Sooner or later, you are bound to be involved in a car accident that damages your vehicle.
The average American driver can expect to be in at least three or four car accidents during their lifetime, and most accidents involve property damage. However, suing for property damage after a car accident can be tricky.
If you have been in a car accident caused by someone else, you have a right to expect the at-fault driver or their insurance company to pay for your damages. Below, learn how to sue someone for property damage and avoid common mistakes during the process.
What is Considered Property Damage in a Car Accident?
If you experienced personal property damage in an auto accident, you have the right to seek damages. Read on to learn about what’s considered property damage in a car accident property damage claim.
Vehicle-related property damage claims might include:
- The cost to repair your vehicle
- Diminished value if your vehicle is repaired
- The fair market value of the car if it is a total loss
- Rental car costs while your car is in the shop
- Replacement value of upgrades you made to your car, like a stereo system or special wheel rims
- Other personal property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident
Usually, making a property damage claim after a car accident is a simple process. Alabama law requires drivers to maintain automobile insurance coverage. This insurance coverage is called liability insurance.
There are two common types of liability insurance: property damage and bodily injury. The claims process begins when you file a property damage claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Unlike personal injury claims, which can take weeks or months, property damage claims are simpler to prove and can be settled much faster.
Steps to Take to Settle Your Property Damage Claim
If you are in an automobile accident and the at-fault driver is insured, here are the steps you should take to settle your property damage claim:
- File an accident report at the scene of the accident and obtain the other driver’s insurance information.
- Call the other driver’s insurance company, report the claim, and request that a claims adjuster inspect your vehicle. You should also call your own insurance company to report your no-fault claim.
- In 3-5 business days, you should obtain a copy of the accident report and forward the accident report to the insurance claims adjuster.
- Next, if your vehicle is totaled, you should use Kelly Blue Book or NADA guides to determine the fair market value of your vehicle. The insurance claims adjuster will likely call and make an offer to settle your property damage claim. The insurance company’s offer should be within the range of pricing provided by Kelley Blue Book or NADA guide.
If the insurance company denies your claim or the other driver does not have liability insurance, you should immediately contact a lawyer. It may be in your best interest to file a collision claim with your own insurance company.
What Are the Types of Property Damages?
In addition to learning about how to sue someone for property damage, it’s important to understand what damages you are able to recover. If you are involved in a car accident, you could be entitled to the following types of property damages:
- Repairs for your vehicle or the value of your vehicle if it is totaled.
- The diminished value of your vehicle after it is repaired.
- Any other personal property items that were destroyed or damaged in the accident.
- Rental car expenses while your vehicle is being repaired.
What are the Other Types of Damages in a Car Accident Case?
In addition to property damages, you may also be entitled to bodily injury damages if you have been injured. If you are involved in a wreck, you have two separate claims against the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company. The first is property damage and the second is bodily injury. Before making a claim for either property damage or personal injuries, you must prove that the other driver was at-fault or negligent.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you should contact an Alabama personal injury lawyer. A skilled personal injury lawyer will be able to help investigate your accident and prove that the other driver was at-fault and responsible for the wreck.
Finding Who is “At Fault” or Negligent
Anyone wondering how to sue someone for property damage in Alabama must understand the following:
To receive any compensation for injuries suffered in an automobile accident, you must first determine who caused the accident. Alabama is a “fault” state when it comes to car accidents and insurance coverage. This means that the other driver must be 100% at-fault in order for you to make a claim for property damage or personal injuries. If you are even 1% at-fault then the other driver’s insurance company will likely deny the claim. This is called contributory negligence.
In Alabama, it is common for insurance companies to deny claims, even when their insured was the cause of the accident. If your insurance claim is denied due to contributory negligence but you feel you were not responsible for the accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer to help prove you were not contributorily negligence.
Getting Information at the Scene of the Accident
Gathering information at the scene of an accident is the first step in determining fault. This may not be possible if you have sustained major injuries, but if you did not, make sure you survey your car crash scene. Get the names and contact information of the other driver, passengers, and witnesses. Exchange information with the other driver and wait for a police officer to arrive and file an accident report.
Take pictures of your car, the other car or cars, as well as the area around the accident scene. Pay close attention to anything that may have impacted or caused the accident – road condition, guardrails, road signs.
Filing a Lawsuit for Your Property Damage Claim
Most property damage claims are settled in a reasonable amount of time for a fair amount of money. If the other driver’s insurance company denies your claim or the at-fault driver does not have insurance, talk with your insurance carrier.
If you do not have collision coverage or uninsured property damage coverage, you will have to file a small claims or district court lawsuit. The court in which you file your suit depends on the damage amount.
- If your damages are less than $6,000, you can file your lawsuit in small claims court.
- If your damages are between $6,000 and $20,000, you should file your lawsuit in district court.
- If your damages are over $20,000, you must file your lawsuit in circuit court.
Regardless of which court you file in, you should file the lawsuit in the county where the crash occurred OR in the county in which the other driver resides.
You must file your lawsuit directly against the other driver, not their insurance company. However, if the other driver is insured, their company may have a “duty to defend” their insured by sending a lawyer.
Still, you have nothing to lose by consulting an attorney before deciding to represent yourself in court.
Call a Huntsville Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the actions of another driver, you need the services of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Warren & Simpson.
We are tough on insurance companies and compassionate with clients, ensuring that you receive the highest quality representation. Our car accident lawyers are experienced and capable trial attorneys who will give your case the attention that it deserves. So turn to the experts at Warren & Simpson today.