Recently we received a request for help from a woman who was desperate to settle her car accident claim, most notably the property damage. Property damage, also known as PDL is a form of liability auto insurance.
In a nutshell, she had been involved in a car accident which was not her fault. After about 30 days, the insurance company for the other driver agreed to pay for the property damages to her vehicle. So why was she so desperate? Because she was on the verge of being severely shortchanged for her loss.
At the request of the insurance company who was negotiating her car accident claim, she took her vehicle to two reputable body shops. Each of these shops placed her damages over $5500. One was actually over $6000.
In the meantime, the insurance company dispatched an adjuster who had been assigned to her liability claim. That adjuster also prepared an appraisal. The insurance estimate totaled less than $2500! And, worse yet, the adjuster informed her that the company would not pay more than that amount until the vehicle was under repair. At that point, additional damages would be considered.
As was her option in a property damage liability claim, she had the option of receiving a settlement check without having to complete any repairs. Unlike a collision claim through one’s own policy where the lienholder is listed as an interest on the policy, a liability carrier has no obligation to protect that lienholder.
Many people will decide to accept the settlement check with the idea of never completing repairs. If the car has little value, this is not necessarily a bad idea – as long as the car is drivable and the owner doesn’t much care about the damage. But if one does care, and/or if one expects to receive a fair value for that vehicle at time of sale or trade-in, ignoring the repairs is a bad idea.
Sounds like an elementary decision. Well, maybe not. If this lady was to receive a fair settlement for her car accident claim, it would not be by simply accepting the check.
How does this happen?
When insurance companies appraise vehicle damage, they write only what they can “see”. More often than not, vehicle damage is not actually visible until the vehicle is torn down during a repair process. When this occurs, body shops will contact the insurance company for a “supplement”. Usually as a result of that supplement – or multiple supplements – the insurance company will pay for the additional damage. As they should!
In accepting just a check for the visible damages, a vehicle owner is forever risking having that vehicle restored to its pre-loss condition.
In the end, the woman chose to settle her car accident claim with full repairs to her vehicle. But had she settled this property damage liability claim with just a check, she would have been short changed by at least several thousand dollars.
A word to the wise. Be very careful when settling for cash in a property damage liability claim. It’s in your best interest to have an independent, reputable body shop appraise all damages. Put it on a lift – let an expert examine the vehicle. Only then can you make an informed settlement decision on your car accident claim. Never accept quick cash in exchange for the true value of your loss.
Need more help with your car accident claim settlement? We recommend …
The No Nonsense Guide to Accident Settlement