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Should I file my car damage claim through my own auto insurance carrier or through the at-fault driver’s insurance?

Posted by Raj Chohan | Mar 31, 2019

If your car has been damaged in a crash caused by another driver, you will need to make several key decisions quickly.  First, you will need to decide whether to file a claim through your own auto insurance carrier, assuming you have collision coverage. Alternatively, you may decide to file a claim through the at-fault driver's insurance company. Either option can adequately produce the desired result of getting your car repaired. Nevertheless, there are advantages and disadvantages depending on the level of your own insurance coverage and the quality of the at-fault driver's insurance.

If you are filing a property damage claim through your own auto-insurance carrier, you may get more responsive service.  In Colorado, your own auto insurance company is required under your insurance contract to handle your claim with good faith and fair dealing. In practice this tends to result in friendlier service that is focused on resolving your claim quickly and fairly. In contrast, the at-fault driver's insurance company has no contractual relationship with you and does not owe you a duty of good faith and fair dealing. Indeed, the other driver's insurance carrier may be actively working against you to pay out as little as possible on your claim. Because of this, some drivers prefer to avoid the adversarial nature of working with the at-fault driver's insurance company. It is important to note, however, that many liability insurance carriers do a reasonably good job of handling the property damage portion of an auto claim in an appropriate and timely manner.

The most notable downside of running a property damage claim through your own insurance company is that you may have to pay a deductible.  The amount of the deductible will depend on what kind of coverage you purchased in your auto policy.  Even if you must pay a deductible, your auto insurance carrier will likely reimburse you if your carrier is able to recover the full value of the property damage claim from the other driver's insurance company.

Another potential downside to filing a claim with your own auto insurance carrier is that you will only get a free rental car if you have a rental car provision in your auto policy.  If you did not purchase the additional coverage, then you will have to pay for your rental car out of pocket. Even if you must pay for your own rental car, a skilled traffic injury attorney will likely be able to get this cost reimbursed.

In contrast, if you have filed your claim with the at-fault driver's insurance carrier, and the carrier has accepted fault for your crash, you will likely be able to get a free rental car while your vehicle is being repaired. Some insurance companies will respond promptly and arrange a rental car within a day or two.  Others will drag their feet and force you to wait more than a week while the property damage adjuster makes a slow-motion determination of fault.

Despite the advantages of using your own insurance company, many people prefer to file their property damage claims with the at-fault driver's insurance carrier to avoid having to pay a deductible, and because they feel they shouldn't have to use their own insurance to pay for car damage caused by someone else's negligence. This of course assumes that the at-fault driver has purchased adequate liability insurance with policy limits that are high enough to cover your property damage claim.

If you have excellent insurance coverage with a high-quality insurance carrier, you may be inclined to file your property damage claim through your own insurance company to avoid the headache and hassle of having to deal with an adversarial insurance carrier. If, however, you purchased minimum auto coverage, you may decide to run the property damage claim through the at-fault driver's insurance company because the coverage may be better than your own.

Either way, it is often prudent to open claims with both companies and then decide which carrier offers the better settlement of your property damage claim.

It is important to remember that property damage claims are different than bodily injury claims. If you have suffered any kind of injury in the crash, you should contact a skilled traffic injury attorney to handle this portion of your claim.  There are complexities and pitfalls that give the at-fault insurance carrier a substantial advantage over an injured person who attempts to negotiate a bodily injury claim without an attorney.

If you have decided to negotiate directly with the at-fault driver's insurance carrier about your property damage claim, you should strongly consider refusing to consent to a recorded statement about the cause of the crash and injuries sustained.  For more information about this topic, please see my blog posts titled “Should you give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver's insurance company?” and “Why should you hire a personal injury attorney?”

The Max Law Firm is well equipped to help you with your bodily injury claim. For a free consultation please call (720) 699-8268.

About the Author

Raj Chohan

Raj Chohan is a personal injury attorney with a passion for helping injured Coloradans seek the compensation they deserve and the justice their cases demand. He is a former prosecutor with extensive jury trial experience in some of the most complex and serious cases that exist under Colorado law...