is financially liable for damages. If you cause a car accident, you could file a claim against your comprehensive or collision coverage if you purchased either of these policies.
If another driver caused the collision, that driver would be responsible for the property damage to your vehicle. However, the at-fault party’s insurance company is only responsible for an amount up to the policy limits. In Pennsylvania, the total of your insurance claim could be $5,000 if the driver has minimum insurance coverage.
Things to remember when you deal with an insurance company regarding a property damage claim:
- You may need to obtain two or three estimates for repairs from different repair shops
- The insurance company cannot force you to use a specific repair shop
- Do not accept the claims adjuster’s inspection and estimate without checking with an independent repair facility to confirm the damages and estimates
- The insurance company may try to lower the value of the claim by paying for used or aftermarket parts
- Carefully read all documents before signing them to ensure you do not release a claim for personal injury damages
- Never sign a release for a property damage claim until you inspect your vehicle and are satisfied with the repairs
Do not discuss the details of the accident with the insurance adjuster. The adjuster may try to lock you into a version of the facts or obtain information the insurance company could use against you to deny a claim or decrease the value of your personal injury claim. Instead, focus solely on the property damage claim.
Can I Recover Compensation for Diminished Value After a Car Accident?
The repairs to your vehicle may make your vehicle look new. You might not be able to tell that the car was damaged in a crash. However, a potential buyer can find out about the car accident by checking the vehicle’s crash history.
Car accidents decrease the value of a vehicle, even after repairs. A dealer or private purchaser may not be willing to pay as much for your vehicle because it was in a wreck. Therefore, you should demand compensation for diminished value.
There are two types of diminished value. Repair-related diminished value compensates you for the vehicle’s decreased value when a repair shop uses aftermarket or used parts to make repairs. Inherent diminished value compensates you for the difference in the value of your vehicle before the accident and the value of your vehicle after repairs.
A claims adjuster will not tell you that you might be entitled to claim diminished value as part of a property damage claim. You should support your claim by obtaining several estimates from reputable sources. Repair shops and car dealers may provide statements and estimates for diminished value.
What Happens if My Car is Totaled in an Accident?
If the damage to your vehicle costs more to repair than the car is worth, the insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss. Many insurance companies have a set percentage for total loss, such as 75 to 85%.
When your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company should pay you the fair market value for the car. The fair market is based upon:
- The vehicle’s make, model, and year
- The mileage at the time of the car accident
- Any special equipment or options
- The overall vehicle condition before the collision
- The market demand for your vehicle
You can check several sources to determine the value of your vehicle. NADA, Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and Carfax are sources for car values. You may also obtain a written estimate from a car dealer.
The insurance company cannot force you to accept the initial settlement offer for a totaled vehicle. You can negotiate for a higher amount based on your research and estimates. Providing photographs of your vehicle, receipts for special equipment, written valuations for the vehicle, and copies of maintenance records can support your demand for settling a total loss claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Accidents result in substantial financial losses and emotional distress. You do not have to handle a claim alone. A legal team can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Most firms offer a free consultation as well – it won’t hurt to reach out.