How to Get Full Reimbursement for Damage to Your Vehicle Without Hiring a Lawyer

Updated: Jan 12

Not all car accidents result in physical injuries to the parties involved. Sometimes, the car or truck is the only thing damaged in the accident. Without physical injuries, you may not need a personal injury lawyer at all, you can probably get compensation on your own. Keep in mind, however, that if you don’t hire a car accident lawyer, you want to take steps to avoid being taken advantage of by insurance companies and ensure you get fully reimbursed for your car or truck.

At MGL, we’ve seen common mistakes that people make when trying to sort out this confusing process. Our top six tips can help you get fully reimbursed for damage to your vehicle without hiring a lawyer:

  1. Know Your State-Specific Laws

  2. Understand Your Value

  3. Know How Deductibles Work

  4. Pick an Auto Shop that Will Control Costs

  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

  6. Be Aware of Diminished Value

Let’s take a look at each of these tips in depth.

Know Your State-Specific Laws

Property damage can be defined as, “injury to real or personal property through another’s negligence, wilful destruction, or by some act of nature.” With car accidents, property damage is usually dealt with through insurance companies. Compensation and insurance rules for auto property damage vary from state to state, so it’s important to know your state’s guidelines.

The first thing you need to know is the car accident statute of limitations for your state.

In Vermont, the statute states that the time limit for filing a lawsuit for your property damage claims is three years. It is better to file a claim with the insurance company as soon as possible so you have plenty of time to deal with insurance. In case there is a disagreement over your vehicle’s value, you’ll have time to file a lawsuit if necessary.

Did You Know?

In Vermont, you can get compensation for car or truck accidents even if your driving was less than perfect. Vermont uses comparative negligence rule, which states that a victim should be compensated as long as the other party was at least (51%) at fault. In other words, the victims of automobile crashes can sue careless drivers who cause accidents for compensation even when the victims are a little bit at fault themselves.

  • If 49% or less of the accident was the victim’s fault, then they can recover for the damage to their vehicle (and injuries), but their compensation will be reduced by the amount that they were at fault.

  • If 50% or more of the accident was the victim’s fault, then, they will not recover any damages from the accident.

Understand Your Value

Know your car’s market value. Most states, including Vermont, say that the victim is entitled to the cost of repairing the vehicle or the fair market value of the vehicle if it’s damaged beyond repair (i.e. “totaled”). Fair market value refers to the amount you could get for the car if you sold it. The fair market value can be estimated with a resource like Kelley Blue Book. If what the insurance company offers is similar, then it’s probably an accurate estimate. In most cases where the car or truck is totaled, the insurance company will pay you the Blue Book value. This is often just called “KBB Value” and you might hear the insurance adjuster use that term.

Know How Deductibles Work

Before your insurance company will reimburse your out of pocket costs, you will need to pay a collision deductible. If you have a claim against another driver, you may receive that deductible back after your insurance company collects it from the other driver’s insurance through a process called subrogation. If you don’t know who damaged your car, or you don’t have collision coverage, you won’t be able to get your deductible back.

Pick an Auto Shop that Will Control Costs

You can have the car repaired anywhere you choose, although the insurance company may have a preferred repair shop (or two) that they recommend. Some insurance companies might require you to get bids from a few different shops, and they’ll pay the median amount. If you choose to go with your own auto shop, you need to be mindful that the insurance company will only cover what it thinks is a reasonable repair cost. If repairs run over and the shop cannot convince the insurance to pay, then you will be on the hook. It may be easier to work with the insurance company’s auto shop of choice, as the shop may have an easier time communicating with the insurance company and will seek to keep costs down to maintain a good relationship with them.

However, the law says you are entitled to the value of your loss, which usually means brand name, new parts. There have been a number of lawsuits in Vermont (particularly in Rutland County) requiring insurance companies to reimburse for the full cost of repairs. Consider how much you're willing to fight for perfect repairs vs. adequate ones.

Also, you may want to read up on the difference between your original parts and aftermarket parts. Our friends over at Parker’s Classic Autoworks have some good materials on this. They know what they’re talking about and are great to work with if you’re in Rutland County.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

Both you and the insurance company need to agree on how much the car is worth. If the insurance company says that your car is worth $5,000, you don’t have to immediately agree. You will, however, need to do a little leg work to prove your car’s worth. Upgrades, low mileage, or custom detailing are all examples that could increase your car’s value.

Be Aware of Diminished Value

Even after your car has been repaired, it may no longer be worth what it was worth before the accident. Be aware of diminished value, and think about trying to get compensated for it post-accident by filing a diminished value insurance claim. This is where you ask the insurance company to pay for the difference between the pre-accident value of your car and the post-accident value of your car after repairs.

Depending on which state you live in and what happened in the accident, you might be able to recover for the diminished value of your vehicle. To find your car’s diminished value, you should compare its pre-accident value using the Kelley Blue Book or another site with a professional evaluation of the car post-accident and after repairs. There are companies who deal exclusively with diminished value insurance evaluations.

Need Extra Help?

Sometimes complications arise when filing a claim or collecting reimbursement, making it challenging for you to handle everything on your own.

If you want an extra hand to help you sort through this process, or if you have physical injuries from an accident, contact us today.


Meub Gallivan & Larson, Attorneys, PLC 
P.O. Box 811-05702
65 Grove Street 
Rutland, VT 05701 

Meub Gallivan & Larson, Attorneys, PLC is committed to serving Rutland, Vermont and the surrounding communties.





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