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Property Damage Claims2023-03-21T11:30:40-07:00

Property Damage Claims

Common Questions About Property Damage Claims



The first step is to report the claim to the insurance company of the driver who caused the wreck. The Insurance company will handle the claim differently depending on whether your car can be repaired or must be replaced.


The insurance company for the person who caused the wreck is required to provide you with a rental car. If you caused the accident or there is not another person to blame, you must look to your insurance policy to determine if rental coverage is available. Many insurance contracts don’t provide rental coverage for their own customers.

The insurance company will not pay for extra insurance you purchase from the car rental company. Your own insurance should cover you while driving the rental car. Call your insurance agent to be sure you are covered while driving the renal car.

Normally, the rental car agreement only covers one driver. You will have to pay extra charges for having other family members drive the rental car while your car is being repaired.

Insurance companies often receive a discount from specific car rental companies. Ask the insurance adjuster handling the claim where you should obtain a rental car. The insurance company has to pay the cost for the “reasonable incurred rental cost of a substitute vehicle.” Clearing the rental car company with the adjuster will avoid the possibility of paying extra for your rental car. Sometimes, you must pay the rental car bill first, with reimbursement coming from the insurance company later.


Normally, the insurance company has the sole option to either repair or replace your car. It is usually a question of cost efficiency. That is, if it costs less to replace your car than to repair it, the insurance company will declare your car a “total loss,” and take action to replace your car.

In the event the insurance company chooses to repair the car, you have the absolute right to decide who will repair your own vehicle. Many insurance companies will evaluate the cost of repairing your car separately and independently from any repair shop. The insurance company will then work with the repair shop of your choice, to get your car repaired.

Sometimes, the insurance company will claim that some of the damage to your car existed before the accident. Similarly, accidents often generate mechanical malfunctions. It can be difficult to determine if a mechanical problem was caused by a wreck or by normal wear and tear. Therefore, it is important that you prove the connection between the auto accident and the damage you are claiming. Ordinarily, mechanics and body repair persons can help you determine the age of the body damage or the cause of a mechanical failure. They can help you convince the insurance company that the auto accident caused the damage.

The insurance company must return your car to the condition that it was before the accident. Because your car was probably not new, the mechanic may use refurbished or reconditioned parts. However, you have the right to demand original manufacturer parts so that if your car is a Ford, for example, you should receive genuine Ford parts.


A “total loss” is when it costs more to repair than replace your car. If your car is declared a “total loss” the insurance company buys your car for it’s market value. A rental car must be provided until the adjuster makes a reasonable offer. The difficulty is determining a market value. Sometimes it takes a week or two before an offer is made, so be patient. The insurance company has 30 days to process your claim.

Normally, the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident will pay for the reasonable towing and storage costs for your car. They will continue to pay the storage costs while determining whether your car is a “total loss”. If the insurance company declares the car a “total loss,” they will move the car from the repair shop to the wrecking yard or a free storage area. You will be called before the car is moved. If you refuser to allow the insurance company to move your car, you will have to pay the storage costs from the day of your refusal forward. If you want to keep the vehicle, you can pay to ahve it towed to your home.

You are entitled to the “fair market value”: or the “actual cash value” of your vehicle. Insurance companies usually determine fair market value be referring to the Kelley Blue Book or similar publication. Generally, the insurance company is trying to determine what your car was worth immediately before the accident. Once they make an offer, it is up to you to either accept their offer, or show them why your car is worth more money.

If you think your car is worth more than the amount offered, appraise the price of your current vehicle at,, or check the newspaper and the Auto Trader for the sale price of cars the same make and model as yours. Cut out the ads and send them to the adjuster.

Be mindful that sometimes people are “upside down” on the loans for their car. Being “upside down” on your loan for your car happens when you owe more money than its fair market value. Sometimes people are “upside down” because they purchased an extended warranty. An extended warranty can be canceled, and you are entitled to part of the money you paid for the warranty. For example, if your purchased a five-year warranty and your vehicle is declared a total loss in the second year, you are entitled to a refund of 3/5ths of the purchase price of the warranty.

