Phoenix Accident Attorney Explains Property Damage Claims: Total Loss
Man: Do I need an accident attorney for my case or can I save the money? Greg Lyon has practiced personal injury in wrongful death law in Arizona for over 40 years. He has handled thousands of cases exclusively representing Arizona accident victims. He does not represent insurance companies.
Greg: Hello, my name is Greg Lyon. I am a Phoenix attorney that has practiced in this field over 40 years. The purpose of these videos is to answer the question, “Do I need an attorney to handle my car accident case? Or can I do it myself and save some money?” I will give you much the same advice and information I provide my clients during the course of handling their personal injury cases.
Our topic is, “Property Damage.” Many of my clients are able to handle this part of the accident case on their own once I’ve provided them with the relevant Arizona law to make them aware of the free resources available online to research the value of their car. The first question that must be asked is whether the vehicle should be repaired or is totaled?
Arizona law will not require the at-fault party or their insurance company to pay more to repair your car than it’s worth. You’re simply wasting your time if you pursue that course. Most insurance company use the 75% rule in determining if your car is a total loss. For example, if your car is worth $10,000, and you have a repair estimate of $7,500 or more, your vehicle will be considered a total loss. In that case, Arizona law requires that you be paid the fair market value of your car. The Insurance company will usually employ a company that does market research and will prepare a report of similar vehicles and give the adjuster a number representing the value of your car.
The potential problem is that the companies consulted usually work exclusively for either that insurance company or the insurance industry. Therefore, it is always a good idea to do your own independent research. Generally, Kelley Blue Book is not used to establish value in a total loss situation. In my opinion, a better source is at autotrader.com or its hard copy version available at convenience stores.
Research your exact car or truck. Try to find the same model year, equipment, mileage and condition and save those that best illustrate your vehicle’s value. When the insurance adjuster calls you with an offer, if theirs is better than your research, you’ll have confidence to accept.
If, on the other hand, it is well below what you had in mind, then offer to exchange research. Have them provide you with a copy of their report and you provide them with your researched similar vehicles. In my opinion, there is no legitimate reason for their denying this request. In their report, make certain that the description of your vehicle is accurate. If they’re not describing the same vehicle, it is unlikely you will ever reach an agreement. Once you agree on the fair market value, don’t forget you’re entitled to sales tax on the fair market value, rental expenses or compensation for the loss of use of the vehicle prior to the property damage settlement. Don’t forget that towing and storage charges are also part of the property damage claim.
If the insurance company requests that you sign a release, I strongly urge you to consult an attorney before signing. You certainly don’t want to release them from any pending personal injury claim.
If your vehicle was totaled, you can apply to the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles to receive a refund of the unused vehicle registration fee or have it transferred to your new car.
Remember, there are time limits and other legal considerations involving even a property damage claim. When in doubt, call an attorney to make certain how much time you really have to resolve your claim.
Hopefully, this information will help guide you through the process. However, if you need some additional help, call us at 602-535-1900 or visit our website at hirschandlyonaccidentlaw.com.