Who pays to fix your car after an accident in Florida?
This is a frequently asked question I get that is only going to become more relevant in 2020 as there are more cars on the road with less insurance.
If you have been in a car accident, you'll need to have your car repaired.
Having your car repaired is often the most distressing part of being in a car accident.
Many people cherish their cars and spend good money on them and it is a shame when they get damaged and when their value drops as a result.
Who will fix your car if you caused the accident?
If you were at fault for the accident you will need to make a claim with your own car insurance company under the collision coverage.
You will have to pay whatever deductible applies to your policy, usually between $500 and $1500. If the damage is minimal, and you can have the damage fixed yourself for less than the deductible, then you're obviously better off paying for it straight out of pocket.
It is common for your car insurance company to raise your insurance rates after you have been in an accident regardless of whether you make a claim to have the vehicle repaired.
Therefore, if the cost to repair your vehicle is more than the deductible on your policy, I would strongly suggest that you make a claim with your insurance company to have the car fixed correctly.
You don't want to situation where you pay double or triple the deductible to fix the car yourself and your insurance company decides to raise your rates regardless simply because you were in an accident.
In other words, if they're going to raise your rates anyways, it's better for you to make them pay for your damage too.
Who will fix your car if you were not at fault for the accident?
The of question of who will pay for your vehicle damage when you are not at fault for an accident is determined by who caused the accident.
There are five types of drivers who cause accidents and who that driver is determines who will fix your car and how quickly it will be back on the road.
Florida Driver #1: They don't have insurance.
Let's say someone crashes into the rear of your car and the police come and exchange information but it turns out the person that hit you did not have insurance.
You have two options to have your damages paid for.
First, you can hire a lawyer to sue the person that hit you in small claims court or circuit court depending on the amount of damage, and obtain a verdict and judgment for the amount of the repairs and then hire another lawyer to attempt to collect the debt against the person that did not have insurance.
This process can take a while and there is no guarantee that you were ever paid back for the damages to your vehicle.
Your best option in this scenario is to file a claim through your own insurance company and have them pay for the repairs.
Your insurance company may or may not try to collect your deductible back from the person who hit you but they are often not successful.
Florida Driver #2: They have insurance but they get dropped after the accident.
The second type of person that can cause damages to your vehicle is the person who has cut rate car insurance which denies coverage after the accident.
This happens frequently in South Florida.
The person that hit you went out and bought the most affordable car insurance they could get and then changed their address without telling the insurance company or made some other mistake on their insurance application which gives grounds for their car insurance to drop them and not cover your property damage.
So, it will appear at first after the accident that the person that hit you did in fact have insurance but later, after you make a claim against their insurance for property damage, you receive a notice that the person that hit you is no longer covered.
Your two options to get your car repaired are the same as in the scenario when the first type of person causes the accident.
In other words you can sue the person that hit you and try to collect a judgment or you can go through your own car insurance and pay the deductible.
Florida Driver #3: They were driving a company car or truck.
The third type of person that can cause a car accident is the driver of a commercial vehicle.
Commercial vehicles are most commonly referred to as company cars or company trucks. The easiest way to tell is to look for company logos or insignia on the car or truck.
The second way to tell is to look at the information exchange report provided to you by police after they seen and look to see who owns the vehicle.
If the vehicle is owned by a company, then there will most likely be commercial coverage.
You would think that if a company car hit you and they had commercial coverage that they would fix your damages without any hesitation.
But that is not always the case.
Many commercial insurance policies have a $1 Million Combined Single Limit of insurance.
What does that mean?
It means that there is no separate coverage for damage to your vehicle.
Which means the commercial insurance company is under very little pressure to pay your damages only claim.
Sometimes you can be successful in getting a commercial insurance company to pay for your damages but it often takes a while because commercial insurance policies have to outsource the damages inspection and repair portion of the claim.
Sometimes commercial insurance companies will drag their feet or refuse to pay a property damages only claim.
At this Point you have three options.
We have already discussed two.
