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Common Auto Claims Questions

Find answers to common auto claims questions.  If your specific question is not answered below, please call or email Consumer Affairs.

The insurance company will need to complete an investigation of the auto accident before making a determination who is at-fault for an accident.  In some instances, the company may determine that both parties are partially at-fault and assign a percentage of fault to each involved motorist.

The insurance company does not automatically assign fault to the motorist who was issued a ticket for a traffic violation by the responding police officer.  

The Idaho Department of Insurance does not have the authority to determine who is at-fault for an accident.  Disagreement over who is at fault might need to be resolved through the courts.

If the insurance company approves payment for you to rent a vehicle due to a covered loss, the insurance company will typically only pay for the period of time your vehicle is actively being repaired, or up to your policy limits (a dollar amount and/or a limited number of days).  Usually, you will be expected to return the rental vehicle once the repairs to your vehicle have been completed.
 
The insurance company might not pay for a rental vehicle after your vehicle has been deemed a total loss, or while the repairs or value of your vehicle are under dispute.  If the insurance company has determined your vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company will typically expect you to return the rental vehicle after providing you an initial offer of payment for the value of your vehicle.
 
  • When claiming on your own policy:
    • Some insurance policies will only provide payment to you for a rental vehicle if you have purchased rental coverage.
  • When filing a claim for damages to your vehicle on another person’s insurance policy:
    • The insurance company will typically not approve a rental vehicle until they determine whether their insured is at fault for the loss.

The ultimate outcome of your auto claim is determined by the insurance company, including whether your vehicle will be a total loss.

If your vehicle is determined a total loss, you can expect the following next steps:

  • You may be assigned a new claims adjuster to finalize your vehicle total loss claim.
  • The insurance company usually provides an offer for the Actual Cash Value of your vehicle, which is calculated by subtracting depreciation from the replacement value of your vehicle.
  • Typically, once you and the insurance company agree on the value of your vehicle and any other expenses related to your vehicle damage claim, the insurance company will issue payment.  In addition, the insurance company will pay for the sales tax on the value of your vehicle, the title transfer fees, and may pay for the release of liability fee.
  • If the insurance company agreed to cover the cost for a rental vehicle, you can expect to receive a date that the insurance company will stop paying for that rental vehicle.  (See When & How You Get a Rental Vehicle above.)
  • To finalize the claim if you are not retaining your vehicle, you will usually need to sign over the vehicle title to the insurance company.  You will also want to be sure to clean out your vehicle of any personal items.
  • Sometimes the insurance company will allow you to keep your vehicle once it has been deemed totaled.  If you retain your vehicle, the salvage value will typically be deducted from your settlement amount.  The amount of money deducted from the total value is called the salvage value.  
  • Idaho law requires insurance companies to report the vehicle as as a total loss to the Idaho Transportation Department – Division of Motor Vehicles, and the vehicle will need to be registered with a salvage title.  Contact the Idaho Transportation Department – Division of Motor Vehicles for more information about salvage vehicles.

The Idaho Department of Insurance does not have the authority to determine whether your vehicle is a total loss.  Often, insurance policies provide language that allows for appraisal or arbitration if there is a disagreement regarding the value of the vehicle.

The insurance company will determine a vehicle is a total loss or can be repaired.  If damages to a vehicle will be repaired or replaced, the insurance company will typically work with the auto body shop to finalize the cost and payment of vehicle repairs.

If you do not agree with the insurance company on the cost to repair your vehicle, we recommend submitting documentation to the insurance company for consideration that supports your position on the cost of repairs.

If you are claiming on your own policy and you disagree regarding the cost of repairs, check your insurance policy or ask the insurance company to see if your policy provides options to settle repair value disputes.

There are many terms that may be used during the insurance claim process regarding the value of your vehicle.  Check your insurance policy for definitions that apply for your insurance policy.  However, below are general definitions of common vehicle value terms:

Actual Cash Value (ACV)

ACV is calculated by subtracting depreciation from the replacement value of the damaged vehicle.  The insurance company will typically only pay the ACV of the damaged vehicle.  Check your insurance policy to see what coverage it provides.

