When your vehicle is damaged in a collision and then repaired, its resale value is frequently lower than a comparable vehicle that has never been damaged. Depending on the nature of the damage and repairs, the structural components of your car may be weaker than they were previously, making your car less durable and less safe.
Additionally, even if there isn’t any permanent structural damage to your car, the mere fact that it has been in a collision means that if you try to sell it or trade it in, people and dealerships will pay less than they would for a comparable car that has never been involved in an accident.
In legal terms, this is called “diminution in value.” The other driver’s insurance company will often claim that you’re only entitled to get your car repaired. But they’re wrong. Under California law, if somebody else causes a car accident, their insurance company is required to put you in the same position you were before the accident occurs – that means paying for both the cost to repair your vehicle and compensating you for the diminished value.
- Consult a diminished-value appraiser. Reputable appraisers, such as this one, will typically give you a free consultation, so it should not cost you anything to see if your car has likely suffered any diminution in value. If you do make a claim, you will want to get a formal appraisal in order to determine the amount that you are entitled to recover, and in order to prove your claim to the insurance company. This type of appraisal, which typically costs only a few hundred dollars, is well-worth the expense, as it can lead to thousands of dollars more in your pocket.
- Do not settle for less than you’re entitled to. Even when an insurance company does make an offer to compensate you for the diminished value of your vehicle, it’s almost always for much less than the full value of the claim. Under California law, you are entitled to recover the full amount that your vehicle diminished in value, so you should not settle for less.
- Consult an attorney. If the insurance company does not pay your demand in full, you should consult an attorney experienced with diminution in value claims. An attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and, if that doesn’t work, can help you file a claim in court to recover what you are entitled to.