Property Damage Covered in an Auto Accident


After an accident caused by another driver, many people hire an attorney because the insurance claim process can be so daunting. Understanding a few basics of what is generally included under property damage coverage is important, whether you have legal counsel or are filing the basic paperwork yourself.

First Steps

When the other driver is clearly at fault — or you at least believe that you are not the primary cause for the accident — there are some basic steps to follow.

First, get the other driver’s insurance information and inform his or her insurance company about the accident. If possible, take photos of your car before it is towed, and make sure the police are notified so that you can send the insurance company a copy of the report, if requested. Have your car assessed for damages, and arrange for a rental car, if needed. Make sure to save all receipts because you will be entitled to recover those costs.

Property Damage Calculations

Property damage compensation is typically calculated based on how much your car was worth prior to the accident, versus after the accident. Additional factors which may determine how much the insurance company will cover include the cost of repairs, as well as the value of the car. Ideally, this calculation will cover the cost of the repair.

How to Proceed When Your Car is “Totaled”

When it will cost more to repair your car than it is worth due to serious damage, the insurance company will usually “total” the car — meaning it pays you the value of the car; however, this is where things can get tricky.

There are several possible Blue Book “values” for which the insurer might try to reimburse you, such as the loan value. But because you will need to replace your car, the ideal situation is when the insurance company pays the retail value of your vehicle.

Additional Property Damage Coverage

If you had previously invested in new equipment for the car, and it was destroyed in the accident, you’re entitled to be compensated for that equipment. The same holds true of non-vehicle items damaged in the accident, such as a computer or cell phone.

In addition, other parties other than you may be covered by the at-fault driver’s property damage insurance. That’s because other types of property can be damaged in a car accident, such as mailboxes, other cars, and buildings. These typically will fall under the property damage coverage.

What Isn’t Covered?

For the person who caused the accident, property damage insurance will not cover losses and repairs of his or her own vehicle and other belongings. The at-fault driver may be able to receive coverage through other types of insurance, however, especially if he or she has a comprehensive or collision policy. But the reimbursement can’t come from property damage coverage for the person who caused the accident.

For Complex Cases

There are times when you may have trouble proving the other driver was at fault, or that your expenses are higher than what the other driver’s insurance company is offering. In that case, it’s a good idea to contact a car accident attorney to make sure you receive what you’re due under the property damage coverage.


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