Who Fixes My Car After a Crash? Lawyer To Handle Property Damage?

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December 18  

Should I Hire A Lawyer To Handle Property Damage?

I recently had with some people who were involved in a car crash, and so the topic for this article are should my lawyer handle my property damage claim or should I not want my lawyer to handle my property damage claims, and as you know, I'm an injury lawyer. I represent people who have been hurt in a car accident for physical injuries, but in many of the car crashes, truck crashes, or motorcycle crash cases, the issue of how do I get my car fixed, who fixes my car, and so that's what we're going to talk about now, and by the end of it, you'll understand why having a lawyer handle your property damage claim is usually a bad idea.

That's not to say I never do it or never aid clients; I do. To be honest, I generally delegate it to my secretary or paralegal since it requires a lot of phone calls and irritation, and having it go through my office often adds time, but we'll get to that in a minute. Here's what I want you to know: I produced a tool and published a whole chapter on my website that explains everything in great depth, and I even made a chart where you cross-index your insurance and the other guy's insurance and it tells you precisely what to do.

How A Bodily Injury Claim Works

It tells you who should be fixing your car and who you should call for the entire situation. I came up with it a few years ago when the person who called me was a woman with her children in the car who was confused about whether her insurance would fix the car or whether the other side's insurance would. I called her, but they aren't returning my calls. I need a car and a car rental, but my insurance doesn't cover rental reimbursement. They should have to pay it, and she's very confused. She's dealing with a couple of insurance companies that aren't returning her calls. The general rule with property damage is that it's a separate claim from bodily injury. So consider how a bodily injury claim works: I don't charge you anything for your injuries to represent you, even if the case takes five years; I never charge you out of your pocket; and I only get paid when you are reimbursed, if that makes sense.

So, if you have $10,000 in medical costs and it's not a good case, and I end up obtaining you a $30,000 settlement, there's an attorney's fee for me, I'll negotiate a deal with the physicians, and you'll put some money in your pocket. But what about property damage claims, such as automobile damage claims? If it costs $5,000 to restore your car, you have two options: hire me to represent you or accept the $5,000. Even if I charge a third of $5,000, you still won't have enough money to repair your automobile. Alternatively, you could pay me by the hour to attempt to convince your insurance company to pay for the repairs, but it isn't practical either since my hourly rate would be more than a third of $5,000.

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Property Damage Claims

The issue is that insurance companies are aware of these economics and that property damage claims are unprofitable for attorneys, which is terrible for the client as well as for anyone hurt or driving a damaged vehicle. Economically speaking, they have two options: either they must pay an attorney hourly out of their own pockets, or they must search for a lawyer willing to fight an insurance company for a thousand-dollar fee, which, as an attorney, I can assure you, will quickly put you out of business because real estate, rentals, insurance, and all that stuff are very pricey for lawyers.

What Should You Do?

A lawyer literally cannot afford to have a steady supply of cases that pay them $10 an hour or something like that, so what should you do? Well, the first thing you should do is honestly, I'll leave the link for my chapter on property damage and a chapter to the downloadable link to the downloadable chart. The second point is that the quick response is "do you have insurance?" ", "Does the other side have insurance?" If no one has insurance, you'll have to sue the person who caused the accident, and if they don't have enough money for auto insurance, they're judgment-proof. Not in all circumstances, but it's the case today if you have excellent insurance and they have terrible insurance, the sort of insurance where it's like the cheapest of the cheap and odd names right so you know no name insurance companies and you have a decent insurance company.

Your Insurance Helps

Since you pay insurance premiums, your insurance has a financial incentive to keep you satisfied. Additionally, under Illinois law, your insurance has a greater obligation to put your interests at least on par with theirs. My advice is generally to pay your deductible, accept the hit, and have it fixed through your insurance. While someone else's insurance doesn't have to place you at that level, if they have bad insurance and you have good insurance, you can fix it right away. If you don't have any insurance and they have, you'll need to take a chance.

But if you're dealing with poor insurance, my advice is to clear your mind. You simply have to accept that these people will be rude to you, hang up on you and never call you back, leave you hanging constantly, and offer you $1,900 for a $3,500 repair. Once you reach the final figure, you can report them to the Illinois Insurance Department.

You will never come out ahead on property damage repair; the best you can hope for is barely breaking even or losing a small amount of money; another outcome is losing a significant amount of money. That is just how property damage works in the state of Illinois, and from speaking with my lawyer friends, other states have stronger protection for individuals who are involved in accidents. For instance, New Jersey and Florida do have more robust protections, but in Illinois, if the insurance company doesn't represent you, you have, or guarantee you have virtually, they can do whatever they want and their only real concern is that you report them to the Illinois Department of Insurance for unsavory Behavior. That’s why I recommend getting it fixed via your insurance carrier as your best hope at a small loss as they have that heightened Duty to be fair with you and put your interests on par with theirs. But whenever you're dealing with property damage, you have to keep in mind that it won't make sense to sue them over a $1,000 dispute. It won't make sense economically, and you won't be able to find a lawyer who will do it for you for $1,000 because it requires too much work. If you're fighting them over $1,000, the lawyer will charge you $300 or $400 to file a lawsuit.

I hope that clarifies things. You might wonder, "Why is an injury lawyer talking about property damage so much? I have a property damage claim, which is how I found this article. Why won't he help me with my property damage?" 

Well, I get enough calls from people who have property damage and want me to sue for more than $2,000 or fight an insurance company that I know won't ever fix their car, and if they do, it will be fixed incorrectly and it's going to cost them more. They're not much better to deal with on injury claims either, but because they know you might go to trial and smack them, they're a little bit more reasonable. Those low-budget, no-name insurance companies make a profit by performing shoddy repairs or simply frustrating people until they give up on their claims. There are more explanations, but they are outside the purview of this essay. Anyhow, I hope this knowledge is useful to you. I'll leave links to my chapter on property damage, and if you have a personal injury case involving bodily injury, I would be happy to represent you. 

Please send the case to me at 312-500-4500, but even if you don't need a lawyer right away or just have general inquiries, I'm happy to speak with you.

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About the author - Scott D. DeSalvo

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