Archive for the ‘property damage’ Category

Low Property Damage Motor Vehicle Accidents- Why Are People Injured In These Accidents?

Anybody that tells you that people cannot be  injured in low property damage-bumper kiss type accidents is presenting a generic and biased point of view.

Human logic has a tendency to equate the severity of auto accident property damage to the  severity of injury potential produced by these accidents. This is a common misunderstanding of intuitive reasoning.

Most jurors have this bias, however they still tell us during voir dire that they can be fair and impartial jurors.

Just about everyone that has been driving long enough has rear-ended someone. It isn’t a pleasant experience to have a claim brought against you for a minor property damage car accident for which you were at fault. Personal integrity is often compromised when the person who caused the accident fails to take responsibility for their negligence. They take the position that,  Yes, I rear ended him but he didn’t get hurt.

Logically, you can’t say that neck and back injuries that develop within 24 hours after a low property damage accident have no causal connection to the accident that preceded them.

Insurance companies take the advantage of this intuitive misunderstanding in defending these cases. They use biomechanical experts, who make a good living expressing opinions that low property damage equates to no injury potential despite their lack of medical training.

If that proposition is true, then there should be a direct correlation between the accident-related  property damage and the severity of injuries sustained by the occupants of a vehicle. However, some people walk away unscathed from a motor vehicle accident where their vehicle is totaled while others are injured in accidents with low property damage.  So there is no direct correlation between property damage and injury potential.

Some people do walk away from minor property damage rear-end car accidents without injury. In my experience, however, many are legitimately injured, and some never recover from their injuries.

Do we fully understand the connection between low property damage accidents and the musculoskeletal injuries that follow them? The answer to that is, no.  However, today we know more about how people are hurt in these accidents than we did in the past.

Whiplash injuries commonly referred to as Cervical Acceleration De-acceleration trauma (CAD trauma) cause unusual spinal movement. Sudden acceleration of the occupant’s body is followed by sudden de-acceleration of the body (whiplash).  If the rear of a vehicle is not hit straight on, there can be oblique forces of rotation further complicating the biomechanical sequence of a whiplash body movements  which increases injury potential.

Torso overspeed means that energy released  form a compressed seat back during a rear-end collision can occur at the same time as forward movement of the body, which occurs during de-acceleration phase of a rear-end accident.  This recoil of the seat back adds energy to the forward movement of the body during de-acceleration and contributes to the potential to injure the lower back.  Older  governmental standards for stiffer seat backs have contributed to this injury potential sequence.

Vascoelasticity is a property of human tissue’s reaction to  forces and loads. Under  loading the tissue becomes stiffer and more brittle.   Since acceleration and de-acceleration loading and unloading, including path reversals, occur in one-third of a second, this makes  normal muscles, cartilages, tendons and ligaments more prone to injury when exposed to whiplash body movements. The most vulnerable tissues to vascoelasticity injuries are the discs, facet joints and supportive ligaments of the spine.

The problem with crash testing is that these tests cannot be done at increasing incremental speeds until an actual spinal  injury occurs.  This would increase energy imposed upon the volunteers to the point where they would actually be injured.  This approach would be highly unethical and would violate  human rights and result in legal consequences to the researchers. Cadavers and crash test dummies can’t provide us with 100% accurate crash test results. Therefore, due to these research limitations and the complexity of head and torso movement during a rear end collision, the threshold collision changes of velocity that produce spinal injury at this juncture have not be accurately determined.

The most accurate way for jurors to determine the injury potential of a low property damage rear end motor vehicle accident is to compare the plaintiff’s physical condition before the accident  to the plaintiff’s physical condition that develops after the accident. If there is no evidence of any other trauma in the interim between the accident and the appearance of spinal symptoms, then this lends credence to the proposition that the low property damage accident was the cause of the injuries claimed by the plaintiff.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what intuitive logic suggests, low speed rear end impacts often do result in cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine injuries.

There Was a Car Crash and My Vehicle is a Total Loss or Has Major Damage – What Rules Apply?

STORY LINE

A friend of mine recently was involved in a parking lot accident in which his two-door luxury vehicle sustained major damage.  Eventually his vehicle was taken to a certified repair facility for repairs.  After repairs were approved by his insurance company, they called him and advised him that another frame rail was bent and the extra cost of repair made his vehicle a total loss. The additional repair cost for the frame rail was about $3,000.00.

His insurance company offered him $31,000.00 for the total loss value of his vehicle.  My friend considered that price to be unfair.   He told his insurance company that his vehicle had a premium plus option package instead of a premium package.  His insurance company thereafter informed him that the premium plus option package increased the value of his vehicle and advised him that his vehicle was not a total loss and again authorized repairs. As of this date, the final disposition of this property damage claim has not been determined.

