After an auto accident in Arizona, you want to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. Other than getting treated for injuries, there are two things you want to do as soon as possible:
- Get a rental car
- Get your vehicle repaired
To get reimbursed for rental car needs, either you or the at-fault driver must have rental car coverage. You must also carry collision coverage to get your vehicle repaired by your carrier.
You may speak to an insurance adjuster or even your own insurance company regarding rental car reimbursement. It is crucial to understand your rights and options when dealing with insurance companies. You also want to ensure your vehicle is repaired or replaced for a fair price.
Here are the steps to take to get your vehicle repaired, and in the meantime, get reimbursed for rental car use so you can get around and carry on with your life as usual.
Step 1: Check Your Insurance Policy for Rental and Collision Coverage
Many folks, possibly including you, are hesitant to use their own insurance coverage. It seems wrong and unfair. If someone else caused you harm, why should your insurance company pay for this?
Benefits of Using Your Own Coverage
There are three reasons why you should use your own coverage:
First, you have been paying for coverage for this exact reason. Now is your chance to use it.
Second, you are not paying out of your own pocket. Using this coverage costs you nothing.
Third, and possibly the best reason: There are no hoops to jump through to use your own coverage, unlike the other party’s policy.
How to Use Your Own Insurance to Repair Your Car
Check the back of your wallet-sized insurance coverage policy and see if you carry both rental coverage and collision coverage.
If you use your own auto insurance provider to fix your car, the repairs are often completed much more quickly. Your provider is legally obligated to provide coverage. You will probably have to pay your deductible, but you can always get reimbursed for it through the third-party insurer later.
If your policy doesn’t denote what coverages are available, contact your agent directly and ask.
If you do have collision coverage, you may proceed with your claim.
Let them know the details of the accident and book a rental car. Choose which auto body shop to send your vehicle to for evaluation.
Your own carrier usually has a property adjuster who can come directly to you. Use that service when you can.
If you do not carry either rental coverage and/or collision coverage, read the next section.
Step 2: What to Do If You Have No Rental Car Coverage
The first thing to do is call the other driver’s insurance company and find out if they carry any coverage.
However, you will need to discuss the claim with them before they provide you with information about rental car coverage. Ideally, their driver has already admitted fault. If not, then they will need to wait for the police report to confirm their driver is at fault.
They will also try to determine whether you contributed to the accident, or could have been driving differently, in an attempt to hold you partially at fault for the accident. Keep that in mind when discussing the claim with the at-fault driver’s adjuster.
Here are some tips:
Speaking to a Third-party Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster is an employee of the insurance company who determines who is at fault and pays the claim. Typically, a third-party adjuster will ask you to give a recorded statement. This is the adjuster’s first chance to get your version of what happened. Since it is being recorded, you will be stuck with whatever you say, even if it doesn’t come out quite right.
Important tip: Consult an auto accident attorney before you give a recorded statement to the third-party adjuster.
If you decide to give a recorded statement without the help of an attorney (not recommended), keep several things in mind:
- First, the third-party adjuster is not your friend.
- Second, he or she is not legally obligated to act fairly.
- Third, the third-party adjuster’s only job is to save the insurance company money by paying you as little as possible.
Be careful with any admissions and agreeing to any facts that you are not aware of.
Getting Reimbursed for Loss of Use of Your Vehicle
Assuming the other driver is completely at fault for the accident, keep in mind you have the right to have your car repaired wherever you choose.
If the at-fault driver does not carry rental coverage, you are entitled to get paid a certain amount each day you are unable to drive your car.
Additional Compensation for Your Car
In addition, the at-fault driver, or his insurer, also has to compensate you for:
- The cost of a rental car for you to drive while your own car is being repaired or replaced.
- The cost of towing your car away from the accident scene.
- The cost of storing your car until it can be repaired or disposed of.
- Damage to personal property in or on your vehicle, such as a bike on the bike rack.
- The value your car lost because of the accident.
What Is a “Totaled” Vehicle?
If the cost to fix your car exceeds a certain percentage of its pre-accident value, the insurance company will total your vehicle. As a rule of thumb, that percentage cut-off is typically 70% of the value of the vehicle.
If your car was totaled, the insurance company must pay you the cash value of your vehicle. They usually will mail you a check.
The overall condition and mileage of your vehicle will affect its value. Similarly, any recent work done to the vehicle, or money put into it, will raise its value.
There is usually some negotiation in this process, so it is crucial to find evidence to support your claim of value. The Kelley Blue Book value is not enough. You need to find comparable vehicles for sale. eBay Motors is also a good place to find similar vehicles and what they are selling for.
In What Scenarios Do You Need an Attorney?
The majority of property damage claims are resolved without the help of an attorney. You only need an attorney if:
- Things are not going smoothly in your property damage claim.
- You were injured in the accident.
- The insurance adjuster for the other party wants a recorded statement from you.
- The auto insurer offers you a low-ball amount for your totaled vehicle.
If you are having difficulty with the insurance adjuster handling your claim, it is advisable to contact an attorney.
If you are not claiming any bodily injuries, you may want to consult with a personal injury attorney about handling your property damage claim. However, you are unlikely to retain one for just this purpose.
However, if you were injured in the accident, you should speak to a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible.