Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Shane Smith, an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney who limits his practice to Car Wrecks, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, DUI Victims, Slip and Falls, and other injuries relating to Back and Neck Injuries
Number 2 Way to Ruin Your Georgia Auto Accident Claim or Personal Injury Claim -
Not Getting Your Vehicle Fixed
Insurance companies are trained when they come out to look at your car to make an on-the-site offer or to tell you they’ll be mailing you a check based on the amount of the damage to your car. Insurance companies do this for several reasons. The primary reason is to encourage you not to get your vehicle fixed. An insurance company adjuster is trained to make an assessment of the property damage based on the visible damage to the vehicle. What does that mean? That’s damage that they can see with the naked eye without taking any parts off, without climbing up underneath your vehicle, or putting it on a frame machine. This number is many times lower and sometimes significantly lower than the actual damage to your car. If you have any frame damage to your vehicle, it’s unlikely the adjuster is going to see it. He’s not going to climb up underneath the vehicle and frame damage can only be seen when the car is put on a lift and somebody looks underneath it. Also, sometimes frame damage can only be seen with a laser frame machine. The bumpers on most vehicles have steel reinforced bars underneath them. Certainly, unless your bumper has been torn completely off, that steel reinforced bar cannot be seen. However, if it’s been damaged and is bent it has to be replaced. This would not be seen in an on-the-spot insurance adjuster’s offer.
The insurance company hopes that you’ll take the check, cash it and that will be the end of your property damage claim. This results in savings to them because all of the hidden damage was not repaired and they didn’t have to pay you for it. Six months from the date of the accident if something breaks on your car or you notice there is extra damage, guess what, they’re not going to cover that. This is why I would always recommend at a minimum that you go have your vehicle checked out by a reputable body shop and someone you trust. I encourage all my clients to get their vehicles fixed. This normally results in higher property damage or more property damage being found and everyone being confident that the vehicle is safe and that all broken parts have been repaired. For more on property damage, go to my website or check out my book, "The Property Damage Guide to Georgia."
Another reason insurance companies hope you don’t get your vehicle fully repaired and that you take their cash on-the-spot offer is because property damage to many insurance companies is a figure that limits the amount of your bodily injury claim. Scientifically, medically, property damage has nothing at all to do with your injuries. The amount of damage to your vehicle does not determine how bad you were hurt. It also does not determine the existence or non-existence of any injuries. It’s not really relevant at all scientifically. However, the insurance companies have found that many juries will look at a damaged vehicle and, if it’s not hurt too bad, assume you could not be hurt or you could not be hurt significantly. Insurance companies have gradually raised the dollar figure that they use to classify a case as a minor impact collision. Many years ago it was $500.00. It has gradually gone up to $1,000.00, $1,200.00 and now I’ve seen some insurance companies classify anything with property damage under $1,500.00 as a minor impact collision. They will therefore limit the amount they are willing to offer you on your bodily injury case based on that property damage value. Therefore, many times an insurance adjuster on the spot will make a cash settlement offer to you and a dollar figure that is below their internal company threshold.
By you accepting this offer you have effectively made it so that you have a minor impact collision to them limiting the amount they are willing to offer you on your bodily injury claim. This effectively means that you will either take their offer or you will have to file a lawsuit against them. Many lawyers are unwilling to file lawsuits in cases where the property damage to the vehicle is below a certain dollar threshold, so you have automatically knocked out many of these lawyers who might otherwise take your case. Each insurance company has their different dollar amount that they use to classify cases as a minor impact case. Some companies it’s $1,000.00, some it’s $1,500.00; but regardless you’re injuring yourself and you’re injuring your case by not getting your vehicle fixed, because you’re putting in a limitation on what they are willing to pay you and your car will be broken and messed up.