WHAT RULES APPLY TO TOTAL LOSS AND MAJOR DAMAGE?

TOTAL LOSS

Approximately one out of seven vehicles involved in an accident results in a total loss.

  1. A total loss in Nevada involves a vehicle that has been damaged to the extent that the estimated cost of repair, not including the cost associated with painting any part of the vehicle, would exceed 65 percent of the fair market value (Actual Cash Value-ACV) of the vehicle immediately before the damage was incurred.  Vehicles with less than 65 percent damage are not considered a total loss and are not salvage vehicles.  If your vehicle has damage of  65 percent or more, it is considered a salvage vehicle.  The actual cash value includes sales tax, DMV and transfer fees.
  2. Your vehicle also can be considered a total loss if it has been submerged in water to a point that the level of the water is higher than the door sill of the vehicle and the water has entered the passenger, trunk or engine compartment of the vehicle and has come into contact with the electrical system of the vehicle; or a vehicle that is part of a total loss settlement resulting from water damage.  An insurance claim for water damage will be under your  comprehensive coverage.
  3. Non-repairable vehicle- A vehicle, other than an abandoned vehicle, that has value only as a source of scrap metal, or has been designated by its owner for dismantling, or has been stripped of all body panels, doors, lights, etc., or has been burned or destroyed beyond a restorable condition is a non-repairable vehicle.  Non-repairable vehicles are issued a Certificate and may not be restored to operating condition. If your vehicle qualifies as a total loss it becomes a salvage vehicle.

Vehicles Over 10 Years Old

Older vehicles, 10 model years old or older, are not considered salvage vehicles if the only repairs needed are a limited number of items. Specifically, the hood, the trunk lid, and/or up to two of the following: doors, grill assembly, bumper, assembly, headlight assembly and taillight assembly.

If the vehicle requires more repairs than this, the 65 percent rule applies.  For example, the 65 percent rule would apply if the grill, front bumper and one headlight assembly were replaced.  If only the hood, the grill and the bumper were replaced, the 65 percent rule wound not apply and the vehicle would not be considered a salvage vehicle. Remember that the 65 percent rule does not include any cost of paint or labor to paint the vehicle.

You Can Choose to Retain the Total Loss Vehicle

Before you decide to retain a salvaged vehicle you should consider the following:

  1. The  insurance company will deduct the salvage value of your vehicle from the fair market value of your vehicle. If your vehicle is a total loss and has a fair market value of $10,000.00, the salvage value may be only $2,000.00.  So, if you retain the salvage you only get $8,000.00 from the insurance company. You can retain salvage and sell the salvaged vehicle to a salvage yard perhaps for more than the salvage value, however this option may not be worth your time. Or, you can choose to repair the salvaged vehicle on your own.
  2. In accordance with NRS 487.860, a vehicle that has been issued a salvage title may not be registered in Nevada until it has been inspected by a Nevada registered garage, Nevada licensed body shop or Nevada licensed re-builder and the DMV.

License Plates

If your vehicle is total loss, remove your license plates from your vehicle. Your options are:

  1. Transfer them to another vehicle within 30 days.
  2. Surrender them to the DMV and apply for a registration fee refund.  You must have a copy of the Salvage Title to apply for a refund.
  3. Surrender them to the DMV and receive a credit toward another registration.

You must transfer or surrender the plates before your cancel the liability insurance on any vehicle.

Application for Salvage Title 

If you have collision/comprehensive insurance coverage and your vehicle is totaled,  your insurance company will assist you in completing the Salvage Title procedures and application. If you do not elect to retain the salvaged total loss vehicle, you must transfer Title of your vehicle to the insurance company, and they will pay you the full fair market value on your vehicle. Once the Title is transferred, the insurer will have the right to the car as well as the duty to dispose of it.

Salvage Titles

A salvage vehicle means a motor vehicle, that at any time, has been declared a total loss vehicle, flood damaged, or non-repairable and has the term salvage or similar words placed on any title issued for the vehicle.

Salvage vehicles in Nevada are issued an orange-colored Salvage Title. An original Title is blue. A salvage vehicle may not be registered or operated on any public street until it has been rebuilt and inspected.  Once a salvage vehicle has been repaired, it becomes a rebuilt vehicle and may be registered and/or sold if the proper procedures have been followed.

