Your Rights Under Law
Car Repairs After a Car Accident in Savannah Georgia: What to Know
Naturally, many people come to us wondering how to resolve the damage that has been done to their cars after an accident in the Savannah Georgia area. Fortunately, most car accidents do not involve physical injuries, so people are left wondering what they should do about the damage to the car itself. The law can be tricky in these cases, since insurance companies try their best to minimize what they have to pay. So here are some simplified answers to many of the questions we hear.
- Am I entitled to a rental car if the accident wasn’t my fault?
Although it can certainly be frustrating, unfortunately insurance companies have the option not to “accept liability” until they have their client’s official version of events. Even if the accident was clearly not your fault, they can still take this position. To get around this hurdle, our advice is to see if your own insurance company will provide a rental. Another option is to pay for it yourself and try to be reimbursed after the other insurance company officially accepts liability.
- How can I have the other insurance company pay off my car loan?
In most states, the law says that the victim (or the person not at fault) has a right to be compensated for the “fair market value” of the car if it has been totaled; otherwise, if the car is reparable, you are entitled to the full cost of repairing it. Fair market value means the amount the car would probably sell for if you put out an ad for it, and the Kelly Blue Book or NADA Black Book is a good resource for determining this amount. If the insurance company offers you something within the range of what you find in the NADA Black Book, you can assume that their offer is fair.
However, in most states victims of car accidents are not entitled to their cars’ replacement value, which can be problematic. For example, if you still owe more on the car than it is worth on the market, you can find yourself “below water.” Also, it is not uncommon for people to have a reliable, old car that serves its owner well but would not go for very much on the market. In this case, the victim of the accident is at a disadvantage, because it is unlikely that he or she will receive enough money to buy as reliable a car as before.
- Can I use a different repair shop than the one the insurance company “recommends”?
Definitely, you should know that you have the right to have your car repaired anywhere you like. However, keep in mind that the insurance company will not pay more than the “reasonable” cost to repair your car. So if the repairs end up costing more than what the insurance company agrees to, the repair shop must first obtain approval from the insurance company before proceeding. Because of this, it is generally more convenient to go ahead and use the recommended shop, since the shop and the insurance company generally have better communication.
- Will I have to pay for storage?
If you cannot drive your car before getting it repaired and you have to store it in the meantime, you will probably be required to pay for storing the damaged vehicle. In order to minimize the charges, your best option is to contact the insurance company to see if they can move the car from the tow lot to their own storage site, where more costs will not be added.
- Does the insurance company really have to communicate with the car finance company before it can pay me?
If your car has been totaled, the insurance company must receive the car’s title so that it can be sold for whatever it is worth. Before this can happen, the finance company or bank has to give up its own interest in the car, meaning that the insurance company must pay the amount left on the car loan (assuming this is less than the car’s fair market value). Then, the bank or financers will receive a check for their interest, and you will receive what is left.
- Is there a limit on how long I can use the rental car?
You have the right to use a rental car until the repairs on your car are finished, or until you receive a payment for the vehicle if it has been totaled. If there are logistical delays involved in this process, you should ask the insurance company to agree to an extension so that you can continue driving your rental car.
- If my damaged car is an SUV, can the insurance company make me drive a rental sedan?
You have the right to drive a rental vehicle that is similar in quality and type to your original car, since the law recognizes that you may need a particular kind of car for business purposes. So if you use a pickup truck for your construction business, the insurance company cannot put you in a compact car.
- What happens to my deductible?
There are two main ways you can handle your deductible. The other insurance company can give you the deductible after it accepts liability, or your lawyer can include the deductible as part of the amount you are claiming in your case.
- Will my lawyer charge me for my property damage claim if he or she is already handling my injury case?
This naturally depends on the lawyer, but we do not charge for property damage claims if we are handling your handling injury claims.
- Can I take my property damage case to court without a lawyer?
It is difficult to represent yourself and the defendant will have a free lawyer to protect them provided by the insurance company. Filing fees are really high these days so make sure there is a darn good reason why you are walking into the lions den when you make that decision.
- Remember to watch our Video on diminshed value in Georgia and read our article on Diminished Value in Georgia.
Remember that you cannot put estimates into evidence, you must bring the live witness to testify.