After you have opened a property damage claim with both insurance companies, the insurance companies will attempt to assess fault. In a simple wreck such as a rear-end crash, the fault is easy to decide and the property claim can move forward quickly. If the negligent driver is insured, then his/her insurance carrier should arrange for the property damage estimate and repair.
For more complicated cases (such as an intersection crash), you may have to use your insurance coverage to put your vehicle back on the road. If you are not at fault, then you can pursue (and often your carrier will do this for you) a property claim against the negligent driver.
After a property damage claim is filed, the insurance company should send an adjuster to evaluate the damage to your vehicle or request that you take it to one of their repair facilities for an estimate within days of the crash. If the estimate to repair the vehicle exceeds 75% of the value of the vehicle then typically the insurer must total the vehicle and pay you for the value of the vehicle. For example, if the vehicle has a value of $10,000 and the repairs for the vehicle are $9,000, then the vehicle must be totaled and the insurance company must pay you $10,000 (less any deductible) for the vehicle and the insurance carrier will keep the vehicle.
The value of the vehicle is based on the average price for the same or similar vehicle in the area where it is located. It is important to not only rely on the insurer’s valuing of your vehicle but to also look at services such as Auto Trader and Craigslist for similar vehicles near the area where you live. The insurance carrier must also consider any accessories for the vehicle and place a value on those accessories.
Repairing Your Vehicle or Keeping the Money
Instead of repairing the vehicle, you may take the cost of the repairs and keep the money. This is completely acceptable and in some cases may be a better option than having your vehicle repaired. In some cases, you may want to keep the totaled vehicle and just accept the repair costs for the vehicle. This is also possible but may require the insurance company to have a salvage title issued.
If you chose to have the vehicle repaired, you can take the vehicle to any repair shop of your choice (assuming they are licensed, etc.) to have the vehicle repaired pursuant to the estimate created by the insurance company. If additional damage is discovered, then the repair shop will have to request a supplement to repair that damage.
Renting a Car After Your Accident
If you need a rental car, then you should request one. If you do not need a rental car, then you can request loss of use damages from the date of the wreck until you receive your vehicle back from the repair shop (or a check if the vehicle is a total). The rate for loss of use is the typical rate for a rental car (unless you have a specialized vehicle).
Keep in mind, you have a duty to mitigate your damages which, in this case, requires you to contact the insurance company as soon as possible and provide the documents they request related to the property damage.