Our office handles a number of complicated issues when it comes to personal injury work. But, often we find that our clients are more troubled by mundane issues (and are glad to leave the big issues to us). Many personal injury lawyers are excited to charge off and to assert your personal injury claim, but few want to deal with an issue which may be uppermost on your mind: who is going to fix my car?
In most accident cases, the injury victim will have a choice. They can pursue the damage claim against the responsible party’s insurance carrier, but that may take time while that carrier conducts an investigation and gets its insured’s side of the story. Going against your own insurance company under your “collision” coverage may be a quicker and better option.
People always wonder whether it is advisable to assert a claim against their own carrier. In many circumstances it is.
The first concern may have to do with whether your insurance company will raise your rates. The process of rate setting is called “underwriting” and it is not well-understood. Frequently, insureds get premium increases for different reasons or for no reason at all. Most underwriters will tell you, however, that rates are based upon important factors like driving record, vehicle value, neighborhood and underage drivers. While your “claims history” may have some bearing, if the accident was not your fault, it is hard to see how or why the carrier would hold that against you.
Another similar example is the assertion of a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. These claims are also asserted by the insured driver against his own insurance company. In most cases, this is done out of necessity since the responsible party has little or no insurance coverage. While there is a slight risk of premium increase, the potential benefit vastly outweighs the risk.
To be clear, if the liability insurance company quickly processes your property damage claim, it is appropriate to allow them to do so. But if you really need to get back on the road and cannot wait for the end of their investigation, you might well consider pursuing your own collision coverage. True, you will have to pay your deducible, but once the investigation is complete, the liability carrier will refund the deductible to you. In fact, they will likely reimburse your carrier for the entire amount of your claim. (Another good reason it is unlikely they will increase your premium).
At the end of the day, property damage claims seem to work themselves out. The responsible carrier eventually picks up the tab and the car gets repaired or replaced. Sometimes a dose of patience is in order while the insurance companies work this out. Perhaps most importantly it is highly advisable to step back and have some perspective during this process. It will work itself out. And if it is any consolation, the stress and inconvenience of dealing with this issue—and indeed all of the problems an accident causes are compensable under Virginia personal injury law.