First, check your own insurance policy to see what its language says. If you don’t have a copy of the policy, get one from your insurance agent. You might be lucky enough to have language that says that you will get paid the value of a new car. This usually applies only in the case of a vehicle that has been recently purchased and has under 10,000 or 15,000 miles. If you’re fortunate enough to have this, your agent will see that you get paid and then it’s your company’s headache to collect against the insurer for the person who hit you.
If you don’t have this kind of coverage, be in touch with the defendant’s insurer and ask for a written explanation as to how they valued your car. Check it against “blue book” valuations that you can find on the Internet. Also, if your car was in exceptionally good shape, go talk to the dealership or service firm that regularly maintained it and see if they will put a memo together on their letterhead indicating why they think the car was worth more than just standard blue book value before the crash.
If you can’t settle at a reasonable amount, you can always file a claim in court. If the value is $30,000 or less, you can file in District Court. If it’s above that, you’ll have to file in Circuit Court. You can represent yourself in either but if you find you have to file in Circuit Court, we definitely recommend that you hire an attorney. If you do represent yourself, make sure that you take photos of the vehicle to the court and remember that if you’re going to have your dealership offer an opinion as to value, you generally need to get that person to appear at trial.
As a side note, at The Poole Law Group we do undertake representation of the vehicle damage claim if we also represent you for an injury or death case out of the same circumstances. This is at no additional charge.