Claims

I submitted two estimates and the insurance company revised the estimate and paid me based on the revised estimate. Can they do this?

Yes, as long as the revised estimate properly repairs your vehicle. You need to have your body shop review the revised estimate. If they feel they cannot properly repair your vehicle based on the revised estimate, the repair facility should contact your adjuster.

Does the insurance company have a right to examine a damaged vehicle?

Yes. This is discussed under the "Duties after Accident" section of your policy. The personal auto policy states that you must permit the insurance company to inspect and appraise the damaged property before its repaired or disposed of.

Can I require the insurance company to replace my car?

The personal auto policy is not a replacement policy. Coverage for your car is based on actual cash value. The actual cash value (ACV) of your car is based on the value of your car at the time of the accident, taking into account its current market value. Therefore, the insurance company's obligation is to repair the car based upon its actual cash value not its replacement cost.

I was involved in a traffic accident recently and my agent asked me to get two estimates. Why do I need to get two estimates?

Wisconsin law does not require a certain number of estimates nor does it prohibit the company from specifying the number of estimates you need to get. Requiring you to obtain two estimates is a very common and acceptable practice by most insurance companies. Companies may vary on their need from as few as one to as many as three.

I had a minor traffic accident and I do not want to report it to my insurance company because my rates may go up. Is there a problem with not sending it to my company?

While there is nothing, which absolutely requires you to file a claim or report of possible loss to your insurance company, there are ramifications for you not doing so. For example, if the other party was injured and sought legal action against you and you did not cooperate by notifying your company or cooperating in their defense of a claim, you could be found liable without any liability coverage from your insurance company. In other words, you could end up paying it out-of-pocket. Furthermore, whether you notify your company or not, if they do any type of a check on your driving record your rates could be raised regardless. The decision depends upon the situation.

What is meant by aftermarket parts?

Auto repair shops may use aftermarket and/or used parts when repairing or replacing a damaged part (i.e., bumpers, bumper covers, and associated bumper parts, etc.) Aftermarket parts are produced by companies other than the original equipment manufacturers (known as OEM parts).

Auto insurance contracts do not generally specify what parts will be used. You may request that aftermarket parts not be used to repair your vehicle, but you are responsible for any repair costs that exceed the final claim settlement negotiated with the insurance company.

Can an insurance company write an estimate using parts not made by the original manufacturer or salvage parts?

The personal auto policy requires the insurance company to repair your vehicle--limited to the value of the vehicle before the damage. Insurance companies do not have to specify use of original equipment manufacturers parts when repairing the vehicle. A company only has to return the vehicle to its condition before the damage.

I was recently at a convention out of town and left my suitcase in the back seat of my vehicle. I locked my car, but when I returned my suitcase was gone. I turned a claim into my automobile insurer and the insurer says there is no coverage. What do I do?

Automobile insurance policies do not cover theft for personal items. However, you could consider filing a claim with your homeowner's or renter's policy. Most homeowner's or renter's policies allow for loss of property off the insured's premises. Some policies may have limitations. Your insurer may require that you show forcible entry occurred or that you report the theft to the police. You will need to review your policy to see what situations are required. If you have any questions you should discuss them with your insurance agent.

If I have only liability insurance, does my policy pay my medical and car repair bills?

No. The bodily injury liability coverage does not protect you or your car directly. If you cause an accident injuring other people, bodily injury liability coverage protects you against their claims up to the stated amounts for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. The property damage liability coverage pays for any damage up to the stated amount you cause to the property of others such as a crushed fender, broken glass, or a damaged wall or fence.

The insurance company is totaling my car. How can I make sure I get what it's worth?

An insurance company totals a car if repairs would cost more than it is worth. An insurance company will use various sources to value your car, including, but not limited to the National Automobile Dealers Association Used Car Guide ("Blue Book") or the CCC Information Services, Inc., guide. The company's offer, therefore, might not recognize your car's condition, special features or value on the local market. A company is more likely to raise its offer if you can show that your car would sell for a higher price in your area. Keep the lines of communication open. Get several used car dealers' written price quotes for a similar automobile. Newspaper used-car ads also can build your case. Remember these quotes and ads provide asking prices and the actual value or sales price could be lower.

What if my insurance company totals my car but we cannot agree on the amount to be paid by my collision coverage?

Your policy offers a procedure called appraisal as a way to resolve the dispute. You and the company each choose a damage appraiser. (See Auto Appraisers in the yellow pages.) The two appraisers select an umpire. An estimate agreed to by any two of these three people is binding. Each party must pay its chosen appraiser and split the other expenses of the appraisal process. Appraisal is available only in disputes between you and your insurance company. It is not available if the other driver was at fault and you disagree with his or her company's offer.

Can an insurance company tell me where to get my car fixed?

Your insurance company may use a specific repair shop to support its settlement offer. It may not require, you to have your car repaired at a specific auto repair shop. If you choose to have the repairs done at a facility not approved by your insurance company, you are responsible for any repair costs that exceed the final claim settlement.

The other driver's insurance company wants me to sign a release on my injury claim. How long can I delay this?

Sign the release when you are satisfied with your total settlement. Get a letter from your doctor estimating the cost and length of your future medical treatment. You may, of course, consult an attorney before accepting a settlement. You have three years after the accident, under Wisconsin law, to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit.

What coverage is provided if I pull a trailer with my vehicle?

In most cases, if the vehicle pulling the trailer is covered under the policy, the liability coverage will be extended to the trailer if you own the trailer. However, if you own the trailer, physical damage coverage (comprehensive and collision) must be purchased separately. You will need to review your policy and discuss your options with the insurance agent. Coverage for trailers and related equipment vary by company.

What is meant by comparative negligence?

Wisconsin has a comparative negligence law that means responsibility is frequently shared. The comparative negligence law is based on a percentage of negligence. This means you may recover damages from another party providing your negligence is not greater than the other party, but your damages shall be reduced by the percent of negligence attributed to you. You are barred from recovery if your negligence is greater than another party's negligence.

The other driver hit my car. Why does his insurance company say it has to pay for only 90% of the damage?

Wisconsin has a comparative negligence law. This permits "fault" and responsibility for the damage to be divided among the parties. You can collect from the other driver or his company only when you are less than 50% at fault. Even if you were not cited, you could still be partly at fault. If you are 10% at fault, the other driver is liable for only 90% of your damages. You are liable for the other 10%. Insurance companies will make their estimate of the comparative negligence by using details of the accident.