If you’ve been injured in a car wreck, most likely your car has been damaged too. For most people damage to the car is a secondary consideration. After all, even if your injuries are minor, pain gets and holds attention.
Once the initial shock has passed, and your wounds have been bound up by the doctors, the mundane problem of your car will come to the surface.
Hopefully, you have insurance. By that, I mean so-called collision insurance, which covers the property damage to your car.
If you do, arranging with your own insurance company to have your car repaired or replaced is usually the simplest thing to do.
Of course, the same basic principles apply to the right to recover for damage to your car from the tortfeasor as those that apply to your personal injury. But most people don’t want to wait through the process of settling with the tortfeasor’s insurer, or even worse, having to bring and possibly try a lawsuit to recover for the value of your car.
So as I say, most people simply work out the repair or replacement their car with their own insurance company. Even this can be a problem. If you have typical collision insurance, the insurance company will pay you for the current fair market value of your car, not for its subjective worth to you.
So if you are a frugal person driving a 12 year old car in great condition but with 200,000 miles on the odometer, you won’t get much from your insurance company with which to replace it. That’s simply life.
Some people have premium insurance coverage that provides payment for damages to your car at replacement value rather than fair market value. It’s great if you have it (and doubtless you’ve been paying plenty for it), but few people have this kind of coverage.
If you take advantage of your own collision insurance coverage, your insurance company will likely recover some or all of the cost of your claim from the tortfeasor’s insurance company. Insurance companies have treaties and arbitration agreements to make resolving these claims between them fairly simple, but that’s really not your concern.
If you don’t have collision insurance repairing or replacing your car can be a real headache. You may be able to persuade the tortfeasor’s insurance company to pay you quickly or at least relatively quickly, for the fair market value of the damage to your car. If you can’t, and you have to sue the tortfeasor for damage to your car, as a practical matter you’re going to have to take on care of replacing or repairing your vehicle on your own, at least for now. It just takes too long for most people to get through the system, to wait to replace your car until you get the money.
You probably won’t want to bring a separate lawsuit for damage to your car for a number of reasons. First, in most states, there is a Single Action rule. That rule says that all your claims against the same person and arising from the same transaction open must be brought together in one lawsuit. If you split your claim, you may find that you cannot later sue for your physical and emotional damages. That would be a disaster.
Even if you can sue, the value of your claim for damage to your vehicle is usually too small to make a separate lawsuit worthwhile. Obviously, it’s different the car in question $250,000 Maserati, but these are not the problems of the average person.
If you are represented by a lawyer, most lawyers will help you to work out your claim for damage to your car without a separate charge. We normally would.
If you’re not, you may find that you simply have to try to sort this out with the insurance company or companies or throw it in with your lawsuit for personal injuries.
For more information on What About Your Car, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (802) 335-2794 today.
Rich Cassidy Law
1233 Shelburne Road
South Burlington, VT 05403