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How is property damage assessed after car accidents?

Many Californians are involved in car accidents on a daily basis. While many are minor fender-benders with very little damage, some are more serious in nature. Many cars are seriously damaged, requiring thousands of dollars in repairs. Some unfortunate vehicles are beyond repair and must be totaled. This situation can have motorists concerned, especially when they have no other vehicle for immediate use. There are some important things to keep in mind about valuation and recovery for vehicles involved in car accidents.

Insurance companies typically look to a car's Blue Book value to determine what it is worth. They will also take into consideration any extras or options installed in the car, so if you added a stereo or premium tires after purchasing the vehicle, those added costs will be included in the estimate. The insurance company will choose either the fair market value or the cost of repairs. If the repairs exceed 75 percent of the car's value, your car will likely be totaled and you will be paid what the car is worth at that time.

The insurance company takes care of the estimate by having an adjuster assess the vehicle. If repairs are to be made, you can choose the shop. Manufacturer parts will be used unless after-market parts are of equal or greater value. You should also be reimbursed for the use of a rental car, but the insurance company is not responsible for arranging it for you.

There are other things to think about as well, such as who caused the auto accident. If it was another party, he or she may not have insurance. Ideally, you would have uninsured motorist insurance for situations like this. However, dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be complicated and a legal professional may be able to guide accident victims through the process of assessing damage and filing claims.

Source: FindLaw, "Car Accident Property Damage Claims FAQ," accessed May 16, 2015

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