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Vehicle Damage Claims After a Motor Vehicle Accident

If your vehicle has been substantially damaged or written-off following a motor vehicle accident, you likely have questions about compensation, and little information at your disposal. If you are like most people, you will be relying on what your insurance company, or the other driver’s insurance company, tells you about what you are entitled to in such a situation.

In considering your legal options, you may find information about pursuing a claim for your personal injuries, but be left wondering what to do about the damage to your vehicle. Our lawyers have considerable experience in helping people out with vehicle damage issues as well as pursuing personal injury damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Our firm is willing and able to help with both aspects in appropriate cases. There are 3 common scenarios relating to vehicle damages where we can potentially assist.

The first is where either your insurance company (if you have collision insurance coverage) or the at-fault driver’s insurance company (if you do not have collision insurance) has determined that your vehicle is a write-off, but is offering you a monetary amount that you do not think adequately represents the value of your lost vehicle. In this circumstance, you are entitled to your vehicle’s value on the open market just before to the collision. You are not entitled to what it will cost you to buy a new vehicle similar to the one you lost, unless you have specific insurance coverage for that. This is obviously an imperfect, after the fact, calculation. In many instances, people are happy with what they are being offered. However, there are instances when the insurer fails to account for material facts affecting your vehicle’s value just before the collision. This can include major engine upgrades, cosmetic body work or other after-market features that increase value, or the vehicle itself being a special edition or collector’s item. Insurance companies may also reference vehicles that do not accurately compare to your vehicle to justify their appraisal value. If you believe you are in this situation, we may be able to assist you in obtaining fair compensation for your lost or damaged vehicle.

The second scenario is where your vehicle has been damaged through no fault of your own and the relevant insurance company has paid for your vehicle to be repaired, but you believe that you still have not been fairly compensated, because you now have a vehicle that is worth less on the open market due to damage from the collision. The Alberta Courts call this “diminished value” or “accelerated depreciation,” meaning that your damaged-then-repaired vehicle is worth less on the open market than the same vehicle would be had it never been damaged. Recognizing that all vehicles depreciate in value over time, the accident and necessary repairs have caused you to suffer a loss through “accelerated depreciation.” In the right circumstances, which usually involve expensive vehicles and damage to their structural components, specifically the frame, we have been able to recover monies for this type of loss. We have experience retaining appraisers to give evidence on this head of damage.

The third scenario is relatively rare but should always be considered. When a work vehicle is damaged in an accident, it can cause the individual or business to lose income while the vehicle is repaired or replaced. Replacing a work vehicle can take time as it may involve purchasing a new vehicle and then customizing it as necessary for the business. If you find yourself in this situation, you have a responsibility to mitigate your business losses. You must also access any available benefits from your own insurance company, which could include a rental vehicle while yours is being repaired or replaced and/or a benefit for a portion of the income lost while you did not have a work vehicle available; this is often referred to as “business interruption.” Despite mitigating your business losses and accessing your own available benefits, you may still have an uncompensated business loss caused by the at-fault driver, which you may be able to pursue that driver’s insurance company for.

If you believe any of these situations apply to you, or if you are interested in pursuing all available damages from an at-fault driver’s insurance company, you can contact our lawyers here.

by John Andreassen