Anyone who was in an accident through no fault of their own takes a lot of time and strong nerves to get their way. The opposing insurance company often tries to question your costs and trick the reimbursements. FOCUS Online gives ten tips for identifying costly traps and avoiding processing errors.
Are you involved in an accident through no fault of your own? Don’t get involved if the opposing insurance company wants to negotiate with you. Sometimes their employees still call at the scene of the accident and promise: “We’ll pay for everything, we’ll take care of the entire process.” However, you are neither your partner nor your helper, you want to keep your reimbursement low. They therefore cut back systematically, even with small things. If the opposing insurance company regulates everything, you also remain uncertain whether the workshop will use new or used parts or will bend the bent part back into shape.
It is therefore better to go to a specialist traffic law attorney in the event of body damage, even if the question of guilt is clear and the insurer declares that he will pay for everything. The lawyer will not cost you anything unless you are partially to blame. On the other hand, anyone who caused the accident must contribute to the legal fees. But even if the question of guilt is still disputed, you will hardly get by without a lawyer to convince the opposing insurance company of your point of view.
Never accept the appraiser of the opposing insurance company. Anyone who allows himself to be persuaded to do so often runs into a problem: many courts take the view that the injured party should not then also hire their own expert. The situation is different if the insurance company’s report contains clear errors. If you then commission a second expert who finds further damage, the company must also pay for him.
Therefore, hire an expert yourself – except for trifles under 1000 euros. As an injured party, you may commission your own expert opinion at the expense of the insurer. You are only obliged to pay part of the debt out of your own pocket if you are partially to blame.
You don’t have to compare prices to find a particularly cheap expert. The fee must not be obviously too high. But, be careful: Anyone can call themselves a “vehicle expert”, the title is not protected by law. Inquire at the BVSK Federal Association of Experts, whose members are engineers or master carpenters.
Do you want to assert your rights? Please this way through the jungle of paragraphs! This FOCUS Special shows the leading lawyers and law firms.
Unlike the legal fees, the expert opinion depends on the amount of the damage. Damage of at least 1000 euros is necessary for the opposing insurance company to pay. Below this limit, only one estimate from the workshop is allowed. Some courts only see the limit at 1500 euros. If the insurer cuts individual items in the estimate, you can commission an appraiser, but no longer the de minimis limit.
It is also not a good idea to have your damage dealt with by a workshop. In the event of an accident, some offer “all-round carefree packages” including rental cars, which also take care of the settlement. But keep in mind that workshops also have financial interests. Brand workshops are usually more expensive than independent workshops. Insurers only have to pay such costs if your car is not older than three years or has always been in a brand workshop. If it was only repaired there, but serviced in an independent workshop, it is also not sufficient. If the insurer asks for the repairs to be carried out in an independent workshop, they must be close enough, 21 kilometers is too far. It is also unacceptable if the insurer wants to pick up your car and bring it to a workshop 130 kilometers away. In the event of a warranty claim, it must be possible for you to reach the workshop quickly.
Insurance companies often refuse to repair damaged cars: Example: The appraiser estimates these costs at 4340 euros, but the car is only worth 3900 euros. The company therefore only wants to pay 2350 euros, you should get another 1550 euros from a scrap dealer. In this case, however, you can request a repair. Because their costs do not exceed 130 percent of the vehicle value. Only above this limit is a repair considered uneconomical. If necessary, hire a lawyer so that the insurance company reimburses you for the full invoice amount of 4400 euros.
A case from Dusseldorf: After a violent parking bump, the damage amounted to 5731 euros according to the report. But the insurance reduced 175 euros for painting the door handles, 242 euros for a plastic part on the wheel arch, 192 euros for wheel alignment, 44 euros for the car wash. Reason: These repairs were unnecessary. Similar deductions were made to a gasket, chrome strip and small parts.
In addition, the insurance reduced 343 euros on the rental car and 57 euros on the lawyer’s fee – a total of 1335 euros. However, all of the cuts were unlawful and the contributions had to be paid afterwards (Düsseldorf District Court of November 21, 2014, file number 37 C 11789/11). The Berlin specialist lawyer Marcus Gülpen knows such systematic cuts in abundance: “If the injured party submits an expert opinion, the insurers pass it on to external companies who run it through special software.” They then spit out numerous cuts, often without any legal basis.
Claims settlement can take some time, and the insurer is usually allowed four to six weeks to work on it. After completing the report, you should therefore have your damaged car repaired immediately. Because a follow-up inspection is no longer possible, some insurers see it as a frustration of evidence. However, that is nonsense: according to case law, the injured party cannot be accused of having the car repaired immediately – if only because this reduces the rental car costs.
The opposing insurance company must also bear the cost of towing your car. As a rule, you do not need to do any price comparisons, since there is usually a need for urgency. If your home workshop is 120 kilometers away, you can have your car brought there if it was previously there for repairs or maintenance. If your workshop demands money for the cost estimate, the insurer has to pay it. After an accident, the repaired vehicle is worth less than an accident-free one. The insurance company must also compensate for this loss in value. In the event of a total loss, many garages charge demurrage if your car is parked there, often ten euros a day. The insurance company has to pay for these costs as well. However, if wearing parts are replaced that increase the value of the car, the insurer may deduct part of the bill. Example: An old tire that you should have changed soon anyway is slashed open in the accident and a new one pulled on. You have to take a discount for that.
A total loss car accident is bad enough. Then pay the bill for the fire brigade yourself? Many accident drivers receive mail from the fire brigade weeks later with an invoice for the deployment costs, usually with a completed transfer slip. Even if you are the cause of the accident, you are not obliged to pay – the motor vehicle liability insurance must cover the costs. If the fire brigade is needed to avert danger, the insurer must also pay – if the fire-fighting crews, for example, tie up spilled oil, remove contaminated soil or take over traffic control. The legal situation is different if you later tow it to the workshop: If you are to blame for the accident, you need fully comprehensive insurance for reimbursement. If you have neither fully comprehensive insurance nor a cover letter, you have to pay this bill yourself.
Back to the overview of motor insurance