If a negligent driver crashes into you in the state of Massachusetts, and that driver “totals” your vehicle, you are entitled to full compensation for the loss. But what if the insurance company won’t pay you what the vehicle is worth? Or what if you face unreasonable delays and excuses, or the insurance company simply will not cooperate with you? If you drive in Massachusetts, keep reading to learn what every motorist in this state needs to know.
If you are in a traffic accident, but you are not injured, and your only damages are vehicle damages, it may be more reasonable and easier for you to negotiate with the insurance company directly and on your own for a settlement and without an attorney’s help. Some tips for negotiating with an auto insurance company are offered below.
Every motorist in Massachusetts should fully understand the terms, conditions, and provisions of his or her auto insurance. When an insurance company won’t cooperate with you, or if you’ve suffered a personal injury or injuries in the same accident that damaged your vehicle, take your case and concerns at once to an experienced Boston personal injury attorney.
WHAT IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED BY A NEGLIGENT DRIVER?
Vehicle damage is one thing, but your health and your future are too important to put at risk. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, let a personal injury lawyer negotiate on your behalf for the compensation you’ll need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and more.
If the insurance company will not negotiate with your attorney in good faith, he or she can help you file a personal injury lawsuit. The law is on your side in Massachusetts if you have been injured by a negligent driver, and you are entitled to compensation, but it’s imperative to have a lawyer’s help in such cases.
If you negotiate on your own with an insurance company for a vehicle damage settlement, how do you prove your vehicle’s value – or demonstrate that it is a total loss? When the expense of the vehicle repairs exceeds the vehicle’s actual worth or actual cash value (ACV), the vehicle is considered a total loss. In Massachusetts, it’s left to the auto insurer to decide whether or not a vehicle is a total loss.
If your vehicle has been totaled, find out how your auto insurance company calculates a vehicle’s ACV. Part of the problem in negotiating a total loss in Massachusetts is that each insurance company uses its own methods to decide on a vehicle’s ACV. Before you offer a counter-estimate, you should try to learn how the company arrived at its determination.
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL WORTH OF A VEHICLE?
As you know, a new vehicle depreciates in value from the first moment you drive it, and a day after you buy it, a new vehicle is no longer worth what you paid for it. The age of the vehicle, the mileage, and everyday wear and tear must be considered when determining a vehicle’s ACV, which will always be less than what you paid or borrowed for the vehicle, especially if you’ve owned it for any length of time.
Thus, a vehicle’s ACV is nowhere near what it will actually take to replace that vehicle. If the vehicle is a total loss after a traffic collision, the cost of purchasing a replacement will always be higher than the original vehicle’s ACV at the time it was totaled. Consumers may address this issue by purchasing auto insurance that provides for replacement value rather than ACV. It’s a bit more expensive, but when you need it, it’s well worth the cost.
HOW IS A VEHICLE’S ACTUAL CASH VALUE CALCULATED?
One way to calculate the ACV of a vehicle is to estimate its replacement cost and then deduct a reasonable amount for everyday wear and tear. Another way to decide a vehicle’s actual cash value is to determine its fair market value – the price that average, interested buyers would be willing to pay for the vehicle – because the two figures should be essentially the same.
After a traffic accident in Massachusetts, if your vehicle is deemed a total loss, but the insurance company offers you a settlement amount that is genuinely insufficient – that is, significantly below what you believe is the vehicle’s actual cash value – you’ll have to choose from three options:
– Take the insufficient offer.
– Negotiate with the insurance company for a more appropriate settlement.
– Have an attorney negotiate with the company, and if necessary, take the company to court.
HOW CAN YOU NEGOTIATE EFFECTIVELY FOR THE SETTLEMENT YOU NEED?
If you’re negotiating on your own, and the insurance company’s first offer is too low – and it almost certainly will be – what should you do? You must offer evidence that supports your position that the first offer is insufficient. You might have photos of the vehicle before the accident, receipts for enhancements or repairs, and valuation or repair estimates from certified mechanics, body experts, and qualified appraisers.
If your vehicle had low mileage, was in excellent exterior and interior condition, and had additional safety or comfort features, be able to prove those “negotiating points” to the insurance company. Realize also that the insurance adjuster you are speaking and negotiating with must answer to senior adjusters and managers and is – in most cases – under some pressure and trying to do the best job possible.
WHAT IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY TREATS YOU UNPROFESSIONALLY?
If you negotiate on your own with an auto insurance company, stand firmly on the evidence and the facts. But if you believe the insurance company you are negotiating with is acting unprofessionally, is not acting in good faith, or is treating you unfairly or unjustly, get some legal advice from an injury attorney at once.
And again – this cannot be over-emphasized – if you have been physically injured in an accident with a negligent driver anywhere in Massachusetts, take your case directly to an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer who can explain your legal rights and options, which may include a personal injury lawsuit.
You will have to inform your auto insurance company if an accident happens, but if you’ve sustained an injury, do not make any statement, sign any insurance document, or accept any settlement offer before you’ve obtained a personal injury attorney’s advice and representation.