As its name implies, property damage is recovery from a careless driver and his insurance company for damage to your own personal property. Everyone knows that your car is your personal property and should be covered under property damage liability. However, some people do not know that other personal property is also covered: bicycles, cell phones, clothes that are cut off during emergency medical treatment, etc… All of those items are covered under property damage and you should be able to submit a claim for any of those items as well as your automobile damage. For the moment, let’s focus on property damage only as it relates to automobiles.
Property damage can be handled through either the liability portion of the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage or, if you have it, through the collision portion of your own policy. We’ll discuss each of these in turn. First of all, property damage under the liability policy of the other driver’s insurance can be handled separately from your bodily injury. Most legal claims that you may have against other people have to be brought at the same time.For example, imagine you sue someone over damages that you suffered because of unfair and deceptive trade practice. You may also want to bring an action against them for related transgressions such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, or breach of some statutory duty. You must bring action against them for all those damages at the same time– otherwise you will lose the chance to claim for them.
Automobile accidents are different. You’re allowed to bring property damage as a claim against a liability policy and to even settle that claim while still keeping open your claim for bodily injury. The reason for this is simple: insurance companies should not be able to hold off settling your property damage claim because you are not willing to settle your injury claim yet. By their very natures, property damage claims are quickly identifiable whereas bodily injury claims may take months to fully manifest. As a result, the legislatures in every state in the Union allow claimants to settle property damage without settling their bodily injury claim.
Insurance companies offer “repair or replace” policies for property damage, which we’ll explain in more detail at a later date. They will appraise the value of your car and obtain a repair estimate from a local shop. If they determine the cost of repairs to be greater than the total value of your car, they will declare it a total loss — or, as it’s usually known, totaled.
Total loss settlements are typically pretty fair. Many people are surprised at how much they get for their vehicle, particularly older vehicles and older trucks in Alaska. They are often quite happy. Of course, insurance companies like to take credit for this very fair evaluation and use that evaluation to convince the claimant that they can count on the insurance company to give them a fair settlement for their bodily injury claim. But, as we now know, these two claims have almost nothing to do with each other.
The insurance company makes the total loss offer under duress and under penalty of lawsuits, thanks to more recent legislative measures. No such governmental pressure exists for a bodily injury claim. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can exert that pressure on the insurance company and help you get a full and fair settlement.