Next Steps When You Sustain Property Damage in a Maryland Car Accident

Trusted auto accident lawyers helping clients in Baltimore, Columbia and beyond

Oftentimes, the most frustrating thing about an automobile accident is not having your car. Whether your car is drivable and needs modest repairs, or a total loss that needs to be replaced, it can be difficult to manage in the aftermath of a collision. This means even when you sustain little to no injuries, you may still be unable to provide for your family.

At Plaxen & Adler, P.A., we do more than represent our clients in court; we help them protect themselves, their futures and their families. We have spent the last 30 years working with auto accident victims in Baltimore, Columbia and throughout Maryland whose sustained property damage in a collision. It is our goal to help you in any way that we can, so you can keep your family safe and secure.

What you should know about renting a car in Maryland

If your vehicle is out of commission, whether because it is totaled or being repaired, you may need to get a rental vehicle until you purchase a new car or until repairs are completed. There are three ways to get a rental vehicle:

  1. Your insurance company pays for the rental.If you have rental coverage included in your automobile insurance coverage, your insurance company will help you during this time by paying for a rental vehicle.  The advantage of using your policy is that you do not have to depend on an admission of liability by the negligent driver’s insurance company, so this is often the fastest way to get back on the road.
  2. The negligent driver’s insurance company pays for the rental.If the negligent driver’s insurance company admits that their insured was at fault, they will provide you with a rental car for a reasonable amount of time while your car is repaired, or while they are evaluating the damages to provide payment for total loss. Unfortunately, you may have to wait until the insurance company talks to their insured about how the collision happened, which can be immediate or sometimes takes weeks.
  3. You pay for the rental out-of-pocket.If you do not have rental coverage with your insurance collision coverage, and if the negligent driver’s insurance company has not admitted liability, the only way to get a rental vehicle may be for you to pay out-of-pocket. Keep track of your expenses, because your lawyer may be able to make a claim for reimbursement of your rental car payments. Keep in mind that you have a duty to mitigate (more on that to come).

Dealing with repairs after a collision

If your vehicle was damaged in an automobile collision, but not enough to total it out, you will likely need to have it repaired. Like the rental car, repairs can be made by your insurance company (if you have collision coverage), the negligent driver’s insurance company (if they admit their insured was negligent), or by you. Also like the rental car, you can usually get your vehicle repaired quickest by having your insurance company pay for it. Unfortunately, this requires you to pay your deductible (usually $250 or $500). Your insurance company will try to recoup this from the other insurance company, and they will reimburse you as quickly as possible. If not, one of our Baltimore car accident attorneys may include it in your claim.

Whether the car is repaired by your insurance company or the other insurance company, they will need to send someone out to look at the vehicle, or else have it sent to a repair shop for an estimate. Typically, they will then offer to pay the cost of estimated repairs, and you can have the car repaired at a repair shop of your choice.  Sometimes, though, it is better to use the insurance company’s repair shop because if the estimate was wrong, it can be easier to get them to pay for completion of repairs, regardless of the cost.

What happens if your car is a total loss?

If your car is so damaged that it is not drivable or roadworthy, or if the cost of repairs are more than its value, it will be declared a total loss by your insurance company (if you have collision coverage) or by the other driver’s insurance company (if they admit liability). In this situation, they will pay the fair market value of your car.

Fair market value is essentially the value that you could get by selling the pre-collision car. Some useful ways to determine fair market value are Kelley Blue Book, the Nada Guides, or any offers of purchase you had near the time of the collision, whether from an individual buyer or a company like Carmax. Let your attorney know if your car had any major work done recently — for example, or a new engine – as this might increase its value.

You might face one or two major problems when your vehicle is declared a total loss:

  1. You owe more on your car than it is worth. If you are still making payments on your car, but the value is less than your remaining payments, you may have to continue making payments for a car that you no longer own. One solution is to purchase gap insurance, either from the leasing company or from your automobile insurance company. Gap insurance will pay the difference between the value of your car and the total remaining payments. Unfortunately, if you do not have gap insurance, you will be on the hook for the remaining payments.
  2. You had a reliable older car. If your car was a reliable source of transportation, but had a low fair market value, you may not be able to purchase an equivalent and satisfactory replacement car with the money you receive from the insurance company for totaling out your car. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover replacement value of a beloved older car.

If your car is in a collision and damaged, its value will typically be lower even if that damage is repaired. In some circumstances your lawyer may be able to pursue a diminished value claim for your car. Typically, your pre-collision car must be only one or two years old and in good condition. These claims often require expert testimony in court.

Duty to mitigate damages

When your car is damaged or totaled, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. That means you must act reasonably, and avoid unnecessary or excessive expenses. For example, if your car needs to be evaluated by the insurance company and it is on a storage lot or at a repair shop, you must act quickly to give them access. Otherwise, you may incur storage fees that are not reimbursable. Likewise, if you have an estimate for repair of your car, or an offer for total loss, you must act quickly to begin the repairs or accept the total loss rather than continuing to accrue rental car bills. The longer you incur storage fees or rental car bills, the less likely your lawyer will be able to recoup those expenses for you.

Learn more about how we can help you handle property damage after an accident

If you are lucky enough to suffer little to no injury in a collision, then it is likely that the loss of your vehicle will be your most pressing concern. At Plaxen & Adler, P.A., you will not be charged a fee for handling of your routine property damage claim. If you were involved in an automobile accident anywhere in Maryland, or have questions about property damage, please contact the Baltimore auto injury attorneys of Plaxen & Adler, P.A. by calling 410.988.4449 or by filling out the contact form today.