- Oklahoma’s Fault-Based System
- Types of Compensation in Auto Property Damage Claims
- Filing an Auto Property Damage Claim: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Dealing with Insurance Adjusters
- Insurance Policy Guidelines for Motor Vehicle Total Losses
- Settlement Methods for First-Party Motor Vehicle Total Losses
- Deviations from Standard Methods
- Handling Third Party Claims
- Reasonable Travel for Claimants
- Deductible in Subrogation Demands
- Repair Cost Estimates
- Betterment or Depreciation
- Freedom in Repair Facility Choice
- Basis for Cash Settlement
- Settlement Releases
- Payment Methods
- Inclusion of Lienholders
- Definition of Total Loss
- Restrictions on Selling Total Loss Vehicles Back to Claimants
Oklahoma’s Fault-Based System
In Oklahoma, the person responsible for causing the accident is also liable for any resulting damages, including damage to vehicles. Their insurance company usually covers these costs.
It’s important to note that the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage is only:
- Bodily Injury Liability: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- Property Damage Liability: $25,000 per accident.
Types of Compensation in Auto Property Damage Claims
- Repair Costs: This covers the cost of repairing your vehicle to its pre-accident condition.
- Total Loss: If repairs exceed the vehicle’s value, you’re entitled to the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV) before the accident.
- Rental Car Costs: The cost of a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced should be covered.
- Diminished Value: Compensation for the reduced value of a vehicle post-repair. A car that is been in a wreck is generally worth less than what it would be worth if it was never damaged.
Treble Damages and Leaving the Scene
A driver who leaves the accident scene can be liable for 3x the actual property damage costs. This is referred to as “treble damages.”
Progressive Direct Insurance v. Pope (2022, Supreme Court of Oklahoma): This case established that statutory treble damages under 47 O.S.2011, § 10-103 are punitive and may be excluded by insurance policies.
- Powell was involved in a hit-and-run accident with a vehicle driven by Pope. Pope left the scene.
- Powell filed a claim with Progressive, seeking treble property damages under 47 O.S. § 10-103, which allows for treble damages against hit-and-run drivers.
- Progressive sought a declaratory judgment that its policy excludes coverage for treble damages under its exclusion for “punitive or exemplary damages.”
- The district court ruled the treble damages are punitive in nature and excluded by the policy’s punitive damages exclusion.
- On appeal, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed the district court’s decision. The Court agreed the statute’s purpose is deterrence and punishment to control driver conduct, make the treble damages punitive rather than compensatory.
- The Court concluded the punitive nature of treble damages in 47 O.S. § 10-103 are not covered under the policy’s punitive damages exclusion.
Filing an Auto Property Damage Claim: A Step-by-Step Guide
Contacting Insurance Companies
It’s usually quicker to get your vehicle repaired if you go through your insurance, so you’ll want to notify your insurer about the accident as soon as possible, providing all necessary details.
Like most people, you probably want to avoid paying a deductible to get your car repaired due to someone else’s negligence. If that’s the case, contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company and “Start a Property Damage Claim,” to get your claim started.
Getting a Repair Estimate
You have a right to decide where to get your car repaired. It’s usually a good idea to get more than one estimate. Some adjusters will use the body shop’s estimate, while others will send a 3rd party adjuster to inspect the vehicle.
Vehicle Total Loss
According to 47 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 1111(C)(1), a vehicle is deemed a total loss when the cost to repair the damage exceeds 60% of its fair market value.
This means that if the cost to repair an automobile exceeds 60% of its fair market value, the insurance company will typically declare it a total loss and proceed with a settlement based on the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV), rather than funding repairs.
Negotiating a Settlement
Compare the insurer’s offer with your mechanic’s estimate and negotiate if there’s a discrepancy.
Dealing with Insurance Adjusters
Remember, adjusters aim to minimize the insurance company’s costs. Be factual in your communication, and don’t hesitate to dispute their estimate if necessary.
When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Consider legal assistance if facing severe damage, disputed liability, unfair settlement offers, or if there’s a personal injury involved.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Not Reporting the Accident Immediately: Prompt reporting is crucial.
- Failing to Document the Accident: Take photos and keep all related documents.
- Accepting the First Settlement Offer: Evaluate if the offer fully covers your losses.
- Not Understanding Your Policy: Know your coverage details.
- Handling Complex Claims Alone: Seek legal help for complicated cases.
If you’re dealing with an auto property damage claim and feeling overwhelmed, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney to guide you through the process and protect your rights.
Insurance Policy Guidelines for Motor Vehicle Total Losses
The Oklahoma Statutes at 36 O.S. § 1250.8 (OSCN 2023) detail what insurance companies can do (and not do) regarding a total loss claim with its insured. This is referred to as “first party” claims.
Settlement Methods for First-Party Motor Vehicle Total Losses
- Replacement Vehicle Offer:
- The insurer may provide a comparable replacement vehicle.
- All related taxes, license fees, and transfer fees are covered except for any policy deductible.
- Offer, and any rejection must be documented in the claim file.
- Cash Settlement Option:
- Based on the cost to purchase a comparable vehicle, minus any policy deductible.
- Includes all taxes, license fees, and transfer fees.
- Calculation methods:
- Local market price based on recent availability.
- Quotes from local dealers if there is no local market availability.
- National guidebooks like the National Automobile Dealers Association Guide.
Deviations from Standard Methods
- It must be documented with details of the vehicle’s condition.
- Deductions (e.g., for salvage) must be clear, itemized, and justified.
- The settlement basis should be explained to the claimant.
Handling Third Party Claims
- Insurers should not advise third parties to claim on their policies to avoid the insurer’s payment responsibilities.
Reasonable Travel for Claimants
- Claimants should not be required to travel unreasonably for inspections, estimates, or repairs.
Deductible in Subrogation Demands
- Deductibles are included in subrogation demands upon request.
- Subrogation recoveries are shared proportionately unless the deductible has already been recovered.
- Deduction for expenses only if an external attorney is involved.
Repair Cost Estimates
- Estimates should reflect realistic repair costs.
- Claimants receive a copy of the estimate and, if requested, repair shop recommendations.
Betterment or Depreciation
- All information for reductions due to betterment or depreciation must be in the claim file.
- Deductions should be itemized and justified.
Freedom in Repair Facility Choice
- Claimants are not bound to specific repair facilities.
- Insurers must pay for repairs (minus deductible) and provide itemized repair statements.
- Payment is based on competitive market prices or competitive bids.
Basis for Cash Settlement
- Cash settlement should not be less than what would be paid for repairs (except in total loss situations) unless the insured agrees.
- Claimants should not be forced to sign a full settlement release for property damage claims involving personal injury.
- Transferred vehicle titles to insurers should be paid via check, draft, or electronic payment.
Inclusion of Lienholders
- In third-party total loss payments, registered lienholders should be included as co-payees.
Definition of Total Loss
- A vehicle is a total loss if repair costs plus salvage value exceed its pre-loss actual cash value.
Restrictions on Selling Total Loss Vehicles Back to Claimants
- Insurers cannot sell a total loss vehicle back to the claimant if deemed non-restorable unless the claimant acknowledges in writing or electronically that the vehicle will be titled “junked.”