You drive safe. Why can’t everyone else? Someone hits your truck and now you have to deal with insurance companies. As the owner of a small trucking company, you’d rather be focused on hauling loads than filing claims. However, when someone damages your equipment, they should pay for your losses.
Fortunately, most of our clients come away from traffic accidents with no personal injuries because of their heavy equipment’s protection. However, the equipment takes a beating. Equipment that is down during repairs is not making money. Downtime can send a small business into financial trouble quickly.
Should an owner operator file a claim with their own insurance?
The upside is your own insurance will typically move the claim quickly, getting you back on the road ASAP. The downside is you will pay a deductible and have the risk of having a ding on your insurance record. You also run the risk of having your coverage dropped or premium going sky high.
At the Scene of the Accident
Make sure you get the other party’s insurance information. Don’t wait on them to file a claim with their own company – do it yourself immediately. Call their insurance company’s claims department and ask to set up a claim. The intake staff will document the accident information and assign an adjuster to the claim. You will then work with that adjuster to try to resolve your claim.
If you had medical injuries, be sure to get treatment right away and notify the adverse adjuster of your bodily injury claim. Two adjusters may be assigned: one for the property damage and one for your injuries.
Towing, Inspection, and Repair After an Accident
If your truck was towed, notify the insurance company of the bill and location of equipment. The adjuster may want to schedule an inspection. They may have a suggested repair shop to take your equipment to. Of course, it is your equipment, so it is your choice if you want it repaired there.
Meet the adjuster at the site of inspection. Point out all damages – the adjuster could potentially miss some. If possible, make sure your mechanic is part of the inspection team. Take pictures and videos of the damage. Ask the repair shop to save all damaged parts in case of a later dispute. Have the mechanic write a very detailed repair estimate outlining the damage and how it was due to the accident. Sometimes additional damages are found once the truck is torn apart. Make sure the adjuster is made aware of these additional damages and approves the supplemental repairs.
Watch the language!
The adverse insurance company may pay the repair shop directly. If they send the check to you, be careful! Pay close attention to the wording on the front, back and stub of the check. Read all papers and releases attached. If there is any language that says you can’t collect any more money, think twice about cashing the check. If you have other out of pocket expenses or downtime/lost income, don’t cash the check without legal advice. You could be giving up your rights.
Diminished Value Claims After an Accident
Your equipment may be worth less after the accident, even if it was fully repaired. Insurance companies call this claim “diminution of value.” You have the right to pursue this lost value against the other party in many states.
Rental and Loss of Use Claims After an Accident
Many of our clients do not have rental coverage on their policies. Pursue the cost of rental from the other insurance company. Be aware that insurance companies will not typically rent equipment for you like they will with automobile rentals. You must do the legwork and pay for the equipment rental up front. Unfortunately, the other insurance company may take a long time to investigate the accident and accept responsibility. As a small business, each day down is money lost. Document all efforts made to find a rental and get back to work. If a rental cannot be located, demand your lost income during your downtime.
Claim Your Expenses
Consider all the costs you have relating to the accident and demand reimbursement from the adverse party. These include:
- cost of repairs and any supplementary repairs
- out of pocket expenses
- rental expense
- lost value of the equipment
- downtime/loss of use
Insurance companies require estimates, invoices and receipts in order to pay a claim. Make sure your documents are organized and self-explanatory. The better you do on the front end, the quicker you will typically be able to resolve your claim.
Eckert & Associates, PA welcomes your questions about claims. The call is free and we are only paid when we get results for you.