How to handle your property damage after a car accident in arizona
Involved in an accident, and not sure how to handle the property damage claim? The
following instructions may help you understand the process better and assist you in
resolving your property damage claim with the insurance companies.
1. First, take pictures of your vehicle, the other vehicles and the scene of the
accident. If you did not do that, then take pictures of your vehicle later.
Preserving this type of evidence can be important.
2. If your vehicle is not drivable and the police order a tow, make sure you find out
from the police where it is towed. Delay can occur trying to connect with a
police officer to find out where your car was taken, if not learned at the scene.
3. If drivable, do not take any measures to repair the vehicle until it has been
examined and inspected by the insurance companies that are involved. There is
a duty to preserve evidence. Your damaged vehicle is evidence. Minor repairs
like pulling out a bumper that is rubbing on a tire is probably okay, but do not
approve or perform any other repairs until the vehicle has been inspected. The
insurance companies need to be contacted to let them know where the vehicle is
located so they can inspect it.
4. Rental car? If your vehicle is not drivable, you may need transportation. Until
you confirm insurance for the other side and a decision on liability, renting a car
is somewhat at your own risk. As experienced attorneys, we can help bridge this
period of uncertainty by better understanding all of the accident circumstances
and help put your mind at ease regarding the initial rental bill. Please feel free to
ask us about this.
5. Who pays—your insurance or the other guy’s? Most people have “Collision”
coverage on their auto policies. This allows repairs to be made to your vehicle,
paid for by your insurance company, less your deductible. Often, if the at-fault
driver’s insurer is delaying the process, we coordinate the repairs to be made
and paid for through your own auto policy.
6. Once the at-fault driver’s insurance company has accepted liability, then that
company will usually pay for the repairs to be made, as well as a rental car
during the period of repairs (generally by a direct bill to the rental car agency).
We can help coordinate this too.
Once it is decided which insurance company will pay, you can then take your car to the
body shop of your choice to be repaired. If you are given a property damage check and
estimate from the insurance company, you will need to take these documents to the body
shop with you. Please note, if the body shop should find additional damage, they will take
the lead to contact the insurance company and request a supplemental estimate for the
7. If your car has been declared a total loss, then the insurance carrier owes you the
“fair market value” (FMV) of your vehicle plus tax, title and license. If you do not
agree with the amount the insurance company is offering you, you can do some
research on your own FMV through online resources such as Kelly Blue Book
(available on line at www.kbb.com), Auto Trader, Carfax or other sources to see
what similar vehicles (make/model, mileage, options, and condition) are selling for
in your area. This information can help you negotiate a fair price for your vehicle. If
assistance is needed, we have experts who can evaluate and assist in this process.
8. PLEASE NOTE, IF THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE EXCEEDS THE VALUE OF YOUR
VEHICLE, THEN IT WILL BE DECLARED A TOTAL LOSS.
9. Insurance companies are only obligated to pay the owner of the vehicle the Fair
Market Value (FMV) for your vehicle plus tax, title and license fees - NOT WHAT YOU
OWE ON IT. You should instruct the insurance company in writing to include your
name on the property damage check. You want to be sure to give the insurance
company permission to speak and work directly with the lender to negotiate full and
final payment of your loan.
10. If your vehicle is a total loss, you can elect to keep your vehicle. If you do this, the
insurance company will still calculate the FMV, and then deduct from their payment
to you the “salvage value” of the car. You will have to obtain a “salvage title” from
the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (required by law) before completing the
1. If your vehicle is drivable, then you need to contact the insurance company
regarding a rental before you put your vehicle into the body shop to be repaired.
Most insurance companies have direct billing where they refer you to a specific
rental car company to obtain your rental and pay this company directly for your
rental bill. PLEASE NOTE, THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL GENERALLY ONLY
PAY THE “INSURANCE RATE” WHICH VARIES FROM POLICY TO POLICY, BUT IS
USUALLY BETWEEN $20-$25 PER DAY (NOT INCLUDING TAX). Some insurance
companies do not offer direct billing but will reimburse you for your rental bill not
to exceed the “insurance rate”. YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW THE INSURANCE
CARRIER HANDLES RENTALS AND WHAT THE INSURANCE RATE IS AT THE TIME
YOU SET UP YOUR RENTAL. Be sure to ask the rental car company to give you the
2. In obtaining a rental car, DO NOT TAKE OUT THE EXTRA INSURANCE THAT THE
RENTAL COMPANY TRIES TO SELL YOU. First, there is liability insurance that
automatically comes with every vehicle (required by Arizona law). Further, your
own insurance policy will still likely cover you while driving the rental as a
“replacement vehicle” under your own policy.
3. What if I am unable to get a rental vehicle? If the insurance company does not offer
direct billing and you are unable to rent a vehicle because you are either under 21
years of age and/or do not have a credit card, getting a rental may be difficult.
Notwithstanding the transportation difficulties for you, there is still some good
news: The at-fault driver’s insurance company is still obligated to reimburse you
for “loss of use” which is $20-25.00 per day for each day your car is out of service,
wherein you could have rented a car, but did not.
4. If your vehicle is declared a total loss, then the insurance company will only pay for
the rental for a limited time after they make you an offer to settle your property
damage claim. Most insurance companies give you a grace period of several days
while the check is being mailed to you. You should ask the insurance company how
long they will continue to pay for the rental when you accept their offer to pay your
total loss property damage claim.
5. If your vehicle is used for business purposes, then you may be entitled to a same or
similar vehicle. This includes vehicles used to transport equipment, supplies, and
other items used in your business. Same or similar does not mean that the
insurance company has to give you an identical vehicle (same make and model), it
means that they must give you a vehicle in the same class as your vehicle.
BE SURE THAT ANY CHECK AND/OR RELEASE THE LIABILITY
CARRIER HAS YOU SIGN STATES THAT THE AMOUNT OFFERED IS
FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE
ONLY. If the check or release says “any and all claims” do not sign it
without contacting your attorney.
The above information and instructions answer the most common
questions we are asked. Your particular situation may be different.
You should always consult with your attorney if you have any
questions or concerns.
Have a question?
Contact Zachar Law Firm at (602) 494-4800 to schedule a free case
evaluation. Remember, experience matters.
You can also live chat with us 24/7 at http://zacharassociates.com.
Get answers to your questions.