12 Property Damage Tips

Do you have questions about property damage and need legal help? Check out these 12 property damage tips, then call our Southwest Florida attorneys today.

Examination Under Oath For Property Damage

12 Property Damage TipsIf you’re making a claim for a collision coverage loss due to the damage to your vehicle in an auto accident here in Florida, your policy and most policies have a provision allowing the insurance company to have you submit to what’s known as an examination under oath. Basically, that’s an interview under oath similar to a deposition where the insurance company primarily is going to be looking for ways to minimize what is has to pay or even look for a way to not pay you at all. If you’re asked to submit to an examination or oath, you should immediately contact a lawyer or law firm like ours to assist you in your claim, because at that point, the insurance company is acting under the assumption that there’s something wrong with your claim or wrong with you or wrong with the policy that may be of no fault of your own and looking for a way not to pay you.

Mistakes After a Property Damage Claim

Some people think that because they’re in an accident that the insurance company must take care of their vehicle right away when in fact it’s the claimant’s responsibility to move forward and prove their claim. If a car is drivable, many people don’t necessarily get an estimate on it right away or get it to a body shop or to an appraiser to get estimates when in fact, it’s the insurer’s or your duty as a claimant to mitigate or minimize your damages. You need to move quickly and get your car appraised, get it started towards repairs. If you’re in a rental car, then you need to get repairs authorized as soon as you possibly can because you need to minimize the time that you’re in the rental car because the insurance company only has to pay for reasonable time. Now, we can argue what’s reasonable and what’s not but our advice normally is to tell people get started right away on your repairs so that you can get your car back or get a replacement vehicle if it’s a total loss in a timely fashion so you’re not without a car and you’re not fighting over a rental and things of that nature. Those are the things that we look for to helping people with here at Goldstein Buckley Cechman, Rice & Purtz.

Suing For Property Damage

Generally, very few lawsuits are filed for auto property damage in Florida because the insurance companies do have a good faith duty to pay your claim. If they don’t, then we can file suit. Generally, insurance companies are pretty good about paying claims. Therefore, we’re not called upon too often to file these claims but we can and if we also file an injury claim we can add on the property damage claim which is what we do quite frequently primarily in Florida for loss of use of the vehicle and diminished value, which are damages you’re entitled to be compensated for from the at fault party.

Property Damage Claim Qualifications

An auto damage claim in Florida simply means that some damage has been done to your vehicle or the personal property inside the vehicle as a result of a collision due to somebody else’s negligence. In those situations, you’re entitled to be paid for all the damage put in your car back to the way it was the moment before the accident happened plus payment for any damage to your personal property, like sunglasses, watches, jewelry, clothing, if you had food in the car that got damages. The defendant is responsible for that. The problem is just getting the people to document their loss so that they can be paid. That’s one of the things we do here at the firm. We help document exactly what was lost. It’s not just damage to the car but it’s also what’s inside the car that can be covered.

Property Damage Case Timeline

There is a time limit for an auto damage claim in Florida depending on who you’re making the claim against. If you’re making the claim against the party that caused the accident, then the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit, otherwise the claim will be forever barred. If you’re making a claim for damage to your vehicle under your own insurance company’s policy under your collision coverage, then there’s a five-year statute of limitations for bringing that claim either to settle it or file a lawsuit within that five-year window, otherwise the claim is forever barred.

Selecting a Property Damage Attorney

For an auto damage claim, the best way to hire a lawyer to help you with your claim is to find a lawyer that has experience in handling these claims or have an attorney who’s a former insurance adjustor handled these claims for an insurance company.

Property Damage Attorney Fees

In Florida, it can take from a day or two to several weeks on average to get a property damage claim settled. It depends on how fast the at fault party’s insurance company can conduct investigation because they want to verify your facts, how the accident happened, by obtaining police reports, independent statements, statements from their insured. Sometimes insurers don’t report the claims right away so things can drag out a little bit. Most people report actions right away to their insurance companies and insurance companies have a duty to act quickly and in good faith. Normally, it would take just a few days to get your property damage claim settled or at least started so that they can get the damages appraised and pay you for your loss. If that doesn’t happen in a timely fashion, it’s not always on the insurance company. It could be the insurer. It could be their looking for an independent witness to verify what happened. Sometimes police make mistakes in their reports, so they want to verify exactly what happened before they pay your claim, but generally speaking, within a few days to within a week, most property damage claims are either settled or things are in motion to get them settled in a fast manner.

Giving a Recorded Statement For Property Damage

On your auto damage claim under Florida law and in terms of your policy, you are required to cooperate with the insurance company and most policies require to give a recorded statement. If, however, you’re dealing with the at fault party’s insurance company, there is no legal requirement to give a recorded statement and therefore you should not because they always, always, always are trying to look for ways to limit their liability and pay you less of what you’re really entitled to. Our advice generally is with your own company, you must submit to a statement, but against the other party’s insurance company, do not.

Property Damage Release Form

Generally, you should not sign a property damage release in Florida because there is always the potential for hidden damage on your vehicle once repairs are undertaken. A lot of insurance companies want you to sign release so they can limit their liability and if there’s any hidden damage found later, that falls on you. Our advice generally is to not sign a release until you know completely what all your damages are, until the car’s been paid for and you’ve tested it and you’re happy with the repairs and they compensated you for your loss of use and diminished value. Truthfully, that is the only time you should sign a release is after all those damages have been paid.

Insurance Company Refuses to Pay Damages

In Florida, if the at fault party’s insurance company is refusing to pay your claim, one of the things you can do is file a complaint with insurance commissioner. You can do this over the phone or online. The insurance commissioner’s office will actually investigate and try and find out why the insurance company is denying your claim. If it’s a valid denial, then there’s probably nothing further you can do other than to file suit against the person that caused the accident. If it is not a valid delay, then the insurance commissioner’s office will pressure the insurance company to pay your claim to assist you any way else it can. The last thing you can do, obviously, is to hire a firm like ours to prosecute a case against the at fault party and through their insurance company get you paid.

Other Person Doesn’t Have Insurance

If a person that caused the accident doesn’t have insurance and you have collision coverage on your policy, then obviously the best way to get paid is go with your own company and let them pay for your damages and they will then go after the person that caused the accident in an attempt to collect back your deductible for you. If they’re successful, they’ll do that. The other way is you can file a lawsuit directly against the person that caused the accident in small claims court for up to $8,000 and you don’t need a lawyer to assist you with that. If it’s more than that, then the courts will generally require you to have an attorney to help you with the case, although it’s not absolutely necessary, but depending on the amount of the damages, you may want to consider doing that. It also becomes a question of whether or not you’re going to be able to collect at the end of the day depending on whether or not the defendant, the person that caused the accident, has assets to pay your claim.

Property Damage Available Benefits

In an auto damage property claim, the damages collectable from your own insurance company are limited to the damages to the vehicle itself. If you’re making a claim against the at fault party, then additional damages are collectible, such as loss of use of your vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired. Florida allows the payment of loss of use, the reasonable rental value of your car for a reasonable period of time that it would take a reasonable body shop to repair your vehicle. Then once repaired, Florida law also allows you to be compensated for the diminished value of your claim due to the fact that the vehicle was in an accident and repaired. With the advent of Carfax nowadays, everybody and anybody can find out if your car has been in an accident in the past. If it has, that’s going to diminish the value. Whatever that diminished value is, the at fault party is responsible for that payment of that amount to you.


Do you have serious property damage after a car accident and have questions about these 12 property damage tips? Contact our experienced Southwest Florida car accident property damage lawyers today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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