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How to Handle Your Own Property Damage Insurance Claim

Having worked with victims of catastrophic injuries for over 30 years, I think handling property damage is about as difficult as throwing bread in the toaster. If you are new to personal injury warfare, it can be a very difficult endeavor, consuming your time and energy leaving you with a result that is less than desirable in your already fragile condition. Using your skills and the following information, you should be able to get the money you deserve.

Personal Injury v. Property Damage

First things first; property damage and personal injury claims are as different as night and day. While personal injury claims could last years, property damage claims can last weeks. Your personal injury claim must be fully developed, you must finish treatment and you must have a written itemized demand letter detailing the extent of your injuries and financial loss as is related.

For the adjuster to fully access your property damage claim, all they need is the overall costs of the damage to your vehicle. This would include documentation of your personal belongings that were destroyed in the accident and all other property costs incurred as a result of your car accident. You can negotiate over the phone, and there is usually no formal demand package.

Utilizing Property Damage Adjusters

You can use adjusters to your advantage, or you can let them use you for your own demise. There is a fine line, and you have the pen. Many car accident victims find themselves with their back up against the wall due to a poor choice of words; this is because the adjusters are trained to put you there. When speaking with the adjuster about your property damage claim, do not let them coerce you into talks about your injuries. It may seem like they are concerned for your health, but they are concerned about their paycheck. Do not say too much: limit conversation to where and when of inspection and to the amount of loss to your property. Remain polite, but be clear that all talks about your injuries must wait until you have completed your treatment.

Third Party Claims

Knowing who is at fault is crucial to the property damage process. If the other driver's liability is crystal clear, it's best for you to seek a property damage settlement from his or her company in what is known as a third-party claim. If the adjuster accepts responsibility, you will receive compensation within a matter of days or weeks. Moreover, you will not be required to pay a deductible.

Collision Policy

The question of liability is not an issue in terms of filing for property damage under your own collision coverage. A collision policy provides payment regardless of fault, whereas a third-party claim is paid only if the other person's negligence can be shown. Your own insurer will pay you for the damages to your vehicle and its contents so long as you comply with the company's rules for inspection and estimates, and agree to the settlement amount. Be prepared to pay your deductible under your collision coverage's terms.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If the other driver does not have insurance, and you have uninsured motorist coverage, using your UM coverage might be your only option. Some types of UM coverage provide compensation for property loss; others do not. Also, you would have to be able to prove that the other driver was at fault.

Property Damage Repairs

Once you have decided which policy you will file against, move forward with fixing or replacing your vehicle. If delays or liability disputes arise, however, you need to file under your own auto insurance policy. If you find a shop you like, make sure you receive clearance from the insurer before your car is fixed. They will probably want to have their shop generate an estimate, in such case it is crucial to obtain an additional estimate from a shop of your choosing.

Car Rentals

If your own policy includes rental coverage, your insurer must provide a temporary vehicle for you while your auto is being repaired or while you are seeking to replace it. Ask your agent for direct billing, and you can later be reimbursed for these costs.

Other Items of Loss

Anything in your vehicle at the time of your car accident that was destroyed needs to be included in your property damage settlement. Make sure to take pictures, keep receipts and have overall detailed documentation of the items you are claiming.

Final Property Damage Settlement and Release

Hopefully, the property damage claim should take a relatively short period of time. Put together an itemized list for the adjuster, and within a short period of time -- perhaps one to three weeks -- you should obtain settlement from either the other driver's insurance or your own company.

To obtain your reimbursement, you will have to sign a release. Before signing a check or release, be sure that the words "Property Damage Only" or "Property Damage Claim" are written on both documents.

California Legal Advice

Seriously injured in a car accident? Call a Southern California personal injury lawyer at 949-203-3814 for a free professional evaluation of your case by attorneys who have represented over 10,000 clients since 1978. You will experience award winning representation and outstanding personal service by a friendly law firm in a comfortable environment.


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Client Reviews of Bisnar Chase

“Great people in this office, everyone was really helpful explaining everything. I was referred by my aunt for my car accident in October and the case went pretty fast. No problems and very professional. I was kept in the loop thru [sic] the whole process and was able to get a better settlement than my insurance company said I would. I cant really compare them to other law firms because it was the first time I had to use an attorney, but my bad experience with the car accident was handled as good as I could have hoped.”

by Paige Montgomery

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“My sister in law referred me to Bisnar Chase after I was rear ended on the 405 in January. They went over everything with me for best and worst case scenarios of my car accident claim. I fully knew what to expect and was informed every step of the way. That was a major factor to me! In addition to my settlement which I was really happy with, I couldn't believe how great their whole staff treated me. I really felt like "me" as a person mattered a lot to them. Would highly recommend!”

by Shannon F.

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“We received an email from A.G. Edwards stating they have received the settlement check from Nissan. Once again, I cannot begin to articulate our gratitude to the Bisnar Chase staff - we are so very thankful for all you have done for Josh. As parents, Charlotte and I can rest in peace, when that day comes, knowing that Josh's needs have been taken care of, and his financial future is in good hands with sound financial planners at A.G. Edwards. On December 17, 2003 we received a call from the paramedics stating that Josh and Lisa had been in a severe accident, and we needed to meet them at the emergency room. I remember telling God that I can deal with missing limbs because they can be replaced, but please do not take him from us. A month later we met with members of your staff for the first time, Josh had a traumatic brain injury and his future was looking pretty bleak; we had no idea where he would be eighteen months later. All we could think of at the time was that our son's future, his goals, and dreams had been taken from him so abruptly. As time passed, Josh continued to improve and he began his journey of recovery. Many have been involved in this process, and you and your staff have been an integral part of Josh's recovery, and we will be forever grateful. God has brought so many people into our lives, and we are so very blessed. Numerous emails were sent to Personal Injury Attorney's. John...you were on a ski trip at Big Bear with your family, and you were the only Personal Injury Attorney to respond - I believe this was divine intervention. Josh has a professor from Mt. San Jacinto College who has taken him "under his wing," and is showing him other career possibilities. John, the future looks good for Josh - thank you!”

by K N.

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