Visitor Question

Unfair settlement offer for property damages from at-fault driver’s insurance?

Submitted By: Ray (Portland, Oregon)

A driver ran a red light and crashed into my car’s driver’s side door. The police estimated the driver’s speed at approximately 40 mph. The driver was ticketed for texting while driving.  It took the fire department over 45 minutes to extricate me from my car. I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital emergency room. 

My car was totaled. The driver’s insurance company offered me $9,145.00 as replacement value. I consider that amount unfair. I can replace a car of the same color, same year and similar mileage as mine for for $11,998. The amount of $9,145.00 offered by the insurance company is just not enough. The insurance company is now telling me if I don’t accept the  $9,145.00 they will stop paying for the rental car.

What can I do?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Ray,

When it comes to placing values on damaged cars after accidents, the State of Oregon follows the “Diminished Value” common law rule. In the absence of a specific state statute, Oregon common law refers to court rulings, state regulations and policies, guidelines, etc.

In a decision filed Oct. 23, 2008, Jose Gonzales v. Farmers Insurance Company (of Oregon, 210 Or App 54, 150 P3d 20 (2006), the court held that insurers in the State of Oregon must return a vehicle to its pre-loss condition or, if unable to do so, must pay the difference in the vehicle’s fair market value before and after the collision.

While the Gonzales decision established the rule of diminished value, the onus is on the claimant to establish what the values are. To help establish diminished value you can pay one of many companies to create an appraisal of your car’s value in the current market, or you can get a pre-accident private party value from online resources such as  Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book.

You can also consider obtaining a trade-in value letter from a local car dealer stating a car similar to yours which hasn’t been in an accident, and your car, after the accident. Following these methods will help you establish the diminished value of your car. That value is what the insurance company should be offering in its valuation of your claim.

If the insurance company refuses to cooperate, you can always consider filing a small claims lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you do, the driver’s insurance company is obligated to defend the driver. Relying on the Gonzales case, and the establishment of diminished value, you will have an excellent chance of winning.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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