Auto Insurance Claims/Adjuster low-balling my Diminished Value
QUESTION: I was involved in a 5 car collision with a tanker truck that was issued a ticket for running a red light. At the time of the accident, my truck was only 3 months old. It cost $9,500 to fix. I hired a licensed appraiser to do a Diminished Value on my vehicle on Nov 2011 who appraised it for a total Diminished Value of $7,800. The at-fault driver’s insurance company without looking at my vehicle, since they’re not in Texas, offered me on Nov 2012 $6,450 for the Diminished Value. The adjuster delayed the offer for over a year. I’m requesting the Diminished Value done at the time of the accident and not the value done a year later, when the vehicle’s value has decreased due to the fact that it’s now over a year old vs. 3 months old. The vehicle has structural damage that the dealership cannot fix. The licensed appraiser also mentioned that the safety of the vehicle has been compromised and it’s going to be difficult to resale. I’m at a financial loss due to the fact that the vehicle cannot be repaired to pre-accident condition, so I’m requesting the full $7,800 Diminished Value. What should I do? Take the driver to court in order to get his insurance company to settle for the full $7,800?
ANSWER: Hello Harvey,
First of all, I agree, clearly you are entitled to Diminished Value. And fortunately they are not trying to fight you on that - not that they actually can since you are a third party claimant.
They could "reject" your appraiser's value, but instead it appears instead they are simply trying to lower the value of your claim. For example, if they actually performed a Diminished Value investigation, then perhaps they could use that as a basis for negotiation. But according to your account, instead of playing fairly they are comparing a new value with a year old value.
A year wait! That's nothing short of outrageous. Based on my experience, the only way to attract attention in these types of circumstances is to do it with an attorney. More specifically, hire an attorney to prepare a strong demand letter. Ordinarily, this works, especially since it's an argument over $1350.
Yes, you could take it to a small claims court on your own. But there's no guarantee that you'll win. If you can hire an attorney who will simply prepare some strong correspondence on your behalf, that is probably the most cost effective and speedy resolution.
One additional observation. Why is the "safety compromised"? Is this because the appraisal did not include necessary repairs? And, as such, should your vehicle have been declared a total loss? Of course, I am not familiar with the details, but any vehicle that is safety-compromised has probably been repaired or appraised inadequately, or should be a total. Compensation for repairs and Diminished Value is one thing, but enabling repairs that leave a vehicle unsafe is troubling. "Can't be fixed" why not! That sounds like very very serious unaccounted-for-damage to me. Perhaps you should consider speaking to an attorney about that as well. I'm not an attorney, but from an insurance standpoint I find that unsettling.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks for the reply.
Once the truck was fixed and I had a chance to drive it for a few days, I took it back for few more issues that were wrong with it:
- The truck cabin is almost 2" higher on the right side (side of impact). The body shop manager and several mechanics confirmed that there is something wrong but don't know how/what to fix and in order to keep it from being noticeable, they raised the bumper by almost 2" on the right side. This way the gap between the bumper and front panels/grill is even. The bumper was not damaged in the accident as the collision was not from the front.
- The 2 doors on the driver side were hard to close, but the doors on the passenger side were perfectly fine (as new). I had to re-adjust the door strikers on the driver side doors to compensate for the titled cabin.
- Sometimes a noise is heard coming from behind the steering wheel that was not there before.
- On speeds above 40mph, you can feel 'something' rubbing against the gas pedal shaft (intermittently) and also the driver side door has an air leak thru the weather stripping due to the door being shifted.
- At times, when you turn the steering wheel all the way to the right or left, the ‘wheel return’ doesn't work and the steering wheel stays locked in that position. So I have to manually turn the steering wheel by hand to straighten out the truck.
None of these issues were there prior to the accident, as it was a 3 month old vehicle with only 1,176 miles on it.
On the "safety compromised" issue (from the DV Report): “Note that Inner Structure damages weight more that engine, suspension and outer panel repair or replace. Once inner structure is disturbed the safety of this automobile is compromised regardless of the quality of the repair. No Body Shop can duplicate factory welds and corrosion protection as a factory does. Crash tests performed by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a repaired vehicle with inner structure damages reveals a safety compromised vehicle even after repairs have been performed per I-CAR specifications”
Thank you for taking the time to respond.
Obviously I cannot see the vehicle, but based on your descriptions (and because I have been trained as a vehicle damage appraiser)it would certainly suggest that you have some rather serious frame damage. If, in fact, it cannot be repaired to I-Car standards (my training in I-Car standards does not allow for structurally unsafe vehicles to be "repaired")then that damage should have been estimated, bringing the vehicle to a total loss.
The cosmetic issues are not the problem. What would appear to be the problem is that the vehicle is so badly damaged that "the cosmetics" are actually "showing". And that "can't be fixed"!
Now bear in mind, I am out of necessity speaking hypothetically, but this certainly seems very suspect. You might want to seek a legal opinion to see what remedies you might have.