As a Long Island car accident lawyer, I speak to people every day that have been in motor vehicle collisions. One of the most common topics I am asked about by them is car damage claims. Most people can’t afford to be without a car on Long Island. Our community is not known for its public transportation.
Unfortunately, It can be one of the most confusing issues that car accident victims have to deal with following a crash. Whose insurance carrier do you file a claim with? How much are you entitled to receive? How long will the claim take to be resolved? All reasonable questions that I will attempt to answer in this blog.
There are generally two options for getting your car damage paid following a motor vehicle accident. The first is to pursue a claim through your car insurance policy. The second is to pursue a claim through the other party’s auto insurance policy.
Depending on your car insurance policy, one option you may want to explore is using your automobile insurance carrier to pay for your damaged vehicle. Of course, this is only an option if you have purchased collision coverage for your vehicle. In New York, you are not required to maintain collision coverage on your vehicle. Therefore, if you have declined this coverage, you cannot pursue a claim for your car damage.
However, if you have paid for collision coverage, this may be your best option. First, there is no need for your insurance carrier to complete an accident investigation prior to resolving your damage claim as the carrier is obligated to repair or replace your vehicle regardless of fault. Also, your car insurance carrier is likely going to want to make you a satisfied customer by being responsive to your needs and acting quickly to inspect and repair your car.
The only drawback to pursuing a claim through your car insurance carrier is that there is usually a deductible to deal with. A deductible is an amount of money that you have to contribute to the repairs or replacement cost of your vehicle. Most deductibles are either $500 or $1,000 dollars. The good news is that if you are not at fault for the accident, your carrier will seek to be reimbursed for the cost of the claim from the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. If they are successful, they will also obtain your deductible back for you.
If you do not have collision coverage or you cannot afford to pay for your deductible, you will want to pursue a claim for your damaged vehicle through the other party’s insurance carrier. This is only an option if the other party is at fault for the accident. If you are at fault, the other party’s insurance carrier will refuse to pay for your damage as they are only legally liable to repair or replace your vehicle if their driver is at fault for the accident. If their driver is only partially at fault for the accident, the carrier will likely only offer to pay for their driver’s proportionate share of fault.
This type of claim is not always the best option to get your car damage reimbursed as the other carrier will only make a voluntary payment on your claim after a full investigation and only if they deem their driver is at fault after that investigation is complete. Unfortunately, this process will often take weeks to complete. So, you will be stuck in limbo until this process plays out.
Further, if the carrier decides that their driver is not at fault, they will deny your claim. If you should disagree with their assessment, you will have to pursue your claim in court. This may require the help of a lawyer and may take several months or even years to be resolved. That’s why I always recommend pursuing a claim through your insurance carrier if it is an option.
Property damage claims are generally limited to the value of the property that you lost. In other words, you can recover the amount of money it costs to repair or replace your vehicle. In some instances, an insurance carrier may also agree to pay reasonable towing and storage charges, as well.
This often depends on whether you are making a claim through your car insurance policy or the other driver’s car insurance policy. If you are presenting the claim to your carrier the process is generally faster than proceeding through the other driver’s policy for the reasons I explained above. In such instances, a claim can take as little as a week to resolve.
Going through the other driver’s insurance policy will take longer. You can expect it to take several weeks. But often times it can take longer and in certain instances, the carrier may even refuse payment leaving you with the option of either dropping the claim or suing in court.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents, and slip-and-fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.