If you have been involved in an auto accident that resulted in damages to your vehicle, there are a few steps you need to take in order to recover compensation for your damaged or totaled car. This is usually done through an insurance claim – either through your own insurance carrier or through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Along with any claims for personal injury (when applicable), you will also need to file a property damage claim, which is meant to cover repairs or replacements to your damaged vehicle.

What Are the Steps to Recovering Compensation for a Damaged Vehicle After an Accident?

You will need to decide whether you are filing a property damage claim with your insurance or through the other driver’s insurance. There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes. If you decide to file through your own insurance, you will likely have to wait less time to receive your money, but might be looking at out-of-pocket deductible payments. If you choose to file through the other driver’s insurance, your payment might take longer to be issued, but you will not have to pay for the deductible.

Either way, you will want to gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident. Take pictures, video and write down the contact information of any witnesses. You will also need to report the accident to local law enforcement, and have an officer come to the scene and write a report. Submit all evidence along with your claim to the insurance company. You do not necessarily need to submit repair estimates unless the insurance adjuster makes that request.

The insurance company can also suggest a repair shop to fix your vehicle, but they cannot require you to choose a specific shop. If your vehicle is damaged beyond repair, you will be entitled to a check covering the vehicle’s fair market value right before the crash. If you are asked to sign any release documents, you may want to wait until you can consult an attorney to verify you are not waiving any important rights.

What Happens If I Was Partially at Fault for the Accident?

Utah is a modified comparative negligence state, which means you can still receive compensation for your accident as long as you are not more than 50% responsible for it. This means that even if you carry some of the responsibility for the accident, you will still receive compensation for your damaged vehicle, but the amount you are eligible to receive will be reduced proportionally to your percentage of fault. For example, if you are considered to be 30% at fault, you will receive your settlement minus a 30% discount.

What Is ‘Betterment’ and Will the Insurance Company Deduct For It?

According to the Utah Insurance Department, betterment is when your damaged vehicle is being repaired with newer parts, such as if your five-year-old muffler is replaced with a brand new muffler. It is important to highlight that insurance companies are not contractually obligated to pay for the use of new replacement parts when repairing your damaged vehicle.

The standard procedure, in this case, is for the repair shop to try and locate a similar part (such as another five-year-old muffler). If one is not available, a brand new one may be used, but you may have to pay for the difference. The insurance company is required to provide a written, itemized explanation of any betterment deductions being made.

What Should I Do If My Claim Is Denied or My Settlement Offer Is Too Low?

In some cases, you may find yourself dealing with a low settlement offer, or worse – having your claim denied altogether. It is quite common for an insurance company to quickly offer you an initial settlement amount in an attempt to settle your claim for the least amount of money possible. They might try to push you to accept their offer, but you are not required to do so if you have reason to believe their offer is too low and will not cover the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle. If your claim was denied, you have the right to request a written explanation of the reasons why the insurance company chose to deny your claim.

In both cases, consulting an attorney might be a smart choice to help you navigate around these issues. A skilled attorney can help you negotiate a better settlement amount with the insurance company and can handle every step of the process for you. Likewise, your attorney can also be instrumental in helping you overturn a denied claim and secure the compensation you deserve.

At 801-INJURED, our attorneys have handled countless property damage cases and know all the tricks insurance companies often use to try to cut their costs and can fight back to protect your right to receive a fair settlement. Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action to take – whether that is filing a claim under your own insurance company or going after the at-fault driver in a small claims court if appropriate. Our attorneys handle property damage and personal injury cases and will not require any upfront fees unless you win your case. Contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation to learn more.