The primary focus in any car accident case is on your personal health. If another driver causes you to suffer brain trauma, spinal cord damage, broken bones, muscle damage – or any other injuries – you have the right to damages. Damages include compensation for your pain and suffering, all your medical bills, and your lost income.
You’re also entitled to be paid to replace or repair your car. A car is considered “totaled” if the cost to fix it is so high that it’s safer and more economical to buy a replacement vehicle. Normally, after a car accident, your car will be taken to a car repair place of your choosing. The car repair company will prepare an estimate of the repair costs. Your insurance company and the insurance company for the driver that hit you may want to examine the car first. They’ll want to look at the car because the location and extent of the damage may indicate how the accident happened and because they need to know how much it costs to fix the car. Insurance companies often accept the car repair estimate (assuming the insurance company accepts responsibility).
In some cases, the insurance company for the responsible driver or your insurance company may determine that the costs to fix your car differ from what your car repair company estimates*. In many cases, a skilled Vancouver, WA car accident lawyer helps to negotiate a car repair settlement.
*A word to the wise: some mechanics may try to pull a fast one on you, forcing you to pay for repairs that your insurance company won’t cover. If this happens, call us; you may have some options.
Visible damage to vehicle after an accident
- Paint. Even minor car accidents cause scratches, chips, and scuff marks that cause some of the paint to come off. Some paintwork can be easily touched up because only the top layer is damaged. In many cases, the car repair company will need to do work on the body of the car to fix the underlying damage first. Once the bodywork is complete, your car may need a minor paint job or the whole car may need to be repainted.
- Dents. Dents are basically any damage to your car that requires the metalwork to be replaced and/or repainted. The amount of work to fix a dent depends on the depth and length of the damage. Dents cause cosmetic damage – your car just doesn’t look as nice as it did before the accident. Dents may also cause structural damage which can affect your car’s performance. Some dents may affect the stability of other parts of your vehicle. Some dents can be worked back into place with the proper equipment. Deeper dents may require new metalwork.
- Frame straightening. If the frame of your car is damaged, that’s a sign of serious trouble. Frame straightening requires extensive repair work (such as using hydraulics) to straighten your car’s frame. If the frame can’t be straightened, then your car may be a “total” loss.
- Replacing glass. Often, the windshield and the windows are cracked or break into little pieces. Usually, the car repair company needs to remove the entire windshield/window and install a new one that fits your car.
- Repairs to the trunk, hood, roof, or door. It’s one thing to fix a fender or replace a window. Replacing exterior parts of the framework involves replacing a lot of metal and the frame around the trunk, rood, or hood. If the damage is severe, your car may be totaled.
- Bumpers/fenders. You need to fix these car parts. It’s not just that the damage is unsightly, the damage may cause the whole fender to come off while you drive. If the fenders are broken, there’s a good chance the headlights and taillights are broken too. Broken fenders might be fixable in the same way a dent is fixable. Otherwise, the whole fender will need replacement.
- Broken headlights and taillights. If just the light is broken, then either the whole light needs to be replaced or, if you’re really lucky, just a bulb needs to be replaced.
- Misaligned wheels. If your wheels aren’t aligned properly, it may be harder to steer your car. The tires will likely wear out unevenly. Misaligned wheels may indicate your car’s suspension is damaged too.
Types of hidden car damage
According to Certified Collision Group, it’s not enough to address the visual damage. You need to have an experienced car repair company look for any hidden damage. In addition to frame damage and alignment issues, the trunk is often damaged – especially in a rear-end collision or a side-impact crash. If you can’t properly close your trunk, then you may not be able to store items in the trunk or get items out of the trunk. Water may seep in through a trunk that isn’t fixed.
Skilled car repair companies also examine your car for damage to the electrical system and to the fuel line system. The wires, fuses, and other parts of your car’s internal systems need to be examined. Often, car repair companies use sophisticated computer systems to check for internal damage to your vehicle.
Which insurance company pays for damage to your car?
Several different companies may be responsible for your car repairs or to replace your car if it is totaled:
- The insurance companies for the defendants. The insurance company for the driver that negligently struck you, the owners of the car that struck you, and other liable companies are primarily responsible for the damage to your car.
- Your UM/UIM carrier. If the defendants didn’t have liability insurance or only had a limited amount of insurance, your own uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) carrier should pay for the damage.
- The owner of the car could ask his/her collision insurance carrier to pay for the car damage if you caused the accident. Your collision carrier may also pay your car repair costs upfront provided they are reimbursed if there is a settlement or a verdict in your favor.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver, WA car accident lawyers fight to obtain every dollar our client deserves. In addition to focusing on your injuries and how much they’ve changed your life, we fight for all your economic losses too – including your car repair costs. Car damage costs often include the cost of a rental car until your car is fixed. We’ve negotiated or obtained strong recoveries in more than 2,000 personal injury cases. To speak with an aggressive car accident lawyer, please call our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. You can phone us at 360-746-0351 or fill out our contact form. We represent personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.