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Documenting Your Claim: Property Damage

Insurance companies always use the amount of damage to your car, called “property damage” or “PD’” as a key data point in your claim because it is one of the few objective pieces of evidence that correlates to forces of impact and whether the accident was severe enough to cause your injuries.  Your property damage dollar amount will be one of the biggest data points the adjuster inputs in his/her claims software.

If your car was not totaled in the accident, chances are you had it repaired at a body shop. You need to get a copy of your detailed estimate/invoice and any “supplementals” from the body shop that repaired your car.  Supplementals are additional or amended invoices for additional parts and labor.  Frequently a body shop will find out they need more parts and labor, and hence there is more damage, once they begin taking off pieces of your car.  The repair invoice will show you all the parts that were damaged, which you can point out to the adjuster as evidence of the force of impact.  For example, if the collision bent your car’s axle, the force of impact was strong enough to bend solid steel.

Tear Down Photos

When you take your car to the body repair shop, the shop takes “tear down” photographs of the vehicle as part of their paperwork for the insurance company.  Tear down photographs show your car’s damage as they peel away the parts.  These can be much more persuasive then just your photographs showing the fender damage.  Tear down photographs can show bent steel, bent frames and other deformities that you can argue shows the true nature of the force of impact you sustained in the wreck.

Body shops will usually give you copies of the photographs upon request.  Almost all shops use digital cameras and will have them saved on their computer for emailing or copying to disc.

Hidden Damage

Adjusters and their investigators are trained to take property damage photographs in the best possible light for their side of the claim.  They know how to use angles and shadows to make damage appear less than it really is.  That is why you should always take pictures of your car’s damage.

Disproportionate Damage

Sometimes your car will not appear that damaged while the other driver’s car looks horrible.  Adjusters sometimes ignore the other driver’s car and instead say you couldn’t have been hurt because there is no damage to your car.  There are a couple of explanations as to why the damage between the two cars may be asymmetrical:

Submarining

Sometimes the at-fault driver in rear end collisions will go up and under the back of your car.  This usually results in the other driver’s hood getting torn up while your car looking like there was barely any damage.  If you think this scenario occurred in your accident, you need to inspect underneath your car for signs damage / scraping.  You also need to take notes on how you remember the at-fault driver’s car looking so you can accurately refer to it in your Demand Letter.

Bumper Heights

Another explanation for asymmetrical damage to the cars is bumper height.  The United States does not require all car bumpers to be at the same height.  This means the car that rear ended your car did not have its bumper hit your car’s bumper straight on.  You can investigate the bumper height scenario by Googling the technical specs for each car’s bumper height by referring to the police report for each car’s make and model.

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