So you were in a car accident in West Virginia, your car was damaged and fortunately, no one was injured, what do you do? First, do not move the vehicles, call 911 immediately and request a police officer. Many police agencies today will not issue a ticket or find fault if the vehicles were moved. Do not argue with the other driver, and have your insurance information, vehicle registration and driving license ready for when the police arrive. Also, it is important to make sure you and your passengers are in a safe location. Once everything has settled down, the police officer will take a statement from you. If you have a cell phone with a camera, you can take pictures of the scene and the vehicles, but stay out of the way.
It is important when you give your statement to the police officer, that you have calmed down and are clear of the facts. The police officer will write your statement down and this will be part of his basis for determining what happened. Likewise, either your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company will be contacting you by telephone to take a sworn statement, so when giving your statement, you need to be calm and clear as to what happened. Do not volunteer information or ramble on as this will not help in explaining your side of the story. The reason that all this is important is that the police officer and the insurance company are trying to determine who is at fault in the accident, and if the accident is not your fault, you want the records to reflect this accurately.
Next, a property adjustor will want to come and look at your vehicle. The adjuster will be working for either your insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, or both. It is important that you are familiar with your vehicle and communicate this to the adjustor.
If your vehicle is totaled, you will want to know the NADA value of your vehicle and you can determine this online. Once you have obtained this information, print out the NADA valuation. The adjustor will tell you they do not have to go by the NADA value, which is true. Several years ago, the insurance companies wanted to reduce the value they paid on totaled automobiles, so they lobbied the Insurance Commissioner in West Virginia to be allowed to no longer use NADA value, despite that the banks, dealerships and courts recognized these values. They developed their own system called “CCI,” which they claim show the market value of a vehicle based on vehicles like yours which were recently bought. This system has numerous problems as no two cars are exactly the same.
You want to get a fair value for your totaled auto. First, know your NADA value. Next, if you have made repairs and improvements to your car recently, find the receipts. The new transmission and tires you may have put on recently add value to your car. Next, focus on the factors of your car which improve the value. Have all of this ready for the adjustor and remember it is all about negotiation, you do not have to take the first offer.
If your vehicle is not totaled, yet needs repaired, you used to go to three different garages and receive three separate estimates. This is still not a bad suggestion, but today, only certain garages are registered with various insurance companies. This information is often available online or you can ask the garage. It is still valuable to take the car in yourself for an estimate to a garage even if it is the approved garage for the insurance company. Autobody repair garages are familiar with the “low ball” games insurance companies play and how they try to shortcut the job. Most garages want to do quality work and have a satisfied customer. If they meet with you and discuss your car damage repairs, they are often the best source of information on what repairs are needed. Their reputation in your community is more important than some far away insurance company.
You have your estimates and the automobile collision is not your fault. The adjustor for the other party is not treating your fair, do you have any options? If you have full coverage, you can recover from your own insurance company for the property damage. Your insurance company has a duty of good faith and fair dealing with you because you are their insured and have paid them premiums. Once your insurance company settles with you, there are arbitration agreements with the other party’s insurance company and they will get their money out of the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Also, since the accident was not your fault, the claim should not be counted against you and your rate should not go up.
If you have a property damage claim in West Virginia, you can protect yourself without an attorney. Be patient, don’t get angry and don’t give up!