So you’re involved in an auto-accident. Your vehicle is wrecked. You are injured. Perhaps you never contacted an attorney and just handled things through your and the other guy’s insurance company. The insurance company pays for your medical bills. They pay to repair your car. Maybe they even give you a little money for your pain and suffering. But you have to be wondering: “What about the damage to the value of my vehicle? It’s not worth what it used to be, it’s been in a big wreck. What will my Carfax say? How will I ever sell this thing?” If you’re asking yourself these questions, then you’re on the right track. Compensation for the reduced total value of your vehicle after collision repairs is known as a diminution of value claim. In English, that just means a claim which pays you for the reduced value of your car. Imagine two identical cars. They are the same color, make, model, interior and they have the exact same amount of mileage. They were both owned by little old ladies who only drove them to church on Sunday. The only difference between these two cars is that one was recently involved in an accident and had $5,000 worth of repairs and the other did not. Which one do you think is worth more? Obviously the car with no history of body repair. That is diminished value.
But who pays for that? The answer is the other guy’s insurance company. In many states, insurance companies draw a clever distinction between what are called first party and third party insurance claims when it comes to diminished value. A first party claim is when you make a claim against your insurance and you are at fault for the damage (think of when your 16 year old backs into a pole). A third party claim is when you file a claim with the other guy’s insurance company and they are at fault. Not all states will pay for diminished value on first party claims. But every state authorizes payment for diminished value on third party claims. In other words, if you’re in a wreck and it is someone else’s fault, their insurer needs to pay you for the reduced resale value of your vehicle.
But how do you figure out how much less your car is worth as a result of the crash? That is where collision consulting companies come in. One way is to seek out the advice of independent professionals (not the other guy’s adjustor). An example of this type of company can be found here. Another way to get a grasp on the value of your loss is to contact an attorney who handles auto accident cases regularly. These folks aren’t always experts, but they usually know people who are and have a pretty good sense of the value of a case based on their experience helping victims of auto negligence.
Most importantly, don’t let the insurance companies lie to you about diminished value claims. Take some advice from the good folks at Collision Centers (link above):
Don’t believe the insurance company when they say:
"We don’t pay for diminished value"
(Every insurance company pays diminished value claims)
"Diminished value isn’t recognized in this state"
(Diminished value is recognized in third-party settings in every state)
"The repairs restored the vehicle to pre-loss condition, so there is no diminished value"
(It is the accident history that causes diminished value)
"There is no diminished value because the frame wasn’t damaged"
(It doesn’t matter if the frame/unibody was damaged -$5,000 worth of damage is $5,000 worth of damage)
Also, remember that it isn’t always the other driver who causes diminished value. Your car’s value can also be damaged by:
1.) Faulty repairs. If this happened to you, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
2.) Insurance related loss. This is where the insurance company refuses (wrongly) to authorize necessary repairs and as a result your car is damaged or unrepaired. If this happens to you, contact an attorney.
No matter what happened to you or what the insurance companies try to tell you, remember that no insurance company is your friend. You are not “in good hands” and they are not your “family” and they are most certainly not “on your side.” If you have any questions, or ever need advice related to an accident, contact an attorney who handles cases like this. For a list of good attorneys, visit: www.nbtanet.org.