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Florida motor vehicle property damage claims: Part one, adverse drivers

Read the first article of a two part series on recovering compensation for property damage after a car accident in Florida.
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    December 12, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- After a car accident, you will have to get to and from doctor's appointments and work to see to your health and income. This requires a vehicle, which makes addressing vehicle damage of great practical importance, and an understanding of your rights in the property damage claims process can be very helpful. This is a basic explanation of your rights as applicable in most situations.

If your vehicle or other personal property is damaged in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by someone else, you have two separate and distinct sets of rights and remedies to consider. The first is your claim against the adverse driver (and the owner of the motor vehicle they were driving in most circumstances in Florida).

Payment obligations of the adverse driver and owner

In cases where your motor vehicle can be fixed -- or in other words is not a total loss -- the at-fault driver and owner are responsible to pay the following damages:
- The reasonable cost of repairing your vehicle
- Loss of use of the vehicle while it is being repaired (often addressed through a rental)
- Towing, storage and other incidental charges you incur as a result of your loss of the vehicle that would not have been incurred if not for the motor vehicle crash
- In some cases, damage for the diminished value of your vehicle since it is now a "wrecked vehicle" even though it is repaired

In cases where your vehicle cannot be fixed, or when it doesn't make economic sense to fix it because the cost of fixing it is too high when compared to the fair market value of the vehicle, the adverse owner and driver are responsible to pay you the following:
- The fair market value of the vehicle
- The cost of taxes on the fair market value and lost registration fees (commonly referred to as "tax, tag and title")
- Reasonable towing and storage charges
- Loss of use for a reasonable period of time so that you can find a replacement vehicle

These are basic rights following a car accident, and they are well-established in Florida law. Don't let an insurance adjuster tell you otherwise.

How is fair market value determined?

Determining fair market value can be difficult, but, and similar vehicles for sale in your area can be resources. Keep in mind that the make, model and model year are not the only important factors. The condition of the vehicle, mileage, accessories and other factors can influence the fair market value.

There is no bright line standard for determining fair market value of the vehicle, but your attorney can help you determine the fair market value of your vehicle and present evidence to the insurer that it is worth more than offered.

An attorney can help with your claim

These guidelines are not applicable to every situation, and because property damage claims can often be complex, you should consult an attorney about your situation. Most personal injury attorneys will assist you with your property damage claim (often at no cost if a lawsuit is not required) if they are handling your personal injury claim as well.

Unlike your claim against the adverse driver and owner, your rights against your own insurance company -- if you purchased the appropriate insurance coverage -- are determined primarily by the terms of your insurance contract. For more on these rights, we turn to the second article in this two-part series.

Article provided by Steven Wingo, Attorney at Law
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