First, you can hire a lawyer to sue the commercial insurance to pay for your property damage and then try to enforce the judgment against the company that hit you which can take a while but you have better chances of recovering a judgment then when you sue a single person.
Second, you can file a claim through your own insurance and pay the deductible and your insurance will attempt to collect your deductible back from the company that hit you and refund it to you.
This could also take 3 to 6 months or maybe even longer.
Your third option, if you were making a personal injury claim as a result of the accident against the commercial insurance policy, is to demand payment for the amount of the property damage when you submit your demand for personal injury damages at the same time.
Honestly, if your car means anything to you and you don't wanna be driving a wreck, or if your car is not drivable, your best bet when hit by a commercial car is to have it fixed through your own insurance company and suck it up and pay the deductible.
Florida Driver #4: They were driving a government car.
The fourth type of person that could cause an accident and damage to your vehicle is someone who was driving a government car.
This could be a county bus, or police officer, or any other person driving a vehicle owned and operated by the state local and federal government.
I have seen in my own experience handling personal injury cases in South Florida people successfully have their property damage paid for by the government entity that caused the accident.
However, it typically takes a while because the government does not have an insurance company that takes care of everything for them.
The government pays for the property damage repairs out of their operating budget and getting your car repaired by them can feel like pulling teeth.
Some governmental agencies are quicker than others but there is still no guarantee that they will timely make repairs to your vehicle.
Again, and you're beginning to see a theme here, it is better for you to repair your vehicle through your own insurance company, pay the deductible, and let your insurance company try to get your deductible back from whatever agency caused the accident.
Florida Driver #5: They have good insurance.
The fifth and final type of person that can cause an accident and damage to your vehicle is the person who has decent insurance coverage.
If you have heard of the insurance company, you've seen them advertised on TV or seen a billboard, there is a pretty good chance that they will be efficient in inspecting your vehicle, making repairs, and paying for it all so you don't have to come out of pocket.
If you are also making a personal injury claim, your personal injury attorney should handle all conversations and communication whether by telephone or in writing with the at fault driver‘s insurance company.
I strongly advise, if you are also making a personal injury claim, do not speak directly with the person‘s insurance company.
Your lawyer will send in something called a letter of representation which will prevent the at fault driver insurance company from contacting you directly to discuss the accident.
Be especially careful about downloading insurance companies' mobile apps.
Your personal injury lawyer will then give permission to the at fault driver‘s insurance company to call you and speak to you only about setting up an inspection of your vehicle and arranging plans to have it repaired.
Many people at this point often wonder who will pay for the rental car?
That depends on the quality of the insurance coverage that the at fault driver purchased.
Many main stream car insurance policies will provide up to seven days of rental car reimbursement up to a small dollar amount per day.
That means, that you will have to rent a car, usually a car that cost less than 30 or $40 a day and pay for it upfront and then be reimbursed for up to seven days by the at fault driver‘s insurance company.
If your repairs take longer than seven days, you will be responsible for paying the cost of the rental car if you need it longer than seven days.
This is frustrating because it is not up to you how fast your car gets repaired.
Technically, after the seven days has expired and if your car is still not fully repaired and you still need the rental car, you will have to pay for it out-of-pocket and you could hire a lawyer and sue the person who hit you in small claims court for the amount of money that you had to come out of pocket for the rental car after that seven day.
However, as previously discussed, you may have to pay for that lawyer and then get a judgment and try to collect on that judgment from the person that hit you which is difficult and time-consuming.
So, in this scenario, your best bet is to have the at fault driver‘s insurance company repair your vehicle but then stay on top of the repair shop to make sure that the repairs are completed within the seven day window in which your rental car is covered.
If you suspect that you were injured in an accident caused by somebody else [Read: Do you have an injury case even if there is a small impact?], whether it be caused by any of these five types of people discussed above, your best option is to hire a personal injury attorney before you begin speaking with any other people involved in the accident or any of their insurance companies.
I have written more information on what to do after a car accident in Florida here.
Waring Law is located in Boca Raton, Florida but serves the injured throughout South Florida.