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The

Financial Consequences

of a non-injury Auto Accident
and How to Mitigate Them


by:  J. D. Howard

 

There are over  1,000,000  non-injury  auto  accidents in the United States every year.  Fully 35% of such accidents are Not reported to the local police.  While such non-reported accidents can benefit the at-fault party, it is often at the cost of the accident victim.

Insurance Companies may view the lack of a Police Accident Report as an opportunity to take advantage of the accident victim.  Less-than-ethical insurance companies would be inclined to  “Deny”  liability and  “Refuse”  payment to the accident victim based upon  “Conflicting Stories”  as to how the accident occurred.  Without the independent documentation of a police Traffic Accident report, or the I.D. of any witnesses that may have seen the accident occur (that would be listed on a police T/A report), any less-than-ethical insurance company may be successful in refusing to pay the accident victim.  HOWEVER, there may other methods of documenting traffic accident circumstances.

Accident victims can use their smartphones to document any accident circumstances.  If you are fortunate enough to have audio / video / photo capabilities at your disposal … we suggest the following . . .

  1. Take photos of all vehicles involved in the accident. Photos should show the damaged portions of each vehicle as well as the license plates of each vehicle … If there are multiple vehicles involved in the accident, repeat this process for each vehicle …
  2. Ask the at-fault driver to show you both their Driver’s License and their Proof of Insurance card … Take photos of each … If the at-fault driver resists (or does not have either) simply advise them you will have to “call the police” which could expose them to receiving a traffic citation … Repeat this process with each driver of a multi-vehicle accident …
  3. Try to I.D. any witnesses to the accident occurrence ... You’ll need their name and contact information … You can even ask them if they would be willing to record a brief statement about what they witnessed …

Armed with the above referenced information, contact the at-fault vehicle’s insurance company and report the accident.  Let them know you have audio / video / photo documentation.  Do Not let them end that conversation without them providing you with a claim / file number to which you can refer in the future.

IF it appears the at-fault party is un-insured, contact your own insurance company to see if your own auto policy includes UMPD (Uninsured Motorist Property Damage) coverage.  Not all states make UMPD available to policyholders.  If your policy does not include UMPD coverage, you will have to utilize your policy’s  “Collision”  coverage to repair your vehicle (you will have to pay your “Collision” deductible).

Most State Departments of Insurance preclude premium increases for accidents that are Not the fault of the policyholder.

IF there appears to be no viable insurance path to recover the cost of repairs to your vehicle .. or .. your vehicle’s post-repair residual diminished value, there may still be an opportunity to receive partial relief for the financial damages you have experienced.  If you itemize deductions on your income tax returns, you may be able to deduct your financial loss as an “Uncompensated Casualty Loss”.  Check with your tax adviser !

What is Post-Repair Residual Diminished Value?
Suppose, for the sake of discussion, you own a vehicle worth $20,000.00 .. and .. suppose your vehicle sustained collision damage of $5,000.00 at the hands of a negligent driver.  After your vehicle is repaired, do you think your vehicle would be worth $20,000.00 again?  According to Diminished Value Consumer Surveys, the over whelming answer is No.  According to those same surveys, your vehicle would lose $4,000.00 (or more) in value.

Diminished Value case law precedence, upholding your right to recover post-repair residual diminished value, varies from state-to-state.  Some states, like Louisiana and North Carolina, even have your right of recovery codified by state statute.  The Insurance Consumer Advocate Network has state-by-state diminished value claim law details published on their web site.  You are invited to participate in the Diminished Value Consumer Survey at that same web site.

CAUTION: If you have a companion personal injury claim, arising from the same accident, DO NOT initiate litigation on the sole diminished value cause of action.  State laws DO NOT allow a plaintiff to  “Split”  their causes of Action.  Seek further legal advice !

As you can see, post-repair residual diminished value can have a significant impact on the financial well-being of an auto accident victim.  Do Not overlook the opportunity to timely recover the legitimate post-repair residual diminished value damage to which you are entitled.


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