The property damage claim process begins when you are contacted by a claims adjuster from the insurance company of the at-fault party. They will ask you about what happened, the condition of your car and where it is, and if you were injured. You have a right to a rental car, and at this time, they may or may not attempt to set one up for you. They will also attempt to get a recorded statement from you to use in the future in order to discredit or minimize your claim. It is important that you do not give them an oral, written, or recorded statement.
Once the property damage claim is opened by the insurance company, the adjuster will ask to inspect your vehicle to determine whether it can be repaired or will be deemed a total loss. If the car is deemed repairable, they will issue you a check for the cost to fix it. Their estimate is typically lower than what most car repair facilities will charge once the car is repaired, though the insurance company is legally required to supplement all additional work. It is your right to take your car to the repair shop or dealership of your choice, and you do not have to go to one of the insurance company’s “preferred shops”, which they often highly encourage. It is important to be proactive during this process. Make sure all damage was repaired properly, including mechanical damage, and do not hesitate to complain if you discover problems.
If the value of your car is too low in relation to the cost of the repair, your car will be deemed a total loss, and you will be paid the fair market value of the vehicle. Make sure to research and learn about whether the settlement offer is fair and reasonable under NADA guidelines. It is always helpful to provide the insurance company with documentation showing any upgrades or custom improvements to your vehicle that added value. In certain situations, if you are not being treated fairly, it makes sense to hire an appraiser to determine, fair market value.