1. What should I send my insurance company after a wreck?
Send your insurance company a package containing the following:
• Recent pictures of your vehicle before the crash.
• Detailed pictures of the damage to your vehicle from all directions.
• A picture of the odometer clearly showing the mileage on your vehicle.
• A list of any extras installed on your vehicle with the age and the retail cost.
• A used car value from NADA.com (free online resource).
• The name, address, and phone number of the body shop you prefer to use.
• A statement that you want original manufacturer parts, not aftermarket parts.
• A request to replace your seatbelts if you sustained anything more than a minor collision.
• A copy of the police report or a signed letter from you describing the accident.
• A request that the insurance company let you know immediately if they need more information to evaluate your loss.
2. Can I choose the body shop that I want to use?
You have the right to choose the body shop you want – insurance companies will often try to steer you to a certain body shop. You may be required by your insurance contract to allow a certain body shop or adjuster to inspect your vehicle, but you are not required to use the insurance company’s choice of body shop. Use a body shop that you know and trust based on reputation or experience.
3. What should you tell the body shop who is fixing your car?
You should insist on using original manufacturer parts and fixing the full extent of the damage – Sometimes insurance companies will instruct a body shop to use cheap aftermarket parts that are often lower in quality. You have the right to have your vehicle restored in pre-accident condition, which should include original manufacturer parts.
4. What about replacing my seatbelts?
You should replace your seatbelts after any serious crash. A seatbelt that has already been involved in a major collision may not provide the same benefit during the next collision.
5. Am I entitled to a rental car?
If you are making a claim through your own insurance company, your policy will control whether you are entitled to a rental vehicle and for how long. If the policy does not specify what type of vehicle you can rent or the maximum cost per day, you should insist on a vehicle that is similar to your own.
If a third person caused damage to your vehicle and you are making a claim through their insurance company, you have the right to a rental vehicle that is comparable to your personal vehicle. This is especially true if you have a large family or need a certain type of vehicle, like a truck, for work. Insurance adjusters will often try to put you in the smallest, cheapest vehicle possible.
6. Is there a time limit on your rental vehicle?
If someone else caused damage to your vehicle and you are making a rental claim through their insurance company, there is no set time limit for how long you can keep a rental vehicle. Here are some general guidelines:
– If your vehicle is damaged, but not disabled, you are entitled to a rental vehicle the entire time your vehicle is at the body shop.
– If your vehicle is disabled, but will be fixed, then you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the time of wreck until repairs are made.
– If your vehicle is totaled, you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the date of the crash until a reasonable time period after you have been informed that your vehicle is a total loss, usually around 30 days.
The number of days can change based on the circumstances. If you cannot afford a replacement vehicle until you are paid for your vehicle, you may be entitled to keep your rental vehicle until you have been paid for your vehicle and have time to shop for a new one.
Any time you think your vehicle may be a total loss, it is a good idea to start looking around for a replacement vehicle right away.
7. How do you know if your vehicle is a total loss?
Every insurance company has their own policy about what constitutes a total loss, but there is also a Louisiana law which states that total loss is any damage exceeding 75% of the vehicle’s value. Louisiana Revised Statute 32:702.
8. What to do if your vehicle is declared a total loss?
Insurance companies will often hire third party companies to short change the value of your vehicle. Insist that the insurance company pay the value listed on NADA.com. In most cases, you are entitled to the clean retail value as listed by the NADA in addition to the costs of tax, title, and license.
9. Does the insurance company have to pay for the drop in resale value?
With CarFax, everyone who buys a used car will know if there has been prior damage. So if you get in a wreck 5 days after driving your brand new car off the lot, does the insurance company have to pay for the loss of resale value? This is called a diminution in value claim.
If you are making a claim through your own insurance company, this claim is controlled by the policy. Most do not provide for it.
If a third party caused damage to your vehicle, their insurance company is responsible for a loss of your car’s resale value, but they hate to pay it. You will need a letter from an experienced used car salesman estimating the amount of the loss. You can also find similar vehicles that have recently sold online and compare one with and without accident history.
10. Am I responsible for storage fees?
If a third party caused damage to your vehicle, their insurance company is responsible for all towing and storage fees. If you are making a claim through your own insurance company, your policy will control whether towing and storage fees are covered. Reasonable expenses are usually covered.
11. How long does my insurance company have to pay?
If a third party caused damage to your vehicle, their insurance company has thirty (30) days after “satisfactory proof of loss” to make a written offer to settle your claim. If the insurance company violates this statute, they owe you a 50% penalty, plus attorney fees (if applicable), in addition to the original claim. You can provide “satisfactory proof of loss” by sending the package described above. Louisiana Revised Statute 22:1892.
If you are making a claim through your own insurance company, they are also required to make a written offer within thirty (30) days of receiving satisfactory proof of loss. Additionally, they must pay your claim within sixty (60) days to avoid a penalty. Louisiana Revised Statute 22:1973.