Property Damage Lawyer for Car Accident Cases
When an accident happens as a result of another’s negligence you have the right to have your vehicle repaired and paid for by their insurance company. The insurance company has the right to do an estimate of your vehicle to determine what it would cost to repair it. However, the insurance company has no right to tell you where to get your car fixed (NC Gen Stat 58-3-180). That said, however, if you take your vehicle to another shop which costs more to fix it then the insurance company’s estimate you might be responsible for the difference.
The law in NC dealing with property damage is controlled by statute, case law (rules laid down by judges), the individual NC insurance policy, and the North Carolina Insurance Commission ( www.ncdoi.com ). With the controlling law scattered in so many different places it is no wonder people feel like they are being taken advantage of by the insurance companies when they handle their own property damage.
Once the claim is filed the insurance company has 30 days in which to pay the claim make an offer of settlement, deny the claim or advise the claimant that the investigation of the claim is ongoing. Loss and claim payments should be mailed or delivered within 10 business days after the claim is settled.
There is no law or statute which requires the insurance company to furnish you a rental vehicle while your vehicle is not drivable or being repaired. However, the law has evolved to allow individuals Loss of Use payments. As such, when your vehicle is damaged to the point where it is no longer usable as an instrument of conveyance or while it is being repaired to where the injured party would be best served in buying another car, he/she is entitled to loss of use.
Simply stated, when you can’t drive your vehicle or while it is being repaired, if the insurance company doesn’t furnish you with a rental vehicle, you have a claim of Loss of Use. Since the insurance companies do a large amount of business with rental companies they can get rental vehicles much cheaper then any one individual. As such, it would cost them more to pay you back for the Loss of Use, i.e. you getting a rental vehicle, then it would for them to just get you a rental vehicle.
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There is no requirement that forces insurance companies to use factory new parts. They are allowed to use pre-owned or refurbished parts from other vehicles. However, if the reused parts are modified in anyway, evidence of the same must be disclosed in the estimate.
The other side of property damage deals with when the vehicle is deemed a total loss. A vehicle is deemed a total loss when the cost to repair the vehicle is equivalent to 75% of the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. Once that determination is made the next step is determining how much the insurance company will pay you for the vehicle.
The insurance company, regardless of whether it is your own or the insurance of the negligent party, is required to furnish you the ACV of the vehicle. The ACV is also known as the fair market value. This does not mean the trade in value or the retail value from a dealership but what another person would pay you for the vehicle.
There are a number of sources available to help you find the fair market value of your vehicle. Some sources include www.nada.com , www.edmunds.com , www.ebay.com , www.kbb.com , or even your local newspaper.
To increase your vehicle’s fair market value, and thereby the insurance company’s offer, you must be able to provide evidence on the value of the vehicle. Any improvements to the vehicle which increased its value will increase its fair market value. For example a new engine would increase the value of the vehicle while an oil change would not.
Insurance Rights After a NC Car Accident
When dealing with your own insurance company you have the right elect the appraisal portion of your policy. While your individual NC policy may differ, both you and the insurance company select independent appraisers. The two appraisers will then select an umpire. The appraisers will state separately the ACV and the amount of loss. If they do not agree, they will submit their differences to the umpire. A decision by any two will be binding. However, it should be noted that you are responsible for the cost of your appraiser as well as your share of the umpire fee.
When dealing with the negligent party’s insurance company you have the right to pursue legal redress in the court system. You also have the right to keep your totaled vehicle. If you do this the insurance company will deduct the salvage value from the ACV. If requested, the insurance company must furnish you with the name and address of a salvage dealer who will purchase the salvage for the amount deducted. However, there are a number of issues with keeping a salvaged vehicle that the individual needs to be aware of including North Carolina ‘s stringent registration laws.
Charlotte Car Accident and Property Damage
Even before the initial shock of being in a NC car accident has faded you will begin getting phone calls, letters and visits from insurance adjusters regarding your car. Unfortunately, at a time when people should be taking care of their health they are placed in a position to make decisions about their car which can cost them thousands of dollars. It is not a coincidence that the insurance company tries to speak with people injured by their insured’s negligence after a car accident within 48 hours. This is the time period when people are hurting and most vulnerable. Our Charlotte personal injury lawyers routinely field questions regarding offers made by insurance companies about their cars.
What determines if my car is a total loss?
In NC a vehicle is deemed a total loss if it is damaged 75% of the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. This means that if the car is worth $10,000.00 and it will take $7,501.00 to fix it, it is deemed a total loss. As such, the issue typically boils down to determining the ACV of the vehicle and the cost of repair. In many situations our Charlotte personal injury attorneys have been successful in convincing an adjuster to total out a vehicle below 75%. For a more detailed article on NC property damage please see our article NC Property Damage Law. Our personal injury lawyers handle our client’s property damage claims at no additional charge to the client. This ensures the claim is handled properly and gets our clients back on the road to go to work or their doctor’s visits.
NC Diminution of Value or Diminishment of Value
The owner of a vehicle damage in a car accident can bring a claim of Diminution of Value or Diminished of Value (“DV Claim”) against the at liability insurance carrier. This claim recognizes that the value of the vehicle has been reduced following the car accident. Insurance carriers have to compensate individuals for the loss of that value.
Typically our personal injury clients have a number of questions regarding bringing a DV claim. The most frequently asked questions from clients are as follows:
Is there a formula to calculate the diminished value of my vehicle?
