Q: My wife was hit while driving her car, after the other driver failed to yield right of way at his stop sign.
Their insurance co wants to pay us an amount far less than comparable autos we can find anywhere. My own co has offered even less. Their offers are 2K less than any comparable. Should we pursue the “appraisal clause” option, or hire our own lawyer? There is a medical claim for injuries incurred by my wife.
A: If you settle with the at-fault party for the contested vehicle amount and sign a release, you will most likely preclude any settlement or award for the injury settlement. You can accept the uncontested amount offered provided you do not have to sign a release. If you think you are being lowballed on the amount, you can hire an expert to give you an appraisal of your vehicle. The difference between the amount they give and the amount the expert states your vehicle is worth will need to be resolved when the injury portion of the case is resolved after treatment is completed. If you are in Oregon, you have a two-year statute of limitations.
A: The insurnace company is required to compensate you for the fair market value of the car as it crashed. They are not required to restore you to the place you were before--it would probably be impossible to do--as every car is different and there's no telling if your car was in much better shape than others similiarly situated. And, if you owed more than the car was with, called gap, you could be held liable to pay the lien holder. However, the point is that you can accept their check and then sue later for the difference later. You do not need to ,and should not, sign a release. And, if you do decide to sign a release, make sure it is for property loss only. Your wife should seek an attorney for the bodily injury portion of the claim. She could be entitled to lost wages, an award for economic and non-economic damages. Insurance compnaies want to get the matters resolved as quickly and inexpensively as possible, so seeking the help of an experienced and dedicated attorney is extremely important. Also, most attorneys will help with the property loss as part of their representation to your wife. Though bodily claims have a two (2) year statute of limitations, the property damage claim has a six (6) year statute of limitations.
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