Fair Market Value

Be aware that your idea of fair value and you insurer’s idea  fair value may differ drastically. Remember that you have the right to a fair settlement and the right to negotiate with your insurance company to get one. The insurance company has leverage over most claimants because the claimant often needs to get paid to get into another vehicle.  Only if the claimant is financially solvent, can he decide to keep fighting with the insurance company to get a fair settlement.  A fair settlement is receiving the amount you’ll need to by a like car, or a car of the same or similar model and the same year and condition of your totaled vehicle.

Records of  past maintenance and repairs, including costs can be helpful in the fight to obtain a fair total loss value from the insurance company. This does mean a dollar-for-dollar increase in value for the cost of the repairs, however the repairs will factor into the actual cash value calculation.

You have the option of seeking professional help if you still can’t get a fair  settlement value for your vehicle.  The question is, can you can afford it? You have the options stated in your insurance policy. Your policy may provide  for  an independent arbitration. You can always hire an attorney. Both courses of action will lead to additional expenses and delay . Before entering into arbitration or suing your insurance company, make sure it’s worth the fight and the extra costs.

Insurance companies rely on allegedly independent appraisal companies or computer programs to calculate the final amount that they will offer on a total loss.  Total loss adjusters make the initial assessment of value, and then enter information about the vehicle such as milage and condition, usually resulting in a lower settlement.  Remember that fair market value is not the Kelly Blue Book value on your vehicle. It is considered a value which is somewhere between the fair price to purchase a like vehicle from a dealership and the price to purchase a like vehicle from a private party.

Total Loss and NO Insurance

If an insurance company is not involved, and there is no third party insurance; and, you do not have collision/comprehensive insurance coverage, it is your responsibility to assess whether your vehicle meets the definition of a salvage vehicle. You must notify any lienholder within 10 days, and the lienholder must apply for a salvage title with 30 days.

When there is no lienholder, you must you must either apply for a salvage title within 30 days or sell the vehicle to a DMV-licensed salvage pool, automobile auction, re-builder, automotive wrecker or a new or used motor vehicle dealer.  You may not sell the vehicle without first obtaining a salvage title

When you retain a salvage vehicle, the re-built vehicle must be inspected by a licensed garage or body shop and the DMV before it can be sold or registered. It is he owner’s responsibility to complete these steps and to obtain a standard blue Nevada title  before the sale.  If your retain the vehicle but choose not to rebuild it, you should sell it only to a DMV-licensed salvage pool, automobile auction, re-builder, automobile wrecker or a new or used motor vehicle dealer.

Improperly selling a salvage vehicle can be a felony offense.  Sellers must disclose in writing that the vehicle is a salvage vehicle. All future titles will be normal Nevada Certificate of Title but will be “branded” which means that title will be labeled with the word ‘‘rebuilt” or other appropriate term.  The brand cannot be removed.  Any purchase may  considered a felony offense if the vehicle is valued at $250.00 or more.  Any aggrieved purchaser or lessee also can bring a civil suit against the offender.  If successful, the purchaser will be awarded court costs, attorney’s fees and whichever of the following is greater:

  • Three times the amount of actual damages;
  • Five thousand dollars; or
  • Actual damages such as punitive damages as may be allowed by the court.

VEHICLES WITH MAJOR DAMAGE – DIMINISHED VALUE

If your vehicle major damage but is not totaled, what are your rights? All insures must be pressed to recognize and pay diminished value.   A diminished value  report will cost you about $59.00 and can be obtained from Claim Coach. Even though insurance companies will always tell you they don’t pay diminished value on your repaired vehicle, they are potentially on the hook for the diminished value of your vehicle.

Diminished value is the reduction of a vehicle’s market value occurring after a vehicle is wrecked and repaired.   A reasonable person will not pay the same price for a wrecked-then-repaired vehicle as he would for a vehicle with no prior accident history.  Even if the repairs are proper and certified, the vehicle will still lose value.  To collect diminished value from an insurance company is very rare.

In Nevada there is no case law, that I am aware of, involving diminished value. There is case law in other states on diminished value, but these cases involve large and expensive vehicles such as large boats and commercial airliners. It appears that nobody wants to go through the expense of and appeal to make case law on an insurance company’s obligation for paying diminished value on a repaired  passenger car. If we did have such a case that reached our Nevada Supreme Court, this could prove to be very problematic and financially detrimental to auto insurance companies in all states.

If you want to receive fair market value on a totaled vehicle and if you are looking for receiving diminished value on a repaired vehicle, be prepared and be ready to fight the involved insurance company.  Get your supporting  documentation together and  persistently bombard the adjuster with your arguments.  Who knows,  you may eventually wear them down.

If you have a rare, expensive or classic vehicle, you may want to consider obtaining stated value insurance. With stated value insurance, if your vehicle is totaled the insurance companies, must pay you the stated value.  This coverage is more expensive with traditional auto carriers, but  is much more affordable with specialty insurance companies dealing with classic and restored cars.

