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Property Damage Claims

September 16, 2022

By Thomas McCutcheon

We get calls about property damage claims frequently. We don’t handle property claims unless there is personal injury involved. Joel and I work on a contingency fee basis in personal injury cases.  

Often people have cars that are damaged through someone else’s negligence. I would guess that most wrecks don’t involve injury, but they do involve damage to a vehicle that has to be repaired. What people used to do is get the highest estimate they could and then hire the least expensive repair shop so they could keep the difference between the estimate and the repair. We call this a Cadillac estimate and a Buick repair.  

That type of opportunity to make a little money on a property damage claim is really no longer available. What we see now are insurance companies that provide an estimate, typically at the shop of your choice, and you are confined to that amount of money. The other way that insurance companies handle property damage is they have an approved shop and if you let the insurance company choose the shop for you, they will pay related bills until the vehicle is repaired. Cars are so complicated these days that’s not a bad option.  

Once you’ve been in an accident or find out that your car is damaged, contact the police and file a report. Never say anything to the police that might seem like you’re admitting fault. Even saying that you shouldn’t have parked too close to a busy road is too much to say. You should answer truthfully any questions that you are asked and not provide false information however, don’t guess about how fast you were going at the time of the accident or how far away you were from the other car when you first saw them.  

I very nearly blew a gasket when a client said they saw the other car about a minute before the accident. I stopped the deposition, went out on Tennessee Street, asked them to look at their watch, left, walked 50 feet to a newspaper vending machine, bought a Times Daily newspaper and came back within 60 seconds. They didn’t see that other car for an entire minute, and if they did, they caused the accident. That’s just sloppy thinking. It hurts your case for no reason.  

If you have collision coverage and the other insurance company “investigates” for a long period of time or denies liability, have your insurance company pay to repair your car and let those two insurance companies work out their differences on their time and not yours. You will have to pay your deductible, but if you were not at fault, your insurance company will recover that deductible and refund it to you.  

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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