Who Pays for Car Repairs Following An Auto Accident?
One question we often get from clients involved in an auto accident is who pays to have their car fixed? Should they pay or should insurance?
At JB Law, our main focus is helping our clients recover money for their injuries and all accident-related expenses. In addition, our team also helps clients work through the process of getting their car repaired following an accident. It is not always a straightforward process and involves several different factors.
When The Other Driver Caused The Car Accident
It is typically clear who caused the accident. Most accidents involve a rear-end impact or some other event that easily displays that one vehicle is at fault for the collision.
Most people’s initial thought is “why should my insurance have to pay for the damage to my vehicle when the other driver caused the accident?” And they are correct. If the other driver caused the accident then his or her insurance carrier is obligated to pay for the damage. It should be that simple; but it is not. Sometimes it is better and significantly quicker for our clients to go through their own insurance, pay the deductible and get the deductible refunded later in the process.
When To Use Your Insurance To Cover Car Repair Expenses
At times, our clients have no choice but to use their own insurance because the other driver does not have the appropriate insurance coverage that would cover the damage to our clients’ vehicle. That coverage is called Property Damage Liability and is found in most insurance policies. However, it is not required by Florida law so there are cases where we have no choice but to have our clients go through their own insurance to fix their vehicles.
There are also times when the other driver has Property Damage Liability but does not have enough of it to cover our clients’ damage. For instance, if the opposing driver has a small automobile insurance policy such as $10,000.00/$20,000.00 coverage for Property Damage (meaning $10,000.00 maximum for one car or $20,000.00 for the entire accident) and the accident causes damage to our client’s vehicle that exceeds $10,000.00, we would very likely have to go through our client’s insurance because the coverage amount would not be enough to compensate our client for the amount of the loss to their vehicle.
Insurance Companies Process Car Repair Claims Differently
There is also the factor that the specific insurance company who issued the policy plays a big role in our analysis. If it is a specific type of insurance company (typically low budget) then the time it will take that insurance company to arrange to have the car fixed is often an impediment to our client going on with their regular life. Without naming specific insurance companies, the process plays out very slowly either because it is understaffed or because its adjuster does not move as quickly as some of the larger insurance companies. In situations like this where either our client or the opposing driver is insured through an insurance company that does not move quickly, we will typically suggest our client go through the faster (and typically better) insurance company.
There are also accidents that require a legitimate investigation as to who was at fault. In those situations, it is almost always faster for our clients to go through their own insurance company (to whom it does not matter who was at fault) as the investigation can take weeks. One of our top goals is to have our clients in a situation where the accident is not disruptive to their lives and they can move on quickly with a rental vehicle while their car is being repaired.
What Car Insurance Companies Are Obligated To Cover By Law
One thing unknown to most consumers is that the insurance company handling the repairs also must handle the rental car coverage. The process cannot be split between two different insurance companies (i.e. using the opposing insurance for repairs and your own insurance for rental to expedite the process).
By statute, a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver cannot be used by your insurance company to raise your automobile insurance rates. It can often be more convenient to use your own insurance company for repairs and merely pay the deductible. The amount paid for the deductible is procured later in the process and repaid to our client. If your own insurance company pays for repairs or for a total loss of the vehicle following an accident that was caused by another party, your own insurance company has the right to subrogate (a lien) the amount it was forced to pay. Your insurance company will go through the proper legal channels to ensure the opposing insurance company for those repairs pays them. If the opposing driver did not have any, or enough, insurance, your insurance company has the option to go after the opposing driver individually.
We’ll Help You Through The Car Accident Repair Process
At JB Law, despite not being compensated in any way for handling the property damage portion of a case, we will walk you through the process to best suit your needs. There are of course times when paying the deductible is an impediment to our client. In those scenarios, we encourage the client to work with the opposing insurance company with the explicit understanding that the opposing insurance company is likely to act slower than if they used their own insurance company. We recognize that each case and client is different, and we will do what is best for you. Not what is easiest for us.
Do not fall victim to one of the advertising firms where you will get lost in the shuffle and just become a number in a file cabinet. At JB Law, all clients are given the attention they deserve and are provided with my personal cell phone. It is not my “work” cell phone. It is my only cell phone. My clients can always reach me and always know what is going on with their case. If you ever have any questions about your legal rights, please reach out to me on either my cell phone (305-803-1865) or my office line (561-717-9551).