Collision and Comprehensive Coverage

Collision coverage pays for the repair of your automobile if you are involved in an accident. It is not fault-based. It will pay for the repair or total loss of your vehicle if you are involved in either an at-fault or a not at-fault accident.

Generally speaking, there are no coverage limits associated with collision coverage. If your insurance company insures your new Mercedes, and that vehicle is a total loss as a result of the accident, they will pay the actual cash value of your vehicle.

On collision coverage, most people believe an insurance company would pay you the Kelley Blue Book price on your vehicle. Insurance companies do not use retail value to determine the total loss value of the vehicle. They use something called “Actual Cash Value”. Actual Cash Value lies somewhere between the price that you would pay if you purchased the vehicle from a private owner and the retail value of your vehicle.

Obviously, if a vehicle is sold for retail value on a car lot, it will be more expensive than what you pay when you buy the same vehicle for from a private owner. Used car dealers usually invest at least $1,000.00 of repairs into vehicle before they place it on the lot to sell it for retail value. All insurance companies subscribe to computer services which determine the actual cash value of vehicles.

With collision coverage, one problem often arises. In the event you buy a new vehicle, and you drive it off the lot, the vehicle is worth less than what you paid for it. This is due to the depreciation in value between a new vehicle and a used vehicle. If you have a loan on your vehicle, the actual cash value of your vehicle can be less than your loan. We call this difference in value “a Gap”. If your vehicle is financed, you can purchase Gap insurance from your finance company. When a vehicle is leased, the residual payments on a lease can be greater than the actual cash value. If you are leasing a vehicle, once again, you should consider Gap insurance.

In the event you have a “classic” vehicle or a “collectors” vehicle, an insurance company will not pay you the value of that vehicle. For example, if you have a 1962 fuel-injected Corvette, which is in pristine condition, and it is worth $250,000.00, rest assured your insurance company will not pay you the value of that vehicle. If you own this type of vehicle, you should obtain “Stated Value” insurance for that vehicle. This insurance, in the event of a total loss or theft, will pay the stated value of that vehicle. There are companies that specialize in insuring classic vehicle such as Hagerty Insurance. My partner, Donald C. Kudler, Esq. had a good experience using them to insure his classic vehicles.

Comprehensive coverage will pay for the repair or replacement of your vehicle in the event your vehicle is damaged by anything other than an auto accident. For example, if a tree falls over on your vehicle, and your vehicle is damaged, this loss or total loss will be covered under your comprehensive coverage.

Collision and comprehensive coverages usually have deductibles associated with them. Your deductible can be zero, $250.00, $500.00, $1,000.00, or higher. Collision and comprehensive coverages with no deductible are more expensive than collision and comprehensive coverage with a $1,000.00 deductible. You should consider your financial status and the differences in premiums to determine which deductible is best for you

PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY COVERAGE

If you are involved in an at-fault auto accident, you are responsible for the damage that you caused to another person’s automobile, or for non-vehicle property damage that may occur as a result of an accident. Obviously, if you are in an auto accident and you collide with a light pole, you are responsible for paying the city or county for the repair or replacement of the light pole. If your automobile collides with a person’s house, you are responsible for the cost of repairs and expenses associated with alternative living arrangements.

The minimum property damage liability coverage required by the State of Nevada is $10,000.00.

This is a single-limit coverage which includes coverage for vehicle damage, premises damage and the loss of use of a vehicle (rental car coverage). If you have minimum property damage liability coverage of $10,000.00, and you collide with a vehicle in an at-fault accident and cause $20,000.00 of damage, you are on the hook for $10,000.00, plus the cost of the individual’s rental car coverage during the period of time that his vehicle is being repaired.

For most accidents, property damage and rental car coverage expenses total under $10,000.00. However, if you damage more than one car or an expensive Mercedes or a Bentley, for example, $10,000.00 in property damage coverage may not be sufficient coverage to repair that vehicle and pay for rental car expenses.

On the average, I have found that it takes about one (1) week in a body shop to repair approximately $2,000.00 in damage. Therefore, $8,000.00 in property damage will mean the damaged vehicle will be in the body shop for approximately four (4) weeks. As you can see from these examples, minimum limits of property damage coverage may not fully protect you if you are involved in an at-fault major or total-loss property damage accident.

You should check your Declaration Page, sometimes referred to as Premium Renewal Notice (you receive this from your auto insurance carrier every six (6) months), to determine if you have sufficient Bodily Injury Liability Coverage and Property Damage Liability coverage to protect your assets.


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