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Repairing or Replacing Your Vehicle After An Accident

Let’s face it, an auto accident is a huge hassle to deal with.  Along with your injuries, you will be forced to deal with either repairing or replacing your vehicle.  You will potentially be without your vehicle while it is being repaired.  Then you will be forced to deal with the insurance company to get the repairs, a rental car and/or the value of your vehicle if it is declared a total loss.  It’s definitely a headache, but it is something that must be dealt with in the auto accident claims process.

But all is not lost.  There are a number of protections for the owner of the vehicle involved in a car accident.  Let’s take a look at what protection the law gives you, the owner of the vehicle.

Vehicle Repair

In Texas and New Mexico, if another person causes the auto accident, the owner of the vehicle is entitled to elect two methods of measuring the property damage loss.  The owner can choose to either recover the difference in the fair market value of the car before and after the accident or the reasonable cost of repairing the vehicle, if it is economically feasible to repair the vehicle.  Most people in this situation choose to have their vehicle repaired by the wrongdoer’s insurance company.

If you choose to have your vehicle repaired by the wrongdoer’s insurance company, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The vehicle owner has the right to choose any shop for the repairs of that vehicle
  • The insurance company is not allowed to dictate to you where you take your vehicle to be repaired
  • The owner has a right to choose the type of parts to be used in the repair
  •  The insurance company only has to pay a reasonable amount for the repairs and the vehicle parts

On some occasions, it is best for the vehicle owner to use his or her own insurance to make vehicle repairs when they have purchased “full coverage.”  We counsel people to use this option when the negligent party’s insurance is being unresponsive or the investigation of the accident is causing unreasonable delays and hardship on our client.  If this option is chosen, you will have to pay a deductible for the repairs.  Then your insurance company will be responsible for getting reimbursed from the negligent driver’s insurance company for the repairs and for getting your deductible back to you.  The technical term for this process is called subrogation.

Another time when you should use your own insurance to recover for your repairs and property damage is when the driver who caused the accident does not have any insurance.  In that circumstance, your uninsured motorist property damage protection should pay for your repairs.

Total Loss Damages

If it is not economically feasible to repair your vehicle, then the insurance company will declare your vehicle a “total loss.”  If the repairs to the vehicle exceed the fair market value of the vehicle, then the insurance company will declare a total loss.  Another instance when the insurance company will declare a total loss occurs when the vehicle cannot be safely repaired.  For instance, a vehicle is often declared a total loss when there is frame damage to the vehicle.  If the vehicle is declared a total loss, then the insurance company must pay the owner of the vehicle the fair market value of the vehicle before the accident.  Most people choose to let the insurance company keep the vehicle; however, the owner of the vehicle can choose to keep the totaled vehicle.  If the owner chooses this option, the insurance company will pay the owner the fair market value of the vehicle minus the money that the insurance company could have made if the vehicle was sold for scrap.

Loss of Use (Rental Damages)

The law allows the owner of a repairable vehicle damages for loss of use (rental charges) of the vehicle while it is being repaired.  The owner is allowed to recover the reasonable rental value of the similar vehicle for the time reasonably required to make repairs to the vehicle.  The owner doesn’t have to actually rent a replacement vehicle to make a claim for loss of use.

Unfortunately, Texas law does not allow for a vehicle rental or damages for loss of use when the vehicle is a total loss and not repairable.  This is a bad law for a vehicle owner, because the owner will be without a vehicle while the insurance company processes the claim, inspects the vehicle, processes payment, etc.  There is no difference in circumstances between the owner of the totaled vehicle and the owner of a repairable vehicle.  Both owners do not have access to a vehicle for a period of time.  However, the law in this instance simply doesn’t support a rental for the owner of a totaled vehicle.

If you have questions about the vehicle-repair process or your entitlement to money for property damage after a car accident, give us a call.  Harmonson Law Firm will provide legal assistance to you for your property damage claim for free if we take your personal injury case.  Harmonson Law Firm does not charge any fees for handling your property damage claim.  It is a service we are proud to offer for free to our injured clients.  Give us a call at (915) 584-8777 and let us help you get your vehicle damage taken care of.

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