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Property Damage Claims in Washington State

Answers to FAQs about vehicle damage following a car accident

If you were involved in a motor vehicle collision in the State of Washington and the accident wasn’t your fault, you have important legal rights and responsibilities that must be followed.

What steps should I take following an auto accident? Infographic
Click here to download a printable PDF of the "What steps should I take following an auto accident?" infographic.

Will my insurance rates go up if I report a crash?

By law, your insurance company cannot increase your rates for reporting a crash, if you were not at fault for causing the accident.

How can I obtain a copy of the Police Traffic Collision Report?

Click here to request an electronic copy of your crash report with the Washington State Patrol.

How long does it take the insurance company to complete its investigation?

Normally the insurance company must investigate the crash and determine who is at fault within 30 days unless the investigation cannot reasonably be completed within that timeframe.

Is the other driver’s insurance required to provide me with a rental car?

If the other driver is at fault, your property damage claim is accepted by their insurance company, and they have adequate coverage to pay for a rental vehicle, then you should be eligible to receive a rental car and/or funds to pay for the cost of a rental car. The rental car should be similar in value to the vehicle you were driving when the collision occurred. (If you were driving a brand new F-150 when the crash occurred, you should be provided with a replacement full-size truck with similar options.)

Who is responsible for paying the towing and storage fees for my vehicle?

If you are at fault for causing the collision, then you are responsible for paying the tow bill and storage fees. If the other driver is found 100% at fault, they are responsible for paying these expenses; however, although the other driver is found liable, you still have a legal duty to minimize your damages. This requires you must settle your property damage claim in a timely fashion and avoid unnecessary delays in getting your vehicle repaired, including towing and storage fees.

Can I choose which auto body repair shop to use?

Yes, if your claim is accepted and the cost of repairs does not exceed the value of your vehicle, you may choose which auto body shop to use. You do not have to accept the insurance company’s “recommended” or “pre-approved” repair shop. All repairs must be reasonable.

Is there a benefit to using a repair shop that is “recommended” or “pre-approved” by insurance?

Insurance companies often have contracts with one or more local auto body shops. Using one of these “pre-approved” shops may result in your vehicle being repaired and returned to you more quickly. The potential downside is that repairs may be rushed and not up to the same standards as other reputable shops in town, but this is not always so.

Is the insurance company required to pay for brand new parts?

Not necessarily. They are only required to return your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the collision occurred. For example, if your vehicle is considered used (due to its model year or mileage), the insurance company may ask the repair shop to purchase and install reconditioned or non-OEM parts. You can request they use only new parts, but you may be required to pay the extra cost.

What is a “diminished value” claim?

You are entitled to any reduction in the value of your vehicle caused by the collision, even after repairs are made. This is referred to as diminished value. Such claims often arise when someone purchases a newer car that is badly damaged in a crash, but their vehicle is not declared a total loss. Diminished value claims may also arise when a luxury, exotic, or classic automobile is damaged, which can significantly affect the vehicle’s resale value. In either case, it is helpful to look at appraisal figures before and after the collision occurred (after repairs are completed) to determine the vehicle’s diminished value. It may be necessary to hire an appraiser to do this.

My vehicle was declared a total loss, now what?

If your vehicle was “totaled” (the cost of repairs approaches or exceeds the total value of your car), you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle, plus tax, as well as the costs needed to re-license your replacement vehicle and pay for registration tags. Fair market value is determined based on a variety of factors including make, model, options, mileage, condition, and so forth.

If you are unsure about the fair market value of your vehicle, consult with Kelly Blue Book, Craigslist, eBay Motors, Cargurus, or Edmonds. Look for dealership ads in your area for the same make and model as your vehicle. Each vehicle should be similarly optioned and in similar condition (mileage, paint, interior, tires, and so forth). Use the price of these vehicles as a basis for comparison when negotiating the total loss of your vehicle with the insurance company.

What if my custom vehicle was declared a total loss?

If your vehicle was customized or equipped with aftermarket parts at additional cost, locate receipts for the purchase price of these additional parts. If you do not have receipts, provide whatever documentation you can find to establish proof of ownership, such as photographs. You will also need to show the fair market value of any custom parts you purchased, including the price to install said parts if done professionally. Itemize all expenses and present this information to the insurance company along with any documentation you have.

Can I keep my vehicle if it’s totaled?

Yes, but the total loss check you receive from the insurance company will be reduced by the vehicle’s salvage value.

Should I accept the insurance company’s offer to settle my property damage claim?

Once the property damage adjuster handling your claim has completed their investigation, they may offer you a check to settle. Before accepting this check and/or signing a release, make sure you are satisfied with the amount being offered. Examine the property damage estimate and any other items deserving attention. If you still have questions and are unsure about what to do, contact a lawyer.

Additional questions?

Click here to access our step-by-step guide to resolving property damage claims in Washington.

Web content is not legal advice. Using this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about a legal matter, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction and is familiar with the facts in your situation. To learn more about how The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with a personal injury related matter, contact our office today for a free consultation: (360) 718-3640.

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