What happens to your car when the accident isn’t your fault?

If the accident was entirely someone else’s fault, you’re entitled to payment for any damage done to your car. You’re also entitled to payment for personal belongings and property that were in your car at the time of the accident.

Personal property includes:

  • Electronic devices
  • Clothing
  • Eyewear
  • Sports equipment
  • Other items

Items that may have been lost or stolen from your car are not covered.

Crash, Car, Car Crash, Accident, Vehicle

How are you paid for damage to your car?

Below are some guidelines to help you deal with the insurance companies and get your car repaired after an accident that wasn’t your fault. These guidelines describe how to handle property damage in general. Your insurance company may follow different procedures.

Three sources that pay for your car repairs after an accident:

  1. Liability coverage under the defendant’s insurance. If the other person’s insurance company accepts fault in your accident, they will normally pay a standard amount to have your car repaired.

Unfortunately, insurance companies often take days or weeks to decide whether to accept fault in the accident. Therefore, your car may not be repaired in a timely manner.

  1. Collision coverage under your insurance. Using your insurance is usually the fastest and easiest way to get your car repaired. Your car repairs will be paid out from your own insurance policy—regardless of who is at fault in the accident.

You pay any deductible up front, which will be returned to you if your insurance company is repaid by the defendant’s insurance company.

You may also be responsible for any rental car fees during the time your car is being repaired (if you do not have rental reimbursement coverage under your own policy).

  1. Uninsured motorist coverage under your insurance. If the person who caused the accident does not have an auto insurance policy or is not able to be identified, you are protected under your insurance policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.

Depending on the type of accident, you may be responsible for paying a deductible.

Car, Accident, Crash, Crashed, Smash

How do you get your car fixed after an accident?

If your car is drivable after accident…

Contact the other driver’s insurance company to ask for an estimate of the cost of repairing your car. An insurance adjuster may schedule a time to inspect your car, or you may be asked to take your car to the insurance company’s location.

After you get a cost estimate from the insurance company, take your car to a body shop of your choice for a second estimate. If the body shop estimates your car cannot be repaired for the amount estimated by the insurance company, ask the manager of the body shop to call the insurance company on your behalf.

The insurance company will then issue you a check to the body shop to pay for the repair of your car.

Some insurance companies do not have local estimators and will ask you to get 2–3 estimates for repairing your car from local body shops. They will then issue you a check for the lowest estimate.

If your car is not drivable after accident …

The insurance company will send an adjuster to estimate the damage to your car. They will then issue a check to pay for the repairs.

If your car has been towed to a repair shop or salvage yard, move your car as quickly as possible to the body shop of your choice. Most of these locations charge a daily storage fee that you may be responsible for paying.

What if your car is “totaled” and it’s not your fault?

A car that costs more to repair than it was worth before the accident is called a “total loss.”

The insurance company will compare the amount your car could have been sold for before the accident (fair market value) to the estimated cost of repairing your car (plus rental charges and salvage value) and pay you whichever amount is less.

The fair market value of your car is determined by the current price for a car similar to yours as listed by area car dealerships, newspapers, car value books, and websites.

If your car is declared a total loss, you have two options:

  1. Accept the total loss value of your car minus the salvage value. You keep your car.
  2. Accept the total loss value of your car plus the salvage value.

With the second option, you’ll be required to sign your car title and odometer statement over to the insurance company. You may also be asked to sign a power of attorney so the insurance company can dispose of your car.

Who pays for a rental car after an accident?

While your car is being repaired—or while you await payment for a car that is a total loss—you may want to rent a car.

The insurance company will reimburse you if

  1. the rental is comparable to your car;
  2. rented at a reasonable price;
  3. for a reasonable amount of time.

Under Virginia law, the insurance company is required to reimburse your rental car expenses. Therefore, you may be responsible for renting and paying for a rental car in advance.

Insurance companies often want you to justify the amount of time a rental car is used, so it is important that you follow up with the body shop to make sure your car is repaired in a timely manner.

If your injuries are serious and you feel you need an attorney, please call us for a free consultation at 866-734-5766.

This guide describes how to handle your property damage in general. Please note that your insurance company may follow different procedures.