How Do I Get My Car Fixed After a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, one of your primary concerns typically is to get your car repaired as soon as possible so you will have reliable transportation. This can be a confusing and challenging process, especially if you’ve never been involved in a car accident or filed an accident claim with an insurance company.
Depending on the coverages you have purchased as part of your auto insurance policy, you may be entitled to turn to your insurance company to pay for car repairs or file a claim against the insurance of the driver at fault in the accident.
Can You Choose Which Insurance Policy to Use?
If another driver caused the accident that damaged your car, you typically can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, assuming the at-fault driver has insurance coverage. Drivers should carry proof of insurance in their vehicle in case of an accident. In Virginia, drivers are typically required to carry at least $20,000 of property damage liability coverage. That can pay for the expenses to repair damage to your vehicle. However, some drivers in Virginia opt to pay a $500 uninsured motorist fee in order to drive an uninsured vehicle.
If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or if the driver has insufficient coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle’s repairs, you may look to your own uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist policy (UM/UIM) for payment of repairs to your vehicle.
If you purchased collision coverage as part of your insurance coverage, also known as physical damage coverage, it will pay for repairs to your car after an accident regardless of who is at fault. Your insurer may then file a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance to recoup its costs.
If your vehicle is damaged by a collision while parked and the at-fault driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage to fully cover the repair bills, you would also look to your insurer for coverage, assuming you have purchased comprehensive coverage for your insurance policy.
Can You Choose Which Auto Shop to Use?
Your rights to choose who fixes the damage to your car (including whether you may perform the repairs yourself) may depend on whether you have a car loan or other lien on your vehicle. If you’ve leased your car or are making car payments on a loan, the lending company may have the right under the terms of your lease or loan agreement to require you to use a repair shop approved by the lender.
When you receive a check from the insurance company for the estimated cost of repairs for your vehicle, the insurance company may also require you to use a shop approved by the insurance company. If you own your car free and clear, then you can generally choose where to get your car repaired.
However, going to an auto shop not approved by your insurer may end up affecting your insurance coverage. Your insurer may revoke your collision and comprehensive coverage if the insurance company can’t be sure that your car was properly repaired.
Do You Need to Fix Your Car After an Accident?
If you have leased your car or still owe money on a car loan, you typically will be required to have collision insurance. The lender or leaseholder will likely require you to fix any damage from an accident since unrepaired damage will affect the value of the car, which serves as the collateral for your loan.
Your insurance company may also require you to fix accident damage if you wish to maintain your collision or comprehensive coverage. The insurance company may require you to select a repair shop and will pay the shop directly for the repair costs.
Finally, if you accept a check from the insurance company for the estimated cost of repairs for your vehicle, you may be required by the terms of your policy to see that those repairs are performed. If your policy requires you to obtain repairs after accepting payment and you pocket the money instead, you run the risk of your insurer canceling your policy.
Do You Have to Keep Your Car If It Is Totaled in VA?
The insurance company may declare your vehicle totaled if the cost to repair the damage exceeds the fair market value of the vehicle. When a vehicle is declared totaled, the insurance company will pay you the lesser of either the fair market value of your car before the accident or the estimated cost of repairing your car (along with incidental expenses like rental cars and storage fees).
Once your car is declared totaled, you have an option of whether to keep it. If you decide to keep your car, the insurance company will estimate your car’s salvage value and deduct that amount from the total loss payment you receive.
If you choose to sign the title of your car over to the insurance company, the salvage value of the car will not be deducted from your total loss payment since the insurance company will receive the salvage value of the car after disposing of it.
Do You Have to Accept an Offer on Your Vehicle in Virginia?
You don’t necessarily have to accept the first offer that the insurance company makes for repair costs or for the value of your car if it is totaled. In many cases, you can negotiate for a higher payment if you can provide facts to show that the insurance company made you a low offer.
For example, you may argue for a higher value for your vehicle if it had low miles for its age, if you had a rare or limited-edition car, or if you obtain multiple quotes from auto shops to show that the insurance underestimated repair costs.
Contact A Virginia Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that involved serious injuries, contact Lichtenstein Law Group PLC today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about your rights and options for getting your car fixed following a crash.
At Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, our Roanoke car collision lawyers can help guide you through the process of filing a claim for compensation with the insurance company. We’ll advocate on your behalf to help you seek fair compensation for the costs of your medical bills and other losses including damage to your vehicle. We’ll explain your options for fixing your car or handling the disposal of your totaled vehicle.
If you have questions about your options for getting a vehicle fixed following a serious car accident, contact our firm today for a free case review with one of our knowledgeable car accident attorneys. We’ll answer all of your questions and help you understand the steps ahead.
John E. Lichtenstein is a founding member of Lichtenstein Law Group, PLC, with more than three decades of experience as a trial lawyer. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, John has successfully resolved hundreds of cases on behalf of his clients, including some of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Virginia history. He has also served his profession, including serving as President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association in 2015-2016 and as Chair of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section in 2007-2008.