By Rusty Galloway, Personal Injury Attorney
If you were thinking about buying a used car, all things being equal, would you want to buy a car that had been previously wrecked or a car that had not been previously wrecked? How much less would you expect to pay on a car that had considerable damage repaired before you bought it?
This is a question I’m often asked when a person is involved in a motor vehicle crash and they are not at fault. . .What do I do about the value of my car? The claim is for “diminished value.”
It happens all the time. Someone is driving along, minding their own business and somebody else crashes into their vehicle. They go through the process of being without their vehicle while it is being repaired, and then the vehicle is fixed and the Insurance Company acts like that’s the end of the matter. The problem is, the vehicle is worth less following an accident than it was before the accident. Who is responsible for that loss?
The simple answer is that the person who caused the accident is legally obligated to restore their “victim” back to where they were before the accident. The problem is, how to place a value on the vehicle before and after the accident. It used to be a simple matter of bringing the car to the dealer where the car was purchased and bringing the appraisal for the repairs with you. You would ask the used car manager to look at the damages and what was done to repair the car and to estimate how much the vehicle was worth before the accident and how much it is now worth. You would then ask him to put that in a letter for you and you could negotiate a settlement based upon the perceived loss in value to your car.
The problem is that Insurance Companies don’t make money paying claims. Insurance Companies make money by denying claims and paying less on the claims than what they are truly worth. If you don’t do anything about it, they win.
Because the Insurance Companies have been so reluctant to pay, many Used Car Managers are reluctant to write a letter because they do not wish to be deposed nor do they want to waste their day in court. Further, the Dealership Owners do not wish to lose their Used Car Manager to a half day for some attorney to question their integrity or reasoning and don’t like having their day ruined by someone who knows less about the value of vehicles than they do. Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly harder to find people who are willing to step up and do the right thing...help someone with the true value of their property losses following a crash.
One solution is this: Sell the car as soon as you can after the repairs have been done. Bring it to a new car dealer and tell them that you wish to trade it in. You must disclose the repair work that was done, and they will probably be able to find out exactly what was done through one of the reporting agencies, like CarFax.com. Then, you ask them for a letter, detailing the exact value of the vehicle before the accident and what they are willing to give you today. You trade the vehicle in, which means you actually realize that loss. Then, you present that loss, with the letter stating the value of the vehicle before the accident and the property damage adjuster is faced with an actual loss. They must pay, or face a lawsuit for diminished value. Finding a lawyer who will bring a lawsuit for your diminished value can be hard, and it is advisable to bring the case to somebody who is also going to handle your bodily injury claim.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and aren’t sure where to turn, the attorneys at Galloway Jefcoat are here to help. We will be your biggest advocate and represent you with the dignity you deserve.
The circumstances of each case are different. Our firm cannot guarantee that in any situation, including the examples mentioned in this blog, are grounds for legal action until the circumstances surrounding that specific event have been reviewed by an attorney. To find out if an incident is grounds for a legal claim, please call us today at 337-326-5426 or contact our office for a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.