When you've been in a car wreck, the first thing you need to think about is your health. Always seek immediate medical attention. As you know, you may feel fine at the scene and even for a bit after. But it’s important that you see a healthcare professional to rule out potentially serious injuries.
After you’ve taken care of your health, you can think about your car. How do you get it fixed? What comes next? Follow our 5 step guide to handling your own property damage claim in Texas.
Step 1: Take Pictures of Your Vehicle
If you haven't already done so, make sure to read our blog article on what to do at the scene when you're in a car wreck. If you are reading this after you've been in a wreck and left a scene, make sure to go outside and take pictures of your vehicle—all sides, all angles, zoomed in, zoomed out. Then, make sure to download the photos and email them to yourself so you don't lose them if your phone crashes or breaks. If you don't have the ability to take photos with your phone, use a digital camera for the best quality. If you don't have a digital camera, use any camera to take pictures. You can even use a video camera to take video. Whatever gets the job done. The key is to make sure that you can see all the damage up close up and from a distance in comparison to your vehicle.
Step 2: Call the Insurance Company to Make a Claim
You have a couple of options here. One is to use the other driver's insurance if you have that information. Another is to call your insurance, which applies if you got hit by a driver who doesn't have insurance or you were in a hit and run. You may need to wait for the police report to come out to figure out insurance. When you call, follow the steps for setting up a property damage claim only. Eventually, you will get to an adjuster. You will need to describe to them where this happened, the drivers involved, the time, and the fact you were in a wreck. On a side note, if liability is in dispute, do not agree to give a recorded statement without first calling a lawyer.
Step 3: Schedule an Inspection
The next thing you need to do is schedule an inspection with a property damage adjuster from the insurance company. Sometimes they will have you take it to a specific location but only agree to this if your vehicle can be safely driven. The inspection will give you their estimate of the cost of the damage caused to your vehicle. If the repairs required cost more than the fair market value of the vehicle itself, then your car will likely be deemed a total loss.
Step 4: Evaluate the Estimate
Now that you have an estimate from the insurance company, evaluate your options. A key point to remember here is that you need to make sure that the estimate matches what you see as far as damage. If you do not trust the estimate, you have a right to take the vehicle to your own shop to get evaluated. There may be a dispute, but you want to make sure that everything that is broken gets fixed. You also want to make sure it gets fixed properly, which means not using second-hand parts.
If the vehicle is a total loss, you can elect to sign the title over to the insurance company and receive the fair market value of the vehicle. If you prefer, you can elect to keep the vehicle and do the repairs yourself. They will just make the check a salvage value instead.
Step 5: Sign the Release and Get Your Check
Once you agree on a set amount, the adjuster will send you a release. At this point, you need to make sure that you are signing away only your property damage claim. Even if you don't believe you are injured, do not sign away a claim for bodily injuries. We have had potential clients come into our office complaining that they signed away their personal injury claims only to realize that they were hurt later on. Sadly, at that point, there is nothing we can do for them. Please don’t hesitate to call our office if you have any questions as you’re going through this process.
Do you need a lawyer for this?
For property damage claims, you typically don't need a lawyer. As long as you follow these steps and make sure you are careful with what you sign, you should be fine. If you run into an issue, reach out to us.
If after reading this, you want to know more about personal injury or wrongful death claims in Texas, order my free book, The Essential Guide For Your Texas Injury Case. It will help walk you through many of the questions many of my clients have and guide you to becoming informed about your rights. If you still have questions after reading the information on my website and in my free book, email us or give us a call. We are here for you.
Give us a call at 214-888-2216 if you have any further questions or fill out our "Contact Us" form and we will reach out to you as soon as possible.