While states differ, there is no formula in NC. When arguing with insurance carriers our personal injury attorneys refer to the NC Pattern Jury Instruction which reads:
‘The plaintiff’s actual property damages are equal to the difference between the fair market value of the property immediately before it was damaged and its fair market value immediately after it was damaged. The fair market value of any property is the amount which would be agreed upon as a fair price by an owner who wishes to sell, but is not compelled to do so, and a buyer who wishes to buy, but is not compelled to do so.’
‘(If evidence is introduced regarding the actual or estimated cost of repair, the following paragraph should be used: Evidence of [estimates of the cost to repair] (and) [the actual cost of repairing] the damage to the plaintiff’s property may be considered by you in determining the difference in fair market value immediately before and immediately after the damage occurred.)’
How is the diminution of value calculated for my vehicle?
As there is no formula our lawyers look at a number of factors to determine the loss of value to the vehicle following an accident. Typically, our lawyers gather the history of the vehicle including, but not limited to:
1. Age, make, model and miles of the vehicle
2. Accident History
3. The location and type of damage to the vehicle
4. Was there anything unique regarding the vehicle (collector’s item)
5. The cost and quality of the repairs
6. National Automobile Dealers Association Pricing Guide Book value of the vehicle.
7. Appraised vehicle of the value
Can I bring a DV claim against my own insurance company if I handle the property damage through my collision?
Typically, the DV claim can only be brought against a liability carrier and not through the claimant’s insurance carrier. However, a claimant should always check their policy to see if it allows for DV collision claims (this would be unusual).
Is there a time limit to assert a DV claim?
North Carolina insurance code 11 NCAC 04. 0421 dictates how and when an individual can assert a DV claim.
If a release or full payment of claim is executed by a third party claimant, involving a repair to a motor vehicle, it shall not bar the right of the third party claimant to promptly assert a claim for diminished value, which diminished value was directly caused by the accident and which diminished value could not be determined or known until after the repair or attempted repair of the motor vehicle. Claims asserted within 30 days after repair for diminished value shall be considered promptly asserted.
Our lawyers take the position that, regardless of the insurance code, the Statute of Limitations is three years. As of the writing of this document there have been no cases on point wherein the court has reduced the three year statute based on the (conflicting) insurance code. However, best practices would dictate that the claim be made immediately so as to ensure a timely response.
What are my options if I disagree with the insurance company’s offer?
NC statutes dictate the options available to the client in a dispute. If we are unable to come to an agreement with the insurance carrier a process has been instituted which allows for both sides to get independent appraisals on the vehicle. If, following the appraisals the two sides still cannot agree an “umpire” is selected to review both appraisals. If both sides cannot agree on the umpire they can request the magistrate select the umpire. The umpire would review both reports and issue a written report of value. Either side can reject the umpire’s report, however. The only other option would be filing a lawsuit wherein a judge or jury would determine the value lost.
A DV claim is one claim that can be brought by an individual involved in an accident in North Carolina. However, along with a bodily injury claim (medical expenses, lost wages, scaring, etc) it must be prosecuted properly to ensure full value. To discuss your DV claim please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney.
NC Property Damage Appraisal
After a Charlotte car accident it is very common from the injured party to be visited by the insurance adjuster immediately after the accident. There are a number reasons behind this but the rational held by the insurance companies is this is time period when people are hurting and most vulnerable (and most willing to sign anything without speaking with a lawyer). There are a number of steps that take place when a person’s car is damaged by the negligence of another. This page deals with the most common question about the initial insurance appraisal and the role it plays.
What happens if I disagree with the insurance adjuster’s appraisal of damage?
The answer (or more correctly your options) depends on whether you are handling the property damage portion of your claim under your collision coverage or the other person’s liability insurance. Regardless, the Charlotte personal injury attorney assigned to your case will explain to you that the insurance adjuster’s appraisal has limited value. In NC, the adjuster is not able to break down your vehicle or even enter it without your permission. The adjuster can merely walk around the vehicle and take pictures. As such, the appraisal that matters is that of the body shop. If you have been involved in a NC car accident you have the right to take your vehicle to a body shop of your choosing. The body shop’s appraisal will be compared to the adjuster’s. As long as it can be shown that the damage to the vehicle was a result of the NC car accident the adjuster is responsible to pay for it (regardless of his/her original appraisal).
NC Rental Vehicle
Cars today are built with less heavy metals than in the past. As such, it doesn’t take much of a hit to render the vehicle unsafe to drive. Without another form of transportation individuals are unable to go to their doctor’s appointments, work or other daily activities. After a NC car accident it is very common for the insurance company to delay in securing a rental vehicle for the injured party. There are a number reasons behind this but one rational held by the insurance companies is saving money. However, most people (and lawyers) are unaware that people are entitled to compensation if they are not given a rental car.
Do I get a rental car? If so, when?
After you are involved in a Charlotte NC car accident the law entitles you to compensation for the loss of use of your vehicle. This is typically calculated using a dollar amount per day for the loss of use. Many car insurance companies, to escape paying the individual directly for their loss of use pay for a rental vehicle. Many people involved in a NC car accident do not realize however, that they are entitled to be compensated for the time between the accident and the time they get a rental vehicle. Our NC Car Accident attorneys can explain your rights to you and ensure you are not taken advantage of by the insurance company.
Speak to a Charlotte, NC Car Accident Lawyer Today
More information on property damage law in North Carolina is available by contacting the personal injury lawyers of Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC at (704) 714-1450.
At Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC our personal injury lawyers provide exceptional legal representation without prohibitive cost. Although the fee arrangement varies according to the type of case, we pride ourselves on being very clear about the costs at the outset of representation. We know that an informed client is a satisfied client.
Our commitment to client service and efficient, effective legal representation is why Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC continues to be the best.