Under Ohio law, there are essentially two claims to any car accident against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. First is the property damage claim which involves damage to your vehicle. The second claim is the personal injury claim. You can settle the property damage claim and it will have no adverse affect on your injury claim.
Always keep in mind that at the end of the day, the insurance company is not your friend. Their first interest is themselves and their bottom line.
I get many phone calls from people wondering what is going on and why is the insurance company doing things regarding the property damage claim and I would like to explain them now. If your car is damaged in a crash, the at-fault driver’s insurance company can do one of two things: they can pay for the cost of repairs to your vehicle or they can declare your vehicle a “total loss” and pay you the “fair market value” of your vehicle. It is very important to know that you have absolutely no say in whether the insurance company repairs your vehicle or declares your vehicle a total loss. It is totally up to that insurance company.
Obviously, repairs are pretty obvious and if your vehicle is being repaired, the insurance company owes you a rental car for the reasonable period of repairs. If you have already gotten a rental car through your company, don’t worry, your company will get their money back from the at-fault driver’s company.
Many people ask me what a “total loss” means. A total loss simply means that in the insurance company’s mind, the cost of repairs will exceed the fair market value of the vehicle. In other words, if the insurance company thinks that the cost of repairs will end up being more than totaling out the vehicle, they will total out your vehicle. Once again, you have no say in whether they total your vehicle out or not.
“Fair market value” means what your vehicle could be sold for on the open market to an individual on the day of the accident before the crash. Oftentimes, insurance companies come up with the “fair market value” by finding comparables. A comparable is a vehicle with the same make, model and year as yours. The big difference is mileage. Generally, the insurance company will find five comparables within 100 miles of Toledo and based upon the differences in mileage, will come up with a “fair market value” for your vehicle. Generally you can ask for and receive the comparables from the other driver’s insurance company to review yourself. In addition, if you have had recent mechanical or tire work done on your vehicle if you submit the receipts you can often get the fair market value increased. However, the work and new parts must have been close to the time of the crash.
Finally, the other driver’s insurance must reimburse you for tax and title if you buy another vehicle within 30 days of the settlement. Of course, they will only pay tax up to the amount they have offered you, not for the total tax on the vehicle you purchased. Generally, the insurance company will offer you a rental car for a short period of time, once they have declared your vehicle a total loss, and the worse the insurance company, the shorter the period of time. Consequently, even though you may be in severe pain, you may need to get out and look for a new car shortly after the crash occurred.
Finally, if the insurance company declares your vehicle a total loss, they will tow it away and sell it for salvage value and keep the money. If you wish to keep the vehicle because you or your friends could repair that vehicle, you can get a salvage title. Once you get a salvage title, they will pay you the fair market value, minus the salvage value of your vehicle, such that if the fair market value of your vehicle is $5,000.00 and the salvage value, or what the insurance company could sell the vehicle to a junkyard for, is $1,000.00, they would write you a check for $4,000.00 plus allow you to have the vehicle. The important feature here is that if you have a salvage title, you are really not supposed to drive the vehicle until it is repaired and it is approved by the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Findlay, Ohio.
If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t sign or say anything. Contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. Attorney Charles V. Contrada will explain your legal options and guide you through the process.
To speak to attorney Charles V. Contrada about a car accident in Ohio or Michigan, call (419) 841-4400. Charles has helped thousands of individuals with car accident claims and will explain the legal options that are available to you. Call Contrada & Associates for comprehensive legal guidance that will help you to receive the most favorable outcome.