Vehicle Damage Resulting from a Motor Vehicle Crash – Who Pays for it?

Oct 23, 2015 | By: Christina Goldberg

There seems to be never-ending confusion among the general public in the State of Florida when it comes to automobile crashes and automobile insurance law. In fact, upon further reflection, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to send a cookie bouquet to the Florida Legislature to thank its members for making the laws so confusing and counter-intuitive that our clients have no choice but to retain our services in order to seek that to which they are properly entitled under the law. Maybe some custom “question mark” cookies would do. Bravo, Florida Legislature, for making us vital to our clients’ well-being.

So let’s talk vehicle damage. Although I have discussed various types of optional and required automobile insurance coverages in previous blogs, the confusion I have seen recently in my practice with regard to damages to the vehicles involved warrants an additional look at the difference between “Property Damage Coverage” and “Comprehensive/Collision Coverage.”

Limiting our conversation here to a discussion of vehicle damage only (NOT medical), typically, when one walks into an insurance agency and requests “basic coverage,” he will only walk away with Property Damage coverage, or PD, included on his policy. The reason for this is that Florida law requires that each driver carry PD coverage, but does not require that drivers carry Comprehensive/Collision Coverage. So what is the difference between the two? Plain and simple – PD coverage does not, and will not EVER, cover your own vehicle’s damages in a crash, regardless of fault. PD coverage ONLY pays for damages you cause to other vehicles. In straightforward liability crashes (ie: rear-end), where you have a verifiable policy through the at-fault party, this is no problem. The at-fault party’s insurance company pays for your vehicle’s damages.

However, it does become a problem when you have a seriously damaged vehicle, having been involved in a hit-and-run crash, or a crash of “questionable” liability (ie: he said/she said). Recently I have had an extremely high percentage of new clients come into my office under these circumstances, where there is no at-fault party Property Damage Coverage to pursue. This means that my client must seek payment for repair of the vehicle damages through his own insurance company, and I cross my fingers that the appropriate Comprehensive/Collision coverage was purchased. Sadly, if my client has not purchased Comprehensive/Collision Coverage, I have to break the news to him that unfortunately, the damages to, or loss of, his vehicle will NOT be covered under his own PD coverage and that in fact, payment for repairs of the vehicle will, at least initially, have to be paid out of his own pocket.

Depending on each individual’s circumstances, having to pay out of pocket for damages to a vehicle can cause tremendous hardship, and can play a large role in preventing those injured in a crash from receiving the medical treatment they need; from getting to and from work; from taking care of their families; etc. The moral of the story here? Check your policies. Make sure you carry Comprehensive/Collision Coverage. Meet with an insurance agent you trust to give you the proper guidance.