Replacement Value

The replacement value of your vehicle is the amount you would pay to replace your vehicle at the present time, according to its current worth, typically with no deduction for depreciation or percentage of useful life left.  Insurance companies typically do not pay replacement value for a vehicle.  However, some companies allow you to purchase coverage for replacement value or a value greater than ACV.

Salvage Value

Salvage value commonly refers to the scrap value of the damaged vehicle.  The insurance company will determine the salvage value of your vehicle if they give you the option to buy your vehicle back once it has been deemed a total loss.  If you choose to keep or “buy back” your totaled vehicle, the amount the insurance company will typically pay you will be the ACV minus the salvage value of your vehicle.

Diminished Value

Diminished value or diminution in value are generally used to describe the loss in the market value (amount of the sale price) of your vehicle due to your vehicle being damaged.  The insurance company is not obligated to pay you for the diminished value of your vehicle, unless otherwise stated in your policy contract.

The Idaho Department of Insurance does not have the authority to determine the value of your vehicle.  If you disagree with the insurance company about the value of your vehicle, you may want to contact an attorney for advice. 

Insurance companies are required to respond reasonably promptly to insurance claims.

If you have attempted multiple times to contact the insurance company after filing a claim and you are not getting a response, you may file a consumer compliant with our office to obtain assistance.

Insurance companies will need to complete an investigation of the claim to determine the amount damages and to determine the at fault person for the auto accident, if multiple drivers are involved.  Insurance policy contracts include language that obligates the policyholder(s) to provide requested information to the insurance company for the purposes of settling a claim.

This means that the insurance company will likely ask you to provide information and documentation to support your claim.  This information could include:

  • medical records
  • photos of damages
  • statements regarding how the accident occurred from you and/or others involved in the claim
  • a list of personal items damaged or lost and the items’ value
  • vehicle title and/or registration
  • estimates of damage
  • receipts
  • other information related to your claim

If you refuse to provide the requested information and/or documentation to the insurance company, you may risk the insurance company delaying or refusing payment of your claim.

Insurance companies often work with or have a list of preferred auto repair shops available to refer their insureds to.  Some insurance companies even guarantee the work of their preferred auto repair shops.

You might not be obligated to use a preferred auto repair shop.  However, you might have to pay the difference if the cost your chosen auto repair shop charges is more than the amount other body shops in the area charge.  The insurance company typically only has to pay a reasonable repair cost.

If additional related damages are found after repairs begin, the auto repair shop will typically notify the insurance company.  This is commonly called a supplement.  If the insurance company agrees that the damages are related to the loss, they will likely provide additional money for those repairs.

Insurance companies are allowed to specify the use of aftermarket, nonoriginal equipment manufacturer’s (non-OEM) crash parts for the repair of vehicles.  However, you must be advised in writing if non-OEM aftermarket crash parts are specified by the insurance company or used for the repair of your vehicle by the auto repair shop, or the auto repair installer.

If you prefer the use of Original Equipment Manufacturer’s crash parts, you may be required to pay the difference in cost.

An insurance company will pay for claimed damages based on the insurance policy language and insurance coverage. If your claim is being denied in whole or in part, it may be that your policy does not provide coverage for the damages you are claiming or for the cause of your damages.  Also, an insurance company is only obligated to pay up to the policy coverage limits.

If you are claiming on another person’s insurance policy and your claim is being denied in whole or in part, it may be that the insurance company does not have enough evidence to support that their insured is at fault for the accident.

The Idaho Department of Insurance does not have the authority to determine who is at fault for a claim or the cause or value of a claim.  However, if you feel your claim has been unfairly denied, contact Consumer Affairs to discuss how we may be able to assist.

When making a claim on your own policy for damage to your vehicle, you will typically be required to pay a deductible.  This is the amount of money you have agreed to pay out-of-pocket when damages occur.  The insurance company will typically deduct this amount from your total settlement.

No other party, such as your auto repair shop, auto glass repair shop, etc. is allowed to pay your deductible on your behalf, waive your deductible, or reimburse you for the amount of your deductible.

Have more questions?

Contact the Consumer Affairs team

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