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Categories: Auto Accidents

Property damage, what am I entitled to?

Property damage, what am I entitled to?

Almost in every automobile accident case, one issue that arises is the quandary that the client finds himself in with regards to property damage. Clients are often very confused about:

  • What they are entitled to recover
  • How they can be treated fairly by the insurance company

Ultimately, the unfortunate answer usually is that there is nothing a client can do. He cannot do anything to be treated fairly by an insurance company. Very few insurance companies treat injured parties or plaintiffs fairly during the property damage phase of the claim.

Here are 3 things that you are entitled to in a property damage:

1. Fair Market Value

In South Carolina, you are entitled to recover the fair market value of your vehicle should it be a total loss in an accident.

The problem with fair market value is that you will certainly have a difference of opinion with the insurance company as to what this amount should be.

Almost every car dealer in South Carolina as well as those that appraise vehicles use standardized valuation services that answer the fair market value question very clearly.

The problem that you have with insurance companies is that rather than utilizing one of the valuation services, such as the National Automobile Dealers Association or the Kelly Blue Book, they have created their own database that benefits the insurance company with regards to valuation. – E. Wayne Ridgeway, Jr.   

We see very often clients who have a fair market value that they believe they are entitled to only to hear from the insurance company that their vehicle is worth several thousand dollars less than they believe it to be worth.

This is simply an unfair scheme that has been created by the insurance companies to save money in the claims process.

2. Loss of Use

You are of course entitled to a rental car while your car is being repaired or from the date of your accident until the insurance company has settled with you on a total loss.

The problem that clients often run into is that the insurance company will tell them that they are only entitled to a certain dollar figure of rental expenses and that anything else will need to be out of their own pocket. $25.00 a day is generally the number that we hear.

The problem with insurance companies telling clients this is that it does not make someone whole who needs to have a larger vehicle for one reason or another. – E. Wayne Ridgeway, Jr.   

Take for instance a stay-at-home mom that has five kids to drop off at school every morning. Is it really fair for her to be placed in a compact car? Of course not!

In sum, if you were involved in an accident while driving a full-size SUV then you are entitled to a rental of a full-size SUV. It does not matter what the insurance adjuster tells you; the law requires that they replace your vehicle with a vehicle of similar size and model.

3. Depreciation

Depreciation is the difference that a repaired vehicle is worth after the repairs in comparison to what the vehicle is worth prior to the accident having taken place.

We see this very often with vehicles that are newer and have low mileage. As you might imagine, a vehicle that is less than 6 months old can lose a significant amount of resale value when in an accident that is now reported on Carfax or some other similar service.

Insurance adjusters will:

  • Tell clients that they do not pay depreciation
  • Make clients believe that they are not entitled to such

Again, regardless of what the insurance adjuster believes or has the authority to offer, depreciation is part of your property damage claim in South Carolina.

The problem with property damage is the timing of the relief. – E. Wayne Ridgeway, Jr. 

In South Carolina, you must understand that your attorney does not have a magic formula for making an insurance company do the right thing. Only the court system has that power.

Juries in South Carolina can be impaneled to hear issues regarding personal injury and property damage. However, these filings take a significant amount of time that more often than not the client does not have.

As an alternative, one can file a property arbitration claim with the clerk of court in the county where the collision happened or the at‑fault party lives. The property arbitration will generally be held before a panel of three arbitrators and usually is a more efficient avenue to recovery. This is a more efficient option.

Find Legal Help at Burriss and Ridgeway

Property damage issues can be maddening for clients. At Burriss and Ridgeway, we are more than happy to see if we can clarify the issues for you.

Feel free to call our office directly at 803-451-4000 or visit us online at burrisslaw.com.

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