Getting fair compensation for repairs after a car accident is important. After all, you dutifully pay your car insurance premiums. If the accident is not your fault, you should be able to claim compensation for vehicle repairs through the other driver’s insurance. Even if they’re uninsured or underinsured, you should still be able to get compensation for repairs through your own insurer.
Our Myrtle Beach car accident lawyers explain how to get compensation for car repairs after an accident.
Getting Compensation for Repairs After a Car Accident
1. Document the accident
Getting fair compensation for repairs after a car accident begins before you even file your claim. South Carolina law § 56-5-1210 requires motorists to report an accident to the police only if there is a physical injury or death.
Reporting the accident to the police and filing a police report is important in every case, as sometimes you do not know immediately that you have been injured.
South Carolina is an at-fault state. That means payment for repairs depends on who is at fault for the accident. If the police don’t respond to the scene, you’re on your own to document the accident and prove fault. Even if the police respond, you should gather information yourself, too.
Get contact information for the driver along with their insurance information and vehicle details. Take photos of the accident scene and get contact information for witnesses.
2. Report the accident to your own insurance
If the other party is at fault, their insurance should pay. However, if the other driver flees from the scene before the police arrive, or if they are uninsured or underinsured, it may be your own insurance company that pays damages.
They should know about the accident. South Carolina requires drivers to have uninsured motorist coverage. One way or the other, you should be able to get your vehicle repairs done up to your insurance limits.
3. Make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance
Get the ball rolling with the other party’s insurance. Notify them of the accident and your claim. With most insurance companies, you can report a claim online.
The insurance company is likely to recommend repair shops within their network. You don’t have to use them. There are pros and cons to working within the insurance company network. They are more likely to take cost-cutting measures to keep costs low for the insurance company. After all, they want the insurance company to keep sending them business.
You’re welcome to get a second opinion from an independent repair shop.
Once you have an estimate that you agree with, you submit it to the insurance company. If they agree to pay it, you go ahead and have the repairs made.
You may also pay for the repairs yourself and then seek reimbursement from the insurance company. Just keep in mind that you can’t guarantee that the insurance company will cover the damages until they authorize payment in writing. If you can’t agree with the insurance company, you may file for auto insurance arbitration. Arbitration is not available for personal injury, collision or comprehensive coverage. (See below.)
4. Know what other types of compensation you may deserve
South Carolina car accident laws give you the right to claim compensation for vehicle repairs. However, that’s not the only compensation for property damage that you may qualify to receive. There are some other types of compensation that may be appropriate:
Depreciation – Diminished Value
Depreciation is the diminished value of the vehicle because the car has been in an accident. Even if repairs are done, and even if they’re done well, the car has still been in an accident. There’s no way to make the car as good as new.
This diminished value is worthy of compensation.
The appropriate amount is the difference in value from the time repairs are complete to the value before the accident. Unfortunately, insurance companies often hesitate to pay diminished value. If they pay, it is often woefully inadequate to fairly represent the amount of loss.
How do I get fair payment for diminished value?
If the insurance company doesn’t agree to fairly pay for diminished value, you may file an auto property arbitration claim. (See Clerk of Court Manual § 6.1.2) The case doesn’t go to a trial. It goes to a panel of attorneys who hear the evidence and decide what the insurance company must pay. This can be an efficient way to have your case decided by a neutral third party. (See South Carolina Automobile Reparation Reform Act of 1974 (§§ 38-77-710, et seq.).)
At the arbitration hearing, you must present evidence of what your car was worth. Kelley Blue Book is a great place to start. You should also have mileage records, vehicle specifications, a record of service to the vehicle and information about anything you’ve done to it like aftermarket improvements.
Don’t rely on your word alone to prove your case, you need to bring evidence.
Diminished value appraisal Formula 17c
The insurance company is likely to use a formula called 17c to determine diminished value. They’ll take many things into account like the vehicle year, condition and even color. They may add a damage multiplier based on the severity of the damage, and another multiplier for mileage. Learn what you can about the 17c formula. Identify areas of dispute with the insurance company, and bring the evidence that you need to prove your case.
Loss of Use
In addition to depreciation, you should also receive compensation for loss of use. Loss of use accounts for the fact that you cannot use your vehicle. This should cover the rental car or give you a per diem while you wait for repairs. If you’re going through your own insurance, there may be a limit in the insurance policy for this type of coverage. See Vanderford v. Smith, 111 S.E.2d 777 (S.C. 1960).
Contact Our Myrtle Beach Car Accident Lawyers
The Maguire Law Firm is a personal injury law firm serving Myrtle Beach. We are here to help you obtain the benefits you deserve under the law. If you are injured as a resident or while visiting Myrtle Beach, call 843-894-3502 to discuss your case.