In South Carolina, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should compensate you for property damage to your vehicle as well as any injury you have sustained. If the driver who hit you was uninsured, your own insurance company should cover the property damage. Under no circumstance should you be responsible for covering the repairs when the wreck was another driver’s fault.
Unlike a personal injury claim, you probably do not need a car accident attorney to represent you in the property damage arbitration. Most property damage arbitration in SC is handled directly by the client. In fact, it may be difficult to find an attorney who will take a property damage case. Our firm does not handle these cases; nonetheless, we know it’s a common issue for South Carolinians, so we’ve compiled some free information below that will help you handle your property arbitration case on your own.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Handle Property Damage Claims
1. In regards to property damage, what am I entitled to after a car accident?
If you were in a wreck in South Carolina that was not your fault, you are entitled to three things when it comes to your property damage:
- Fair Market Value – Fair market value is not determined by how much you paid for the car or your emotional attachment to it. Fair market value is simply the amount of money a person would pay you to take ownership of the car.
- Loss of Use – If you’re unable to use your vehicle after an accident, you may receive compensation for what’s known as loss of use. Typically, the loss of use damages will cover the cost of a rental car while you wait for your car to be repaired. However, some insurance companies may limit the amount of money you receive or how long they will pay for rental car costs.
- Depreciation – Depreciation is the difference between the value of the car after repairs are completed compared to the value of the car before the accident. The insurance company of the at fault driver (or your insurance company, if the at-fault driver was uninsured) should compensate you for the lost value. However, many insurance companies initially refuse to pay diminished value claims. If this happens, you’ll need to file a property arbitration claim – more information on this topic is included below.
2. How is diminished value calculated after a car wreck in South Carolina?
After a crash, many people are frustrated because a car with an accident history will decrease in value and this may show up on used car listings like Carfax, despite having it repaired. Thankfully, if you were not at fault in an accident, you should be reimbursed for the lost resale value. This is known as “diminished value” or “diminution in value,” and although they’ll likely fight it, the insurance company should pay you to make up the difference between the car’s pre-wreck value and the value after it has been repaired.
The point is to put you back in the same position you enjoyed prior to the crash. That means if you had a $15,000 car before and only a $10,000 car now, you should be allowed $5,000 in compensation to make you “whole.” If your car was totaled, the insurance company should write you a check for the fair market value for your car at the time of the wreck. In addition, punitive damages may be recovered if the at-fault driver was intoxicated or reckless in some other way.
3. What is the statute of limitations on diminished value claims in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, people have 3 years to file a diminished value claim after a car wreck.
4. Can the at-fault driver file a diminished value claim?
No, you cannot file a diminished value claim if you caused the car accident to happen.
5. If the insurance company refuses to cover my diminished value, what can I do?
You can file a property arbitration claim in the county where the accident occurred. When filing an arbitration claim, both you and the insurance company will have an opportunity to present evidence to a neutral party to have them determine the amount of damages and who is responsible for paying the damages.
6. What type of evidence do I need to prove diminished value in property damage arbitration?
In arbitration, you must be able to prove why the offer from the insurance company is too low. To do so, you’ll need to provide evidence of the car’s value before the accident and after the accident. You can hire a diminished value expert to do an appraisal, or you can use online resources to conduct the research on your own.
Kelley Blue Book is a great (free) resource for proving your car’s previous resale value. Simply type in your car’s year, make, model, mileage, any special equipment your car may have, and the general vehicle condition, and the website will provide you with an estimated value range. Do this process twice: once entering the details from before the accident and again using details from after the accident. Subtract the new value from the old value to see what the diminished value is.
If you’ve restored the car or added any special equipment to your car, be sure to bring along receipts proving your investment in the car.
7. Who do I contact for property arbitration claims in South Carolina?
If the insurance company, be it the at fault driver’s or your own insurance company, is unwilling to fairly compensate you for the property damage, you should notify the civil division of your County Court. In South Carolina, the civil division is known as the Court of Common Pleas. If you call or visit the Clerk’s office and tell them you are in a dispute with the insurance company over the property damage to your vehicle, the Clerk’s office should help you fill out the necessary paperwork to arbitrate the case.
8. Who decides how much money you receive in a property damage arbitration?
In South Carolina, judges and juries do not decide how much money you should be allowed for property damage. Rather, it is a three-person panel – comprised of attorneys – that will listen to your arguments, as well as the insurance company’s, then review the documents and make a decision as to the proper amount of compensation you should receive.
The arbitration panels are familiar with SC law and also recognize that insurance companies do not get rich by compensating you fairly. The panel members that I know are generally sympathetic to the hardships caused by being without a vehicle or having to drive a car that is now of lesser value.
A Brief Step-By-Step of How to Handle Property Damage Claims
The first thing you need to do after a car wreck is contact your insurance company and set up a claim. That way, if the at fault driver is uninsured, your own insurer will know the facts of the case, where your wrecked car has been taken, and what needs to be done to make you whole. After appraisals are completed, an offer should be made as to your property damage. If you believe the offer is fair, you can accept it and have your car repaired or totaled and move forward with your life. If the offer is unfair, you can negotiate with the insurance company, request a second appraisal, have the car independently appraised, or jump ahead to filing for arbitration.
No matter which option you choose, remember that the purpose of SC’s car accident laws is to compensate you for every harm and loss. Nonetheless, if you seek arbitration, be prepared to present evidence of why the insurance company’s offer is too low. Once more, that may include an independent appraisal, copies of the Kelly Blue Book value, receipts relating to any improvements or additions you made to the car, and all other evidence that you think demonstrates your car was of greater value than what the insurance company claims.
Free Resources to Handle Your Property Damage Case in South Carolina
This brochure from the South Carolina Department of Insurance provides helpful information about how to handle property damage arbitration in South Carolina and what you need to bring to present to the arbitration panel.
When filing a property arbitration claim, you must fill out this form and bring it to the Clerk of Court’s office in the county you reside or the county where the accident occurred.
This link leads to a list of filing fees for the South Carolina Circuit Court. Automobile arbitration cases have a $10 filing fee.
Visit this website to determine your car’s value before and after the accident.
The Right Time to Call an Accident Attorney
Though you don’t typically need an attorney for property arbitration claims, if your car accident caused injury to you or your passengers, it is wise to set up a free consultation to review your case with an attorney.
Car wreck attorneys can work to ensure relevant evidence is preserved after the accident and negotiate with the insurance company to help their clients receive fair settlements that cover damages like lost wages and medical bills after being injured in a crash.
If you have questions, call my Columbia, SC personal injury office for a free consultation at 803-790-2800 or by using the live chat feature below. You can also request free copies of my books that provide an overview of SC accident and injury laws.