As a Las Vegas law firm, we get quite a few calls every month from people who need help. Most of the time, having a lawyer involved is a good idea. We can advise you on the law, we can act as an intermediary between you and the opposition, and we make sure you don’t accidentally hurt your case with something you say.
But there are also some times when we tell people that they don’t need a lawyer to get through something. In those situations, we tell people that while we’d love to take their money, they don’t need us and we explain to them how to resolve their issue without wasting money on a lawyer. We tell them how to handle it, but also tell them to call us back if there’s a problem down the road. This blog is the first in a series discussing situations when you should save your money and do it yourself.
Car Accidents With Only Property Damage
We get quite a few calls from people asking us to help them in a car accident where they didn’t get injured but their car is damaged and they need to get it fixed (or replaced). They’re so used to hearing lawyers on television tell them that if they want a check from their wreck, they better make one call and that will be all. In reality, though, most of these claims don’t need a lawyer. Those commercials are aimed mostly at car accidents that result in personal injuries.
If you (1) are not at fault for the accident, and (2) have no signs of injury whatsoever, then you can probably navigate this process without hiring a lawyer. There are a couple exceptions discussed below, but the vast majority of these claims are resolved without much problem or dispute.
This is because property damage claims are pretty cut-and-dried in how they are resolved most of the time. If you’re not at fault, the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver will generally contact you, tell you where to take your car for repairs, and arrange for a rental car.
You have the right to take your car to a different auto body shop, of course, but that will add another layer to the resolution and could complicate things. If the insurer doesn’t choose the auto body shop, they could argue that your shop overcharged or performed repairs that were unrelated to the accident. So unless you have a strong concern about the shop they choose, we usually recommend just letting the insurer’s auto body shop do the work because it takes you out of the equation and keeps things simple.
If your car is totaled, the process is a little different. The adjuster will contact you and say that he or she needs to have someone go out and evaluate the vehicle. If it’s been towed, then you can just direct them to the tow facility. If you’re still driving it, you can arrange a time for this person to evaluate the vehicle. If the adjuster determines that the repair costs total 65% or more of the fair market value of your vehicle before the accident, then it is considered “totaled” under Nevada law and the adjuster should write you a check for the total fair market value of the vehicle. Remember: you won’t get a check for what you paid for the car, you’ll just get a check for the fair market value of the car. That means how much your car would have sold for on the open market before the crash, essentially. You wouldn’t pay someone a new car price for a used car, so don’t expect the insurer to do that, either.
The question of what is “fair market value” is pretty straightforward as well. Insurers have to rely on set values from respected sources to value your car. They don’t get to just pick a number or haggle with you. They have their own indexes that show the value based on make, model, condition, miles, etc. – similar to what you’d look at when you’re shopping for a used car. They rarely negotiate unless you have something custom or unique about your vehicle. So there’s little value in hiring a lawyer to negotiate the fair market value price – you’ll probably spend more on the lawyer than you will gain through the negotiations.
There are obviously situations where you will still want to talk to a lawyer, but you’ll know them when you see them. For instance, if they try and say that you’re at fault for the accident – call a lawyer. If they try and say you shouldn’t get full repairs – call a lawyer. If they try and accuse you of fraud or have “Special Investigations Unit” personnel contact you – call a lawyer.
In closing, though, remember that this article is ONLY for accidents where you have no injuries. If you think you have any potential for personal injuries at all, talk to a lawyer. If you have a sore neck or back, have headaches, and have tingling and numbness in your legs or arms, or any other type of discomfort, you should go at least get checked out before you talk to the insurer. This blog only applies to people who suffered no injuries in their car accidents.
This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. This is generalized advice based on the law of the State of Nevada. If you want legal advice tailored to your specific facts, call us and establish that relationship.