Frequently Asked Questions

Automobile Accidents

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an automobile accident, call Benitez Law Group now at (407) 894-5000. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Do not delay. You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but there are certain requirements pursuant to Florida Law that must be met. Furthermore, a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. Below are some commonly asked questions.

What should I do when involved in an accident?

The most important thing to do when involved in an accident is to immediately contact your auto insurance carrier and to always call 911 so that an officer arrives to evaluate the accident. DO NOT make any statements to the other party other than to exchange information. Furthermore, DO NOT make any statements to the other party’s insurance company. If you are hurt, go immediately to the emergency room. Our attorneys at Benitez Law Group are here to help – every step of the way – contact us immediately at the scene or after seeking treatment at (407) 894-5000.

Who is responsible for towing and storage fees?

The insurance company for the driver who caused the accident normally will pay the reasonable towing and storage costs of your car. While determining whether your car is a “total loss,” they will continue to pay the storage costs. They will move the car from the repair shop to a wrecking yard or a free storage area if the insurance company declares the car a “total loss.” Before your car is moved, you will be called. You will have to pay the storage costs from the day of your refusal forward if you refuse to allow the insurance company to move your car. You can pay to have it towed to your home if you want to keep the vehicle.

What other damages can I expect the adjuster to pay?

In addition to the price of the vehicle, you paid sales tax, a tag fee and registration fees when purchasing your vehicle. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the prorated amount of these costs that are unused. The insurance company should reimburse you for the tag transfer fees and in some cases a prorated amount of sales tax on the actual cash value of the car at the time of the accident. If you have made any upgrades to your vehicle, such as a new stereo system or alarm system, then the insurance company should reimburse you for the actual cash value of these items as well.

Who decides whether my car is repaired or replaced?

The insurance company normally has the sole option to either repair, replace or reimburse you for your car’s actual cash value (ACV). The amount your vehicle would have sold for on the date of the accident is the actual cash value and is usually a question of cost efficiency. When the vehicle is economically impractical to repair, your insurance company will elect to replace your vehicle or reimburse you for the ACV. If the cost to repair the vehicle equals or exceeds the vehicle’s ACV on the date of the loss, the vehicle is considered economically impractical to repair, or a total loss. In many instances an insurance company will total a vehicle if the appraised damages equal 80% of the vehicle’s ACV.

How is the fair market value of my car calculated?

Insurance companies usually determine fair market value by referring to the “Blue Book” or a similar publication. Other sources of information are the local newspaper or the Auto Trader, which may list the for-sale price of cars of the same make, model and years as yours. Occasionally, an expert vehicle appraiser is used to help prove the value of your vehicle. You are entitled to recover the “fair market value” or the “actual cash value” of your vehicle immediately before the accident.

If you owe more money on the loan for the car than the fair market value of the car, you are “upside down” on the loan. Unfortunately, if your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company will not pay more money to you simply because you are “upside down” with your car loan. They are only obligated to pay the “fair market value” of your car.

Can I choose my own repair shop?

You have the absolute right to decide who will repair your vehicle, provided the repair shop is licensed, should the insurance company choose to repair the car. Many insurance companies will evaluate the cost of repairing your car separately and independently from any repair shop. The insurance company will then work with the repair shop of your choice, to get your car repaired.

Does my insurance company have to use new parts to repair my car?

The insurance company is obligated to restore your vehicle to the same condition it was in before the accident. Because your car was probably not new, the mechanic may use refurbished or reconditioned parts. Sometimes this requires the use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and sometimes after-market parts can be used. After-market parts are parts made by a manufacturer other than the original manufacturer. If your vehicle is being repaired with newer parts, your company doesn’t have to pay for this “betterment.” For example, if your vehicle’s alternator is 7 years old and is damaged due to a covered loss, your insurer would only have to replace it with a 7 year old alternator. If a 7 year old alternator can’t be found, the repair shop could use a new alternator but you’d have to pay the difference between the value of a 7 year old alternator and a new alternator.

How long can my insurance company take to settle my claim?

From the time your insurance company receives notice of the loss, they are allowed 30 calendar days to settle your first party claim. The time may be extended if you fail to cooperate with them or they need to conduct additional investigation, but the company must provide you with written notice explaining the reason if the claim settlement process takes longer than 30 days. If you are seeking a bodily injury claim against the at-fault party, then the settlement process can take anywhere from a few months to several months. Again, this depends on the status of your medical treatment and investigation into the claim.

Who pays for a rental car while my car is being repaired?

If you caused the accident, most policies don’t provide coverage for a rental vehicle unless you buy this additional coverage. If another party was responsible for the accident, the insurance company for the person who caused the wreck is required to provide you with a rental car. If the other driver is at fault, we will demand that the insurance company for the person who caused the accident provide you with a rental car for the time needed to repair your vehicle. Sometimes, you must pay the rental car bill first, with reimbursement coming from the insurance company later.

Do I have to purchase any extra insurance on the rental car?

The insurance company will not pay for extra insurance you purchase from the car rental company. Your own insurance carrier should cover you while driving the rental car. Call your insurance agent to be sure you are covered while driving the rental car.