Unfortunately, the adjuster will not pay more money to you simply because you are “upside down” with your car loan. They are only obligated to pay the “fair market value” of your car.

When an older car is involved in an accident, it is hard to recover the cost of recent repairs. New tires or a new engine only slightly increases the value of a vehicle. If you have receipts for the new motor or transmission, show them to the adjuster.

When you are offered a “total loss” settlement, the insurance company buys your car. If you wish to keep the wrecked car, you may purchase it back from the insurance company for it’s salvage value. The adjuster can subtract the salvage value from the settlement and you can keep the car.

Besides the price of the vehicle, you had to pay sales tax, a tag fee, and registration fees. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the prorated amount of these costs which are unused. The insurance company should reimburse you for:

  1. Applicable sales tax on the actual cash value of the car;
  2. The cost of the tag transfer fee; and
  3. The prorated amount of your yearly car tax and registration fees.

For example, if your car was wrecked on June 1 and you had just licensed and registered your vehicle on May 1, at a cost of $120, you are entitled to a return of $110 ($100 would be the taxes and registration fee for 11/12th’s of the year).


The insurance company for the other driver is only responsible for the repair/replacement of your vehicle if liability against the other driver is “reasonably clear.” On occasion, the insurance for the other driver may claim you contributed to the accident occurring. The insurance company may reduce the amount of the comparable fault. Thus, if you believe you were20% ay fault in causing the accident, the cost of repair or replacement of your vehicle would be reduced by 20%. If you believe you were equally at fault as the other driver (50/50), the other driver’s insurance company would not be responsible for paying any portion of your car damage. That is, you must show that the other driver was at least 51% or more at fault before the other driver’s insurance would be responsible for payment of your loss.

On occasion, you may disagree with the other driver’s insurance company regarding who was at fault in causing the accident. If so, you may look to your own carrier for compensation if you had collision coverage as part of your policy. Your company then may make a claim against the other driver’s insurance carrier. If your company is successful in being repaid for your damages, your deductible will then be reimbursed to you.

A “total loss” is when it costs more to repair than replace your car. If your car is declared a “total loss” the insurance company buys your car for it’s market value. A rental car must be provided until the adjuster makes a reasonable offer. The difficulty is determining a market value. Sometimes it takes a week or two before an offer is made, so be patient. The insurance company has 30 days to process your claim.

If you are unable to agree with the insurance company or other driver, and you do not have collision coverage, you can sometimes take your case through the Small Claims Court system. However, this may be a complicated issue. In auto accidents occurring after May 14, 2013, Utah law allows you to bring a property damage claim for your automobile through the Small Claims Court system without affecting your personal injury claim. The Small Claims Court jurisdictional ceiling is $10,000.00. Utah law would not allow you to take your vehicle claim to a District Court – rather than the Small Claims Court – without it affecting your personal injury claim. There are small claims courts located throughout the Wasatch Front.

Small claims courts are designed to allow people to handle disputes on their own without an attorney. However, as noted above, you may unintentionally silence other potential legal claims by pursuing your vehicle property claim separately from your personal injury claims. Therefore, the Small Claims Court process should not be used without first consulting with a lawyer about your case. We will be glad to talk to you about your case without obligation and free of charge.

Court forms needed to pursue a Small Claims Court action (Justice Court action) are found online. Visit UT Courts for more information.

Once the court receives confirmation that the other driver has been served with a copy of your Small Claims Affidavit, a trial date will be set. At the trial, bring both documentation and witnesses that can support your claim.

Salt Lake City Small Claims Court

PO Box 145499

333 South 200 East

Salt Lake City UT 84114-5499

Phone: 801-535-6301


For more SLC Small Claims Court information, please click here.


To find a small claims court elsewhere in Utah, please click here.


Many people find the property damage portion of their claim very frustrating. They may be “upside down” or believe their car is worth more than the insurance company believes it is worth. It is an extremely frustrating time as you are not only in physical pain, but your ability to get around has also been limited. However, it does no good to get upset with the adjuster. The best way to get a better offer is by showing the adjuster additional information proving your car is worth more than offered.