After you have been involved in a car accident, it is important that you discuss your case with an adjuster or appraiser from the insurance company. Property damage, in particular, is often subject to an adjuster’s decision on payment, so it makes sense to cooperate with these agents in order to get your vehicle fixed as quickly as possible.
However, property damage payments are not the same as payments for medical bills and pain and suffering. Furthermore, appraisers may decide that they do not agree with the amount of a claim or a body shop’s estimate, and may try to deny you payment for your property damage. They may also not agree to pay you residual depreciation on your vehicle, or other costs.
It is critical that you understand how the appraisal process works and how a personal injury attorney can help you recover damages from your car accident.
How Does The Appraisal Process Work?
A property damage appraiser uses a variety of resources to come up with a valuation of property after an accident. In most cases, the insurance company is concerned with fixing a vehicle, but there could also be other property damage, such as damage to buildings, fences, or personal property.
The appraisal process usually begins with photographs of the damage. Either the victim or a representative of the insurance company takes photos of the damage to the vehicle and sends them to the company. Generally, the car is then taken to an approved body shop or mechanic for an assessment and an estimate of the cost to fix the vehicle. When the company approves the work, it is performed and the insurer pays the mechanic.
What Could Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, the process is not always that simple. In some cases, the appraiser does not agree with the body shop’s damage estimate. In other cases, the appraiser argues over other costs.
Theoretically, a car that has been wrecked does not have the same value as one that has never been in an accident. The insurance company is supposed to take this into account when paying the victim for property damage. However, insurance companies rarely volunteer this payment if the victim does not press for it.
Further, the insurance company may try to pay “book value” on the car when the payoff is actually more than that. It is important for victims to take out “gap” coverage on their vehicles in order to avoid this problem. Gap coverage pays the difference between the value of the vehicle and its payoff amount if the vehicle is totaled in an accident.
It is also important to remember that a property damage appraiser has little to no effect on the claims for personal injury that may be involved in the accident. Medical bills, pain and suffering and other costs are not covered by property damage payments.