Utah Attorney Information on Vehicle Repair
The At-Fault Insurance Should Pay To Fix Your Vehicle
In Utah, if another driver caused the accident, his/her insurance should pay for your vehicle repair.
Insurance companies prefer low estimates which may overlook details such as proper alignment, headlight adjustment, correct matching of paint colors, etc., so you need to pay attention and make sure the repairs are done properly.
The At-Fault Insurance Company May Do Its Own Estimate
The insurance company will often perform its own estimate on the cost of repair. And the insurance company may prefer a particular repair shop. This is usually not a problem and if the estimate overlooked items of damage, the repair shop will call with the news and get approval to repair these items.
Don't Compromise On Quality
You shouldn't have to compromise quality for economy, nor should you have to be involved in negotiations between the insurance company and body shop.
Test Drive Your Vehicle
When you pick up your vehicle after repairs, test drive it. Make sure it is sound and all repairs are completed before you take it home.
Make Sure Your Vehicle Is Repaired To Your Satisfaction
If you discover something not fixed take it back and continue to do so until the repair shop gets it right.
Do not sign any releases until you are sure the insurance company will cover the cost of all repairs to your satisfaction.
What If The Cost To Fix Your Vehicle Is More Than It Is Worth?
If the cost of repairs to your vehicle is greater than the value, the insurance company will offer to pay you what they consider to be the "fair market value." This is known as "totalling" the car. The car is a "total" or a "total loss" in insurance company language.
If the car is eligible to be totalled, it is referred to as "totallable" i.e. able to be totalled. Actually, for most insurance companies if the cost to repair is 75% to 85% of car's value, the car will be totalled.
What Is Diminution In Value?
If your vehicle is not damaged enough to be totaled then the measure of compensation for damage to your car is the difference between its value immediately before and immediately after the accident.
This is from a 1930 Utah Supreme Court case called Angerman Co., Inc. v. Edgemon. The legal reference for this case is 290 P. 169 (Utah 1930). The "P" stands for Pacific Reporter. You can find this case at a law library such as those at the U of U law school, BYU law school or the Court building on State Street and 400 S. in Salt Lake City.
Sometimes the vehicle can be repaired without a decrease in the vehicle's value but, let's face it, who wants to buy a vehicle that has been badly damaged. In reality, sometimes, even after the vehicle has been repaired, it won't be worth as much.
If your vehicle has suffered a reduction (or "diminution" as attorneys like to say) in market value, even after having been repaired, then you are entitled to make a claim for this reduction in value.
The reference for this latter principle is an even older Utah Supreme Court case, from 1920, The case is called Metcalf v. Mellen. The legal citation is 192 P. 676 (Utah 1920).
What If Value Of Your Vehicle Is Less Than You Owe?
If you owe more than your vehicle is worth, you are in a difficult position, as the at-fault person is only required to pay you fair market value. Try asking the bank to write off the balance.
If your vehicle is totaled but you want to keep it anyway you may do so and the insurance company will deduct from the fair market value the amount of the vehicle's "salvage value", that is the price they could get for your wrecked vehicle at a wrecking yard.
Do Your Own Research On The Value Of Your Vehicle
You need to do your own research to make sure the money offered is equal to the value of your car. Kelley Blue Book and NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) are two sites that provide free valuation estimates on used vehicles.
Here is some additional information about getting your vehicle repaired after an accident, provided courtesy of the Utah Insurance Department.
Filing An Auto Claim With The Other Party’s Insurance Company
After a vehicle accident, one of the first things you may have to do is file an insurance claim for damages. When these accidents occur, you have the option to file the claim with either your own insurance company, if you have the appropriate coverage (a “first-party” claim), or with the other driver’s insurance company (a “third-party” claim).
Insurance laws differ with regard to first and third party claims, so it is important that you understand your rights and duties in both cases. In a first-party claim, you have a direct contract that requires your insurance company to fulfill all the conditions stated in your policy. In a third-party claim, you do not have a direct contract with the insurance company and their primary obligation is to their own policyholder. This fact sheet discusses your rights and duties in Utah when you file a third-party claim with another driver’s insurance company.
How much Insurance Must the Other Driver Have?
Utah law requires motorists to carry bodily injury and property damage liability insurance to help pay for damages they cause in a vehicle accident. The minimum amounts drivers are required to carry are: $25,000 per person injured and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability and $15,000 for property damage liability. Typically this is shown on your policy as 25/50/15.
What Happens After I File a Claim?
Utah State Law requires that any person in your vehicle who incurs bodily injuries will first have to submit their claim to the insurance company covering your vehicle. For each person injured, the first $3,000 in medical expenses will be covered by your policy under Personal Injury Protection before you can file a claim with the responsible insurer.
After you file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, they will investigate the claim and offer a settlement if they determine their insured is legally responsible for your injuries or damages. In most cases, an insurance company will not settle a claim for bodily injury liability until such time as you have completed all medical treatment(s) for your injuries. This could mean an extended period of time may pass before any settlement occurs should these injuries require extensive medical care.
At the time you are ready to settle your bodily injury claim, the insurance company will require you to sign a “Release”. This means you agree that the amount offered is the only amount you will ever receive from the other driver and their insurance company. Be sure you are ready to accept a final amount before you cash the check or sign the release.
In case of property damage to your vehicle, in addition to your injuries, you and the insurance company may readily agree on the amount of damage, but you may not be ready to settle the bodily injury claim because of ongoing medical bills. An insurance company can't refuse to pay your agreed-upon property damage claim just because the bodily injury claim is still outstanding.
Who Decides Fault and How Much They Owe?
Utah 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 you are less than 50% at fault for the accident. The settlement can then be reduced by your percentage of fault.
As an example, if the other driver is 80% at-fault and you are 20% at fault, you can collect for your damages because you were less that 50% at fault. However, the other driver’s insurance company might only offer to pay for 80% of your damages.
When Will the Insurance Company Contact Me?
Utah insurance rules (R590-190, 191 or 192) require a company to provide a response to a claimant within 15 days of a request for response. The rules further states the insurer has a 30-day time frame to accept or deny your claim. However, if the investigation cannot be completed within that time, the company is allowed additional time to complete their investigation.
What Kind of Information Must I Provide?
There is no law that sets forth the information you must provide. However, the insurance company will need to determine:
Whether their insured is legally responsible for the accident and to what extent
The amount of your damages or bodily injury
Whether your damages or injuries are directly related to the accident
Therefore, it is in your best interest to provide as much information as possible to substantiate your claim. In addition, if you fail to cooperate fully, the company could deny your claim altogether.
How Many Repair Estimates Must I Submit?
The other insurance company may ask for several estimates. There is no law that states how many estimates you must submit or that limits the number the company may ask for.
May I Choose My Own Repair Shop?
Yes. You are not required to use a repair shop suggested by the insurance company. However, if the repair shop you have selected charges more than the company’s suggested shop, you may have to pay the difference.
Can the Insurance Company Deduct for “Betterment”?
Yes. If your vehicle is being repaired with newer parts, the company may not have to pay for the “betterment.”
An example of “betterment” could be the replacement of your vehicle’s damaged five-year old muffler. The insurance company could have it repaired by replacing it with another five-year old muffler. If a five-year old muffler can’t be found, the repair shop could use a new muffler, but you may have to pay the difference.
Can the Insurance Company Deduct for Things Like Un-repaired Damage or Rust?
Yes. The insurance Company may deduct a reasonable amount from the values if your vehicle has old, un-repaired collision damages. The company should itemize and specify the dollar amount of any such deductions.
What are My Rights Concerning Replacement Crash Parts?
Insurance companies are not required to use original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts, such as GM or Ford. However, Utah law states that any insurance company who uses non-original manufacturers, or after-market parts, must disclose their use to a consumer in writing on the estimate, identifying each non-OEM part to be replaced.
What About Personal Property that was in My Vehicle?
The property damage liability portion of the other driver’s policy will most likely cover damage to personal property in your vehicle.
Do I Have to Pay a Deductible?
When you file a claim with another driver’s insurance company, you do not have to pay a deductible. But, if you file the claim with your own company, you probably will.
What if the Insurance Company Denies My Claim or I Disagree with Their Settlement Offer?
If the other driver’s insurance company denies your claim or you disagree with their offer, there is no additional appraisal requirement. Your only recourse is to:
Make a claim under your own policy if you have the appropriate coverage
File suit against the at-fault driver in small claims court, if your damages fall within the $10,000 limit for small claims suits; or
Seek other appropriate legal counsel
Only a judge or jury can ultimately decide who was at fault in an accident or how much another person owes you for your damages.
Must I conclude My Claim within a Certain Time Frame?
Yes. You must either accept a final settlement offer, or file a lawsuit, within the time periods required by the appropriate statutes of limitations:
For Bodily Injury claims - Within 4 years from the date of the accident.
For Property Damage claims - Within 3 years from the date of the accident.
For bodily injury or property damage caused by an accident with a government entity - Within the appropriate time period imposed by the statute of limitation for that particular entity of government.
If you fail to accept a final settlement offer or file a suit before the statute of limitations ends, you may jeopardize your right to receive any settlement at all.