The first thing to determine is, are you a 1st party claimant or a 3rd party claimant.
A 1st party claimant is someone who is making a claim against his/her own insurance policy. Even if you were not at fault in the accident, if you let your insurance company handle paying for the damage with the idea that they will get it back from the at-fault persons insurance company, you are a 1st party claimant. In most states you can not make a claim for diminished value as a 1st party claimant against your own insurance policy. The only exception is the state of Georgia where you can make a claim for diminished value as a 1st party claimant through your own insurance policy.
Whether your claim is for diminished value or if your vehicle has been declared a total loss, if you are unable to reach an agreed settlement with your insurance company, you have the right to invoke the "Appraisal Clause" of your policy. This is a process built into most policies. The appraisal clause of most policies states that in the event of a disputed claim each side will hire a competent appraiser and pay the associated costs of their appraisal. The two appraisers will complete an appraisal of the loss. The two appraisers will attempt to come to an agreement. If the two appraisers cannot reach an agreement then the two appraisers will select an umpire appraiser, the cost of which will be born equally by each of the parties. Then an agreement by any two of the three will be final and binding on all parties.
A 3rd party claimant is someone who is pursuing their claim directly against the at-fault person or the at-fault person's insurance company. As a 3rd party claimant dealing with the at-fault person's insurance company, you are entitled to collect for all damages, costs and expenses that occurred as a result of the at-fault person's negligence. This means that you can collect compensation for:
- The full cost of all repairs to your vehicle
- The cost of a rental vehicle during repairs or a loss of use payment
- The cost of repair or replacement of damaged personal articles, such as sunglasses or golf clubs
- The amount of diminished value suffered by your vehicle as a result of the repaired damage. And the cost of any medical bills, treatment, mileage to the doctor, pain & suffering, etc.
- If you keep good records you can also charge an hourly rate for the actual time you spent dealing with the claim, including phone calls, going to body shops for estimates, obtaining police reports, etc.
As you can see, there is a difference in what you can be compensated for depending on if you are a 1st party or 3rd party claimant. In most cases, as a third party claimant, if you have a dispute over the amount of a claim, your final recourse would be in a court of law.
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