Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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some suggestions when handling a car accident property damage claim

Having your car repaired or replaced after a collision can be the most frustrating
aspect -of a legal claim. The law provides that you are entitled to be made whole if the
other driver damaged your car. Being made whole simply means making your car as good
as it was before the accident. Unfortunately, this may not work out very well in reality. I
have had plenty of clients who had brand new $23,000 cars, driven them off the lot and
then had a bad accident necessitating $10,000 in repairs. Even after all the repair work is
done, common sense dictates that the car is usually not as good as it was before the
accident even though under the law it is considered to be as good. If you can accept early
on that this process seldom makes you a winner, it might be easier on your nerves. If you
follow the steps outlined below, it will expedite- matters and reduce your headaches.
Obviously, if you have any questions, please call me and I will help you.

After you have had an accident and your car is damaged or totaled, you are
entitled to be made whole. That is, the person who hit you, or his insurance company, if
he is at fault must pay you enough money to fix your car so that is in the same condition
as before the accident or pay you enough money to replace your car if it is totaled.

If your car is damaged but not totaled (the definition of total is not entirely clear.
Sometimes it is if the repair price is worth more than half of the price of the vehicle, then
the vehicle is a total loss. If the vehicle is an expensive vehicle the percentage may
increase. For example, if the value of the vehicle is $30,000 and the repairs will cost
$20,000, that may not be a total loss. The insurance company should tell you the formula
before they see the car.) call the adjuster for the insurance company involved. If you have
collision insurance, call your own insurance company and have an appraiser come out and
view-your car. To save you time you should suggest that all adjusters come to your car
rather than you bringing your car to them. An appraiser is experienced (but not infallible)
at evaluating damages and will tell you how much it will cost to fix your car. That
insurance company will then offer you a check in the amount of the appraiser's evaluation
less any deductible you may have. Before you accept this check, it would be wise to have
your car appraised by a mechanic or body man you know to check the appraiser's
accuracy. After your insurance company pays you, it will then collect what it paid from
the insurance company of the person who hit-you. Thereafter, you will get back any
deductible you had to pay. Also, check if you have rental insurance which allows you to
have a rental car until your car is fixed or replaced. Also, check to see if you have GAP
insurance which will cover the difference of the fair market value of your car and the
amount you owe on the car.

If you are dealing with the insurance company of the person that hit you, the
process if similar to the above description. Have the appraiser come to your car. Be
aware that the appraiser is not your friend and you should choose your words carefully
when speaking to him. do not speak to him-as how, why, what you were doing , are you
hurt, etc. about the accident. If he asks about any of the above, refer him to me. Your
conversation should be limited to the cost of fixing or replacing your car. Again, after an
appraisal is made, have a mechanic or body man you know or trust also estimate your
car's damage. As the defendant is required to make you whole, you are entitled to rent a
car equal to your car while your. car is nonoperational due to the accident. If you do not
rent a car and use a taxi, save your taxi receipts as those would be reimbursed also. All
taxi receipts, rental receipts, and repair estimates should be submitted to the defendant
insurance company so that you receive fair value for your loss.

If your car is totaled, you are entitled to the fair market value of the car at the time
of the accident and the place where the car is generally kept plus the applicable taxes and
transfer fees pursuant to Code of Maryland Regulation 11.11.05. Fair market value is
frequently determined by the `blue book value. Many public-.libraries keep blue books
and you can call the reference librarian at a public library and find out the blue book value
of your car. Library reference in Montgomery County is 240-777-0001. You can also
check online at the Kelley blue book site (KBB.com) or Edmunds.com. Another way to
determine fair market value is through the classified ads in the local newspapers. Look at
the Sunday paper used car section and find the value of cars like yours.

Further, pursuant to Maryland law the insurance company must provide the
following upon request:

· The method used to value the vehicle (including the identification of any books,
manuals, or database
used);
· A detailed explanation of our calculation of the motor vehicle's loss value, including
the calculation of
any value added to the motor vehicle by options;
· A list of all deductions that were made from the value of the motor vehicle;
· A copy of the inspection guidelines relied upon by us in determining the condition of
the vehicle at the
time of loss.

Finally, in accordance with Maryland Regulation, 31.15.12.06, at your option,
you may, in writing, reject the settlement offer and make a counter offer based on:
· dealer quotations for a substantially similar motor vehicle
· advertisements for a substantially similar motor vehicle, or
· any other source of valuation for a substantially similar motor vehicle.

Use the above information to get the best value for your car. Do not take a check
that is below the fair market value of your car. Again, until your car is replaced, the
defendant insurance company must pay for any rental expenses and or taxi expenses you
incur because you were missing your car. Bear in mind if you own a Chevy Chevette, you
cannot rent a Rolls Royce and expect to be fully reimbursed.

I hope that the above is helpful. If you have any questions please call me. I am
always happy to help you.
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