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What You Should Know About Filing an Auto Damage
Claim with Another Insurance Company

This is general information; any applicable insurance policy and state law will control – this is not legal advice – you need your own attorney to obtain legal advice.

  • When your vehicle is damaged in an accident with another car, you have the option to file a claim either with your own insurance company, if you have the appropriate coverages (a first party claim), or with the insurer for the owner of the other car (a third party claim).
  • In order for you to be able to file a first party claim, your policy must provide Collision or Comprehensive coverage. These are often referred to as "Physical Damage Coverages".
  • Collision coverage protects you from damage caused to your car by a collision with another vehicle, a fixed object, or an object lying in the roadway. Collision coverage also protects you from damage caused by the upset of your vehicle.
  • Comprehensive coverage protects you if your car is stolen or vandalized or damaged by contact with an animal or falling object (i.e., tree limbs, rocks, stones, debris). It also covers your vehicle for glass breakage, fire, wind, hail, and flood damage.
  • If you file a first party claim, your insurance company will either pay to repair the damages to your vehicle or pay you the value of your vehicle if the damages exceed the car's worth. However, the company will subtract the deductible amount you have chosen for that coverage.
  • If you file a third party claim, the other driver's insurer will only pay for damages to your vehicle to the extent that their insured was legally responsible. In some instances, this may not be enough to reimburse you for the full amount of your loss.

What must I do after a loss?

  • Immediately report the accident to the police and exchange insurance information with the other driver. In fact, under Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle law you are required to report any accident involving property damage in excess of $1,500.00 to the appropriate authorities. Idaho Code § 49-1305.
  • Immediately report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company.
  • You must make the damaged vehicle available for inspection by the insurance company before you have it repaired.
  • Protect your vehicle from further damage and limit your losses. If you don't, the insurer could refuse to pay for any subsequent damage. For example, if your vehicle’s fender is damaged in an accident that causes it to rub against the tire, you have an obligation to make emergency repairs to the fender so no further damage will result to the tire. It is important to save all receipts for any emergency repairs as these can be submitted later to the company as part of your claim.

What happens after I file a claim with the other driver's insurance company?

  • The other driver’s insurer will investigate the claim and will make a determination whether to pay, negotiate, or defend its insured against the claim.
  • During their investigation, the insurer will need to determine the following:
    • whether their insured is legally responsible for the accident and to what extent
    • the amount of your damages
    • whether your damages are directly related to the accident
  • While there is no law that sets forth the information you must provide the insurer, it is in your best interest to provide as much information as possible to substantiate your claim.
  • If you fail to cooperate fully with the insurer’s investigation, they could deny your claim entirely.

Who decides who is at fault for the accident and how much they owe?

  • Idaho has a "comparative negligence" law which means that more than one person can be at fault in an accident. Under this law, you can collect damages only if your degree of fault ”was not as great” as that of the other parties involved in the accident. Idaho Code § 6-801. The settlement, however, can be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if the other driver is 80% at fault and you are 20% at fault, you can collect for your damages because you were not 50% or more at fault. However, the other driver’s insurer will only offer to pay for 80% of your damages. Where more than two people may share fault for damages, the comparative negligence inquiry is more complicated.
  • Other points to remember:
    • While traffic citations and convictions under Idaho’s motor vehicle laws are factors often used to assess liability, neither necessarily means that a driver is 100% responsible for an accident. The fact that another driver may have been issued a citation or was even convicted of a moving traffic violation, and you were not, does not necessarily mean that some degree of liability still can’t be assessed to you for contributing to the accident.
    • When you file a third party claim with another insurer, you do not have a contract with that insurer and their primary obligation is to their own policyholder.
    • In a situation where your version of the accident differs from that of the other driver, absent any other persuasive evidence, the insurer will defend their policyholder, just as you would expect your company to defend you if a liability claim were brought against your policy.

The insurance company is telling me that they are going to deny my claim because it is not covered under their insured's policy even though their insured is clearly at fault for the accident. What can I do?

Or,

The insurance company is telling me that their policyholder did not carry enough insurance to fully pay for my damages. What can I do?

  • You can file an underinsured motorist claim with your own insurance company if you have the coverage on your policy but only for bodily injury. Most insurance policies in Idaho do not have uninsured or underinsured property damage coverage.
  • You can also file a collision claim with your own insurance company if you have the coverage on your policy.

When will the other driver's insurance company contact me and how long do they have to look at my vehicle?

  • Idaho Insurance Code and applicable rules do not set a time frame within which the insurance company should contact you or inspect your vehicle, other than providing that contact must be made within a “reasonable” amount of time after they have been notified of a loss. However, the insurance company is under no obligation to inspect your vehicle if they do not believe that their insured was legally responsible (i.e., at fault) for the accident.
  • The insurer can only require your vehicle to be made available for inspection at a time and place which is reasonably convenient for you.

How long does the insurance company have to settle my claim?

  • Idaho Insurance Code and applicable rules do not set a time limit for settlement. In depth investigation may be needed by the company or your failure to cooperate with them can add to delays in settlement.
  • You may request the insurance company to provide you with written notice explaining the reason for any delay.

Will the insurer have to reimburse me for renting a car?

  • It depends. When you notify the other party's insurance company of your claim, you should ask them if you are entitled to payment for a rental car or other substitute transportation. While the insurance company must tell you how much they would allow for a rental car or other transportation, they do not have to commit to making any payments until it becomes reasonably clear that their policyholder was legally responsible for the accident. Simply stated, once the insurance company knows that their insured is going to be more than 50% at fault (where two parties are involved), they must commit to paying for a rental car or other substitute transportation.
  • Keep in mind that Idaho insurance rule/code requires an at-fault driver’s insurance company to reimburse you for the cost of a rental vehicle in proportion to their liability. For example, if the insurance company allows $30 a day to rent a car and their insured was found to be 60% at fault, they would only reimburse $18 a day to rent a car.
  • Regulations do not specify the type of rental vehicle. If your damaged vehicle is a specialty vehicle, the insurer does not necessarily have to pay for a rental of the same type. If the insurer offers to pay a flat amount (for example, $20.00 per day), the insurer should tell you where you can rent a vehicle for that amount.
  • An insurer is only obligated to reimburse you for a rental car, or other substitute transportation, for the period of time it would normally take to repair your vehicle; or, in the case of a total loss, until they make you an offer of settlement.
  • If your vehicle is able to be safely driven, the insurance company will only pay for you to rent a car when your vehicle is actually in the shop for repairs.

What about storage fees?

  • If your vehicle is undriveable after an accident and is towed to a storage facility, the storage facility will charge you a daily storage fee. The insurance company should give you reasonable notice before they stop paying for storage charges in order to give you time to move the vehicle to some place where you won't incur storage charges.
  • In no event would the insurance company be obligated to pay any storage fees (or anything else) if their insured was not legally responsible (i.e., at fault) for the accident.

Who decides whether or not my car can be repaired?

  • After evaluating the damages to your vehicle, the insurance company has the option of repairing your vehicle, replacing your vehicle, or reimbursing you for the vehicle's actual cash value (ACV). Actual cash value is the amount your vehicle would have sold for on the date of the accident.
  • The insurance company will elect to replace your vehicle or reimburse you for the ACV in those instances where the vehicle is economically impractical to repair.
  • Motor Vehicle regulations stipulate that a vehicle is considered economically impractical to repair, or a total loss, if the cost to repair the vehicle equals or exceeds the vehicle's ACV on the date of the loss. In many instances, an insurer will total a vehicle if the appraised damage equals 80% of the vehicle’s ACV because often, once repairs are begun, additional damages or "hidden damages" are found which would render the vehicle a total loss by definition. (This is sometimes referred to as a "constructive total" loss).

Can I choose my own repair shop?

Yes. The insurer must try to reach an agreed price with the shop of your choice. If the company cannot reach an "agreed price", they will provide you with the names of licensed shops that can do the repairs for the price the company has determined.

Can I ask the insurer to recommend a repair shop?

Yes. At your request, the company can recommend a qualified repair facility convenient to the vehicle’s location that will repair the vehicle at the price the company is willing to pay and whose work is guaranteed.

Does the insurance company have to use new parts to repair my car?

  • No. The insurance company is only obligated to restore your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the loss. Sometimes this requires the use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and sometimes after-market parts can be used. After-market parts are parts made by a manufacturer other than the original manufacturer.
  • If your vehicle is being repaired with newer parts, the company isn’t required to pay for this "betterment". For example, if your vehicle's transmission is five years old, the insurer would only have to replace it with a five-year-old transmission. If a five-year-old transmission can't be found, the repair shop could use a new transmission but you'd have to pay the difference between the value of a five-year-old transmission and a new one.

Do I have to accept non-OEM parts?

  • No. While Idaho law permits the use of after-market parts as long as they are warranted by the manufacturer to be of like kind and quality as OEM parts, you don't have to accept them. The final choice is yours, but if the insurer wants to use non-OEM parts and you decide to use more expensive OEM parts, you may have to pay the difference in cost.
  • The insurance code also requires the insurer to clearly indicate on the appraisal which parts are after-market parts and pay for any modifications necessary. Idaho Code § 41-1328D.

How will the value of my vehicle be calculated to determine if it is a total loss?

Insurance companies commonly select one of the following methods for use in the settlement of all total loss claims:

  1. Taking the average of the retail values of substantially similar vehicles as listed in the current editions of the "Automobile Blue Book" (or "Older Car Blue Book") published by National Market Reports and the "N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide" (or the "N.A.D.A. Older Car Guide") published by the National Automobile Dealers Used Car Guide Company.
  2. Using a quote obtained by the insurer for a substantially similar vehicle available for you to purchase from a dealership located within a reasonable radius of where your car is normally garaged.
  3. Utilizing the services of a database source, including computerized databases that produce fair market values of substantially similar vehicles. At this time, ADP and CCC are two such service vendors typically used for use in determining fair market values.

You may also do your own “market survey” and submit your supporting documentation to the insurance company for consideration in the valuation process.

Can the insurer deduct for any damage or rust to my car that existed before the loss?

Yes. For example, if your car was damaged in a previous accident and you decided not to get it repaired, or if you neglected the condition of your car which resulted in the vehicle sustaining rust, your car would not be worth as much on the open market if you tried to sell it than it would be had you elected to repair the previous damage or maintained the car in good condition. The amount by which the resale value of your car increases by eliminating the previous damage, or correcting the prior condition, is the amount the insurance company can deduct from your total loss settlement. Idaho does not have a law which specifies just how insurers can take deductions for previous damage or prior condition.

Does the insurer have to give me the option to keep my car after they have declared it a total loss?

  • No. Once they settle a total loss, the insurance company assumes the rights to your car and can dispose of it however they wish including selling it or its parts for salvage. They can, at their discretion, let you keep the car and let you try to salvage it yourself.
  • If the insurer lets you keep your car, they will deduct its salvage value from your total loss settlement.

If the insurer settles my total loss and lets me keep the car, can I use the settlement money to fix it instead of selling it for salvage?

  • Yes. However, you must first obtain a salvage certificate from the Idaho Department of Transportation.
  • After the repairs are made, the vehicle must then be presented to DOT for a special inspection before it can be driven on public roads.
  • For more information on Idaho's salvage procedures, contact:
    Idaho Department of Transportation
    Titles Unit
    (208)334-8663

 

 

Does the insurance company have to pay off my car loan?

No. The insurer is only required to pay the actual cash value of the vehicle. If your car's value is less than the loan, you are still responsible for the difference.

Must I conclude my claim within a certain time frame?

  • Yes. You must either accept a final settlement or file a lawsuit within the time period specified by the appropriate statute of limitations.
  • If you fail to accept a final settlement offer or to file a suit before the statutory period runs out, you may jeopardize your right to receive any settlement at all.

What if the insurer denies my claim or if I disagree with their settlement offer?

  • If the other driver’s insurer and you can't reach an agreement to settle your property damage loss, you can:
    • Make a claim under your own policy if you have the appropriate coverage.
    • File an appeal with the insurance company's internal appeals panel.
    • File a written complaint with the:

      Idaho Department of Insurance
      700 West State Street 3rd Floor
      P.O. Box 83720 Boise Idaho 83720-0043
    • Seek appropriate legal counsel or consider Small Claims Court.

If you have any further questions or would like additional information, contact the Department of Insurance, Consumer Affairs Section at (208) 334-4250 or Toll Free in Idaho: (800)-721-3272.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO REMEMBER

Only a judge or jury can ultimately decide who is at fault for an accident or how much another person owes you for your damages.