Last week, we began this series on  a very common question: “Do I need to hire a lawyer to settle this car accident?” 

Today, we will cover car accident cases that involve property/vehicle damage only with no personal injuries.  Therefore, we answer the question, “do you need a lawyer when your car accident claim involves only property damage?”

In cases involving only property damage, a person can usually settle their case without a lawyer. However, there are exceptions.

When a person has been involved in a car accident and the only damage is to their vehicle, they can usually settle the case on their own without a lawyer. This is assuming they followed the advice on this site and called 9-1-1 for an officer or state trooper to write a report and document the circumstances of an accident. (Failing to do this can result in the circumstance I wrote about here).

However, assuming that you have a written police report following the accident, and the facts regarding liability/causation of the accident are not disputed, you can usually settle your property damage claim.

There are two exceptions to this rule: when the property is unique, and doesn’t have a typical “blue book” value; and when liability for the accident is hotly contested.

Exception #1: You will need a lawyer to settle your property damage claim in Oklahoma if your vehicle was particularly unique, rare, or custom.

When the property is unique, you may have a hard time getting insurance to pay you what you want.  A client of mine recently tried to settle his own property claim after he was rear-ended while pulling into his driveway. Liability was undisputed. The insurance company readily admitted that the other driver was at fault and they were required to cover the loss. The issue? My client’s daily ride was a customized 1956 Ford truck, with upgraded transmission and suspension. Not your typical ride, and not something the insurance companies are used to dealing with.

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So he spent two months trying to negotiate it himself and the most Insurance Co.  offered to him was $2,000… and that is after considering the vehicle to be a total loss, meaning he would have to turn over the the title and lose the truck (to the uninitiated, these trucks are extremely rare and hard to find). It was difficult for this client of mine to not go hunting after the adjuster and try to strangle him (thankfully this insurance company was based out of Dallas and not OKC!).

Finally, he hands the case over to me and my client walked away with over six times what they offered him, and he got to keep the title (thereby allowing him to go back and restore the vehicle!). This was one of those situations where liability was uncontested, the evidence was clear my guy was not at fault, and the only dispute was over property damage…. And yet it took a lawyer to get the proper amount of compensation for the vehicle.

(How did I do it? Well, for one, I followed the tips I outlined in my previous article on dealing with adjusters: I hired a professional antique expert to appraise the vehicle; however this still wasn’t good enough for the insurance company so I filed a lawsuit and took them to court, which finally got it done).

So while most claims involving only property damage with no injuries can be settled without a lawyer, this was one example where hiring an attorney (and filing a lawsuit) was absolutely necessary.

Exception #2: You will need a lawyer to settle your property damage claim in Oklahoma if liability for the accident is unclear or if the drivers dispute who was at-fault.

The other type of property damage case that requires a lawyer are those where liability is not clear cut. I will be writing about this type of situation in later posts on this series. But suffice it to say, if the insurance company can get off the hook by claiming you were the cause of the accident, then they will do that instead of paying for your vehicle’s damage, no matter how small the amount sought. More on this soon.

In the mean time, have you ever had a car accident where the insurance company refused to pay a reasonable value for your car? If so, chime in on the comments below.

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