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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Whenever you file a claim with a car insurance company, the company will determine how much it owes you based upon an estimate of vehicle damages. In most situations, this estimate will be completed by an insurance employee called a damage adjuster. The adjuster will complete an inspection of your vehicle and provide you with an estimate of damages; any deductible you owe will be subtracted from this damage amount, and you would pay the deductible to the body shop at the time repairs are completed.
Sometimes, this settlement amount is not sufficient to cover the amount of damage caused to a vehicle. In other situations, if your vehicle is considered to be a total loss, you may believe your vehicle is worth more money than was paid to you. Alternately, you may believe that the other party in a claim did not receive as much damage as your insurance paid. In situations like these, how do you dispute the amount of an insurance claim? Fortunately, there is a process in place for each of these scenarios, and disputing damage is not as difficult as you might imagine.
The person I hit hardly had any damage!
Whenever you cause damage to another person’s property, you are responsible for paying that damage. In some situations, the damage may not seem as severe as it is. Auto repairs are much more expensive than they were in previous years as new vehicles are not built the same way as older model cars. Most vehicles utilize plastic and fiberglass parts that must be replaced whenever they are damaged. New vehicles also include computer technology that can be expensive to repair.
Nevertheless, some people try to get repairs completed for damage not caused as part of an accident. This is why it’s important to always take pictures at the scene of an accident and make note of any preexisting damage to the other party’s car. Be sure to mention this information when filing your claim. If you do dispute the amount of damage the other party receives, be prepared to have your vehicle inspected as well to determine how much damage your car sustained.
The estimate won’t cover all my repairs!
Once an insurance adjuster looks at your vehicle, you will receive an initial claims check. This payment is not the final check issued on your vehicle, however, and you can continue receiving payments until the vehicle is repaired to your satisfaction.
Bear in mind that the initial payment will be based entirely on visible damage. The adjuster cannot know the final repair cost of your vehicle until a tear-down is completed and the repairs begin. Once your body shop begins repairs on your car, you can submit a supplement request form to the insurance company.
The supplement request will require photographs and an estimate from your body shop; once the insurance company receives the supplement request, another adjuster will probably come out to look at your vehicle again and discuss the damage with the body shop. If the adjuster agrees that the damage is equal to the supplement request, an additional payment will be issued.
Total Loss Evaluations
If your vehicle sustains more damage than the value of the car, your insurance company will deem it a total loss. At this point, you will be paid a settlement based upon the actual cash value of your vehicle. This is not the same as the Kelly Blue Book value of your car, but the figure will probably be fairly similar.
Whenever your vehicle is reviewed as a total loss, be sure to mention any recent improvements you have made that would increase the value of the car. Inform your adjuster of any aftermarket parts on the vehicle, including custom rims, spoilers or sound systems. Also advise your adjuster if you have just purchased tires or made any other repairs to the vehicle that will improve its value.
Be sure to have a receipt available for any recent repairs completed or improvements made on the vehicle. Also, if you are able to prove that the vehicle cannot be replaced for the amount of the settlement, you can provide proof of its value to the insurance adjuster. You may be able to negotiate a higher price this way.
Whenever you obtain a payment from your insurance company, whether for a total loss or toward repairs on the vehicle, the figure is always negotiable. By providing the necessary proof of why you deserve a higher payment, you can receive as much for the claim as you need.