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Property Damage Frequently Asked Questions

The adjuster wants to repair my cars with used parts.

There is no hard and fast rule on this.  North Carolina law does not provide for replacement value.  It provides that when your car is damaged, the insurance company needs to return it to the condition it was in before the accident.  So if your car is 3 years old, arguably, it is reasonable for them to replace your bumper with a bumper that is 3 years old.  Of course, if safety is an issue (a used airbag for example) the adjuster is more likely to agree to use new parts.

If you cannot work out an arrangement with the adjuster that works for both of you, you can file the claim with your own insurance (assuming you have full coverage).  You will have to pay the deductible, but you will get it back once your insurance company gets reimbursed from the at-fault driver’s insurance.

The adjuster wants me to go to their repair facility.

North Carolina Department of Insurance regulations provide that the adjuster cannot compel you to use a particular body shop.  However, if you use your own body shop, you do run some risks.  For example, if the repairs take longer than the adjuster considers reasonable, they may try to cut off your rental car.

The adjuster told me to get a rental from Enterprise for up to $25 a day, but Enterprise doesn’t have many vehicles for that price.

Make sure you are not paying for any extra insurance.  Insurance companies will not pay for any of this coverage.  Enterprise will want you to have full coverage on your insurance policy before they let you rent their cars.  If you do not have full coverage, you can get your auto insurance to add full coverage for a few days.  This is almost always much cheaper than the $15-25 a day Enterprise charges for supplemental insurance.  If Enterprise still has few cars that are within the price range the adjuster authorized, you may need to go to another Enterprise location.  If you have a particular need for a larger vehicle, the adjuster will usually agree to pay more than $25 a day.

My vehicle is totaled, but I owe more on the car than it is worth.

North Carolina law does not provide for replacement value.  The adjuster is required to pay you the amount you could have sold your car for, not the amount you could buy a car of the same make and model.  If you look at kbb.com or nada.com, they list different prices for the vehicles.  The adjuster will look to Private Party Resale or Trade In values.  They will not look to Retail value of your vehicle.  This means, you may not be able to buy another vehicle from a dealer for the amount the adjuster offers you.  You can usually negotiate a little with the adjuster by adding in extras on the kbb.com or nada.com wesbites (e.g., a moonroof) and getting the adjuster to add in a little extra for tax, tags, and title.  But the adjuster does not care how much or how little you owe on a car.

If your car is worth less than you owe, check and see if you have GAP insurance.  This would not be under your auto insurance, but would be included in the documentation from your purchase of the car.  Most lenders push you to get GAP insurance to pay them.  If you do not have GAP insurance, and your car is worth less than is owed, the adjuster will want to issue a check to your lender bank, and your lender will tell you that you still owe them a balance.  You can usually get your lender to allow you to roll this balance into the purchase of a new car.

I am not in a position to buy another car, and I wouldn’t have had to if not for this accident.

North Carolina law does not provide for replacement value.  The adjuster has to pay you what your car is worth.  He does not need to pay you for the inconvenience or most other associated losses (the main exception is that he does need to provide you with a rental).

The adjuster says my car is totaled and now he wants to cut off my rental.

There is no hard and fast rule as to how long you are entitled to a rental.  Most adjusters consider it reasonable to provide you with a rental for a few days after their check to you for the total loss clears the bank, to give you time to use that money to buy a new car.  Adjusters do not like to extend rentals for long periods.  They tend to extend them for 2-3 days at a time, then reconsider extending them again, to make it inconvenient for you o you eventually stop asking for extensions.

I don’t want my vehicle to be declared a total loss.

North Carolina Department of Insurance regulations require that if a vehicle’s damage is above 75% of its resale value, it must be declared a total loss.  Adjusters have a little leeway here, because different sources list different fair marker values for the same car.  But adjusters only have so much wiggle room.  The problem usually comes up when adjusters think a vehicle is going to cost a certain amount to repair, and then the body shop finds more damage after they start the work.  In this case, the adjuster is still required to declare the vehicle a total loss.

Once the vehicle is declared a total loss, the adjuster will ask for a copy of the title, for your lender’s information, and for you to sign a Power of Attorney allowing them to handle the transfer of title with the DMV.  Once this is complete, you can buy the vehicle back from them as a salvage vehicle.  The adjuster will usually sell the vehicle back to you pretty cheaply, but the title will be stamped Salvage, making it nearly worthless unless you want to sell the parts.

The adjuster says the things I’ve added to my car, like a new stereo or rims or tires, don’t add to its value.

If that is the case, ask the adjuster for permission to remove them from the vehicle so you can keep or resell them.

My car has been repaired, but now CarMax won’t buy it from me.

If your vehicle is repaired, you may be entitled to another payment for Diminished Value.  There is no hard and fast rule for determining how much you are entitled to.  The rule of thumb is that if your vehicle was less than 6 years old, adjusters will pay you for diminished value, and will fight you on it if your vehicle is older than that.  There are companies that provide D.V. reports for a fee.  There is wide discrepancy between the values these companies assign.  If you tell the property damage adjuster you wish to make a D.V. claim, they will assign a field adjuster to look at your car (post-repairs) and try to work out a settlement on a D.V. claim without the two of you having to pay independent appraisers.

The adjuster doesn’t want to pay for all the repairs to my car because he says there was preexisting damage.

The adjuster is required to return your car as near as possible to its pre-accident condition.  For example, if your bumper had a scratch on it before the accident, and then got crushed in the accident, some adjusters will argue that they should not have to provide a new bumper.  However, it is nearly impossible to buy a bumper with a scratch on it.  If you tell the adjuster they can feel free to replace your bumper with one that has a scratch, usually they will just go ahead and replace it with an undamaged bumper (although they will probably not use a brand-name new bumper).  Sometimes they will just offer you cash, in which case you can try to negotiate an amount that works for you both.  If you cannot work it out, the best option is usually to go through your own insurance (assuming you have full coverage) because your own insurance is less inclined to fight you.

My car/baby seat was involved in the accident.

The adjuster will have to buy you a new car/baby seat.  Most adjusters want some evidence that you destroyed the old one.  Some adjusters will argue that they should only have to pay for the used value of a baby seat.  However, used baby seats may have been involved in collisions and you should not agree to this.  Adjusters will not fight hard on this issue, but some will give it a shot.

Enterprise says I am the only person who can drive the rental.

The adjuster will usually tell Enterprise to authorize anyone listed on the title to your vehicle to be an authorized driver on the rental vehicle.  If someone else needs to drive the rental, the adjuster will usually authorize them if they are listed under your insurance coverage as an authorized driver of your vehicle.

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