What is a property damage claim?

This type of claim covers not only damage to your vehicle, but also damage that the accident caused to any personal belongings. For example, broken eyeglasses, a damaged cell phone, and clothing that was cut off by medical personnel are all property damage claims.

What vehicle repairs must the insurance company pay for?

The insurance company is required to pay for repairs that will restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. If you are dealing with your own company, there may be deductibles.

While my car was being repaired, the mechanic found additional damage caused by the crash that was not included in the insurance company’s estimate? Does the insurance company have to pay for this additional work?

Yes. The law requires the insurance company to consider any additional accident-related damage that the repair facility discovers.

How long can the insurance company take to complete its property damage investigation?

Under Washington law, an insurance company has 30 days to complete its investigation, unless the investigation cannot reasonably be completed during that time.

What are my options for transportation while my car is being repaired?

The insurance company for the at-fault driver must provide you with “loss of use” funds to pay for the cost of a rental car, even if you decide not to rent a car, and even if you have another household vehicle available to you. The insurance adjuster may try to negotiate the “loss of use” rate with you. Depending on your policy, there may also be rental car coverage available from your own company.

The insurance company has called my vehicle a total loss, but the adjuster is not offering me the fair value for my car. What is the insurance company required to pay for a totaled vehicle?

Under Washington law, the insurance company is required to pay you the “actual cash value” of your vehicle. This means that the insurance company must offer you the fair market value of your vehicle as it was immediately before the accident.

How can I negotiate with the adjuster to get a better offer for my totaled vehicle?

The insurance company is required to provide you, upon request, with the valuation report that it used to determine the value of your wrecked vehicle. If the adjuster is using comparable vehicles to determine the value of your vehicle, carefully examine the valuation report to see if these vehicles truly are comparable.

Make sure that the insurance company’s offer includes all taxes and fees applicable at the time of the accident.

State law requires the insurance company to consider any relevant information that you supply regarding the value of the vehicle. Provide the adjuster with written information regarding any repairs or other work done to your vehicle that would increase its value, such as new tires.

I was charged storage fees for my wrecked car. Should the insurance company pay this?

The insurance company is required to pay towing and storage costs once liability is accepted. You do have a responsibility to “mitigate damages” – that is, to reduce the amount that the insurance company will have to pay if it is within your control. For example, if you leave the car in a storage lot for two weeks before you notify the insurance company, you may have to pay those storage fees.

I received a total loss settlement from the insurance company to purchase a comparable vehicle. However, I have looked and have not been able to find a replacement vehicle for the amount that the insurance company gave me. What should I do?

Your claim may need to be re-opened and re-negotiated with the insurance company. Under Washington law, the insurance company must re-open the claim file if you are unable to locate a comparable vehicle for the amount of the settlement. At that point, the insurance company may offer more money, or may find you a comparable vehicle within a “reasonable distance” for you to examine.

The insurance company called my vehicle a “total loss” and offered me a settlement; however, the car is still drivable. Am I allowed to keep it?

Yes. If you choose to keep the vehicle, the insurance company can reduce your settlement amount by the “salvage value” of your car. You should be aware that the vehicle’s title has been marked “salvage,” which will affect any resale of your car down the road.

Where can I find Washington law about my property damage claim?

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website has information about the insurance company’s responsibilities under Washington State Law. Their website is www.insurance